Sweet Caroline

Neither a Kennedy nor a Princess of Monaco

Being Selfish


It is 7pm on Friday July 29, and I am finished with my Italian classes for this summer. Time is so funny that way. At the beginning of the summer, when I arrived on June 4th, I couldn’t possibly imagine living in this incredible country, traveling to some of the most incredible (and oldest!) cities in the world, and almost finishing all of my Italian language learning (one more level to go until it’s official) in these two months. I’ve met people from countries I’ve only imagined, from all corners of the world, and all interests and backgrounds.

A few of the ladies from class! L-R, Marta from Portugal, me from the USA, Mouira from Algeria, and Lucy from Scotland.

Beyond just learning and using Italian every day, I was privileged enough to be able to travel every weekend, mostly alone. Solo travel can be a little nerve-wracking; at first, I was so insecure about eating alone at every meal, only buying one ticket to all of the sights. Would I have to explain myself to everyone I met? Would people think I got stood up on a date?

Selfie from my first solo weekend in Rome

With some practice, it’s an incredibly freeing experience. You become very introspective and selfish. But a good selfish, a well-deserved selfish. If I’m being honest, this whole summer was about me being selfish. I got to do what wanted to do. I got to eat where I liked, I got to stay at the museums for hours, scoping out every inch of the place. I know almost no one who would indulge me in visiting the ethnographic part of the Vatican Museums because no one else cares about that section except me! I know this because I was one of maybe 5 people in that part, when the Sistine Chapel was completely full.

What up, Hera? From the Vatican Museums in Rome

Take Pompeii, for example. I met a really nice recent college graduate from Belgium in line for tickets, and we chatted while we waited in line. He was perfectly nice and everything, but I had my own plans for the day (a Rick Steves podcast tour of the place) and wasn’t really interested in hanging out with him while I walked around the city because I wanted to focus on my first time in Pompeii and learning everything I could. I missed weekend trips and hanging out with my classmates because I was not going to miss visiting my grandfather’s childhood home in Istria or taking my Cinque Terre tour. This summer, one of the most important things I learned was, because this is my first real time in Italy, a country in which I still have so much to see, I can and should value my interests first.

At the church in which my grandfather received his sacraments, Labin, Istria

And I’m so happy I did. Maybe I came off as a little standoffish, but I’m just so happy with all of the things that I did and saw. In total, I visited eleven cities thus far, and still have one more to go. I went to places I’d only read about and seen in pictures, and I tried new things I thought I would never even attempt. Like my visit to Cinque Terre: I went on a hike! A real, 90 minute long hike that I would like never to do again! But doing that hike allowed me to see those views that you only get in postcards. I went it alone, but I’m actually pretty happy about that because then no one had to wait while I took frequent rests up while dragging myself up and down this mountainside. Then there were also the little things. I’ve never seen a movie in the theater by myself before, and while I was in Naples, I saw the new Star Trek. It was dubbed in Italian, so it was basically like I was studying for my final exam. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Before I got soaked with sweat on my hike, Vernazza, Cinque Terre

I even navigated disaster all by myself. While I was in Naples, someone got ahold of my debit card number, and I had to close my account with my bank. All of this while I was at Pompeii. Yes, I spent an hour on the phone with Bank of America in the middle of the most well preserved ancient Roman city. At least I had shade? And then, to top it all off, when I went to Western Union to get my money wire from my parents, I didn’t bring my passport! I had to go all the way back to my Airbnb and then all the way back to the train station to get my money I needed to, you know, buy dinner. Despite all that in Naples, it really is a magical city. There’s music everywhere, and even if it’s for the tourists’ benefits, it really does add to the joy.

The forum at Pompeii

How do I conclude describing this summer? It’s been the most incredible two months of my life, and actually, it’s not finished yet! Tomorrow, my family arrives in Siena and together we’ll go to Florence and Venice (the latter to which I haven’t yet been!). So I’m not quite done, but my solo part is. I really do value these two months I spent largely flying solo. I learned so much about myself and my values. I think I really became an adult over these two months, traveling, learning, speaking Italian, and living in the most amazing country in the world.

Bella Italia

I’m currently writing to you from Siena, Italy – yes! I am back in the country of pasta and pizza that’s absolutely dripping in culture and history. I’ve just completed my first month of classes at the Università per Stranieri (University for Foreigners) and it was truly a beautiful month here.

Siena’s Torre del Mangia in the Piazza del Campo, probably the most iconic site in the city

When they say University for Foreigners, they really do mean it – in my class of about 20 people, I was one of 4 Americans. Students from China, Japan, Nicaragua, France, Denmark, Canada, Australia, Russia, Mexico, and Burma made up my class and the only language we all share is Italian. Of course, a lot of us speak English – I’m a little embarrassed to say that the people I got closest to were the English speakers – but the fact that in class we are forced to use Italian to communicate anything is truly amazing. When we forget a word or phrase, we must circumnavigate it and find another way to say it in Italian, because switching to English just isn’t an option.

Selfie with (most) of our class!
Selfie with (some of) our class!

In class, after our grammar lessons, we have culture lessons, where we discuss current events (Brexit was discussed quite a bit) and compare our home countries in topics like work, education, and family life. The country comparison is probably one of my favorite parts of our discussions; it allows us to gently tease each other but also genuinely search for an understanding of life and culture in other countries.

An American, a Brit, a Mexican, and a Frenchman walk into a bar....
An American, a Brit, a Mexican, and a Frenchman walk into a bar….

With all respect to my professors and classmates, the real fun comes on the weekends, where I take a trip to a different city. My first weekend was Rome, the Eternal City, and currently my favorite place that I have been thus far. I arrived midday on a Saturday and headed right for the Vatican Museums, home of the Sistine Chapel and just about an endless collection of art and artifacts from every period and every corner of the world. Highlights for me included the Egyptian collection (which I knew quite a but about thanks to one of my classes last semester!), Raphael’s the School of Athens, and, of course, the Sistine Chapel itself.

The School of Athens

Sunday in Rome was the real deal, though, because I went to St. Peter’s Square that morning to catch mass with the Pope. Little did I know that HE WOULD RIDE ON BY IN THE POPEMOBILE SO CLOSE TO ME!!!!!


So that was probably one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me. He just seems like such a genuine man and I really do admire him. After the Vatican I took a literal whirlwind tour of the city and saw the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Ponte Sant’Angelo, the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and finally ended at the Spanish Steps (WHICH WERE CLOSED!). Despite the disappointment of the Spanish Steps, Rome is really an amazing (and very walkable!) city, and I feel like I saw some of the most incredible spots in Italy, if not the world.

the Trevi Fountain, site of a million Lizzie McGuire-inspired wishes.
the Trevi Fountain, site of a million Lizzie McGuire-inspired wishes.

My next weekend was not in Italy, but it was still fabulous: Nice, France and the tiny nation of Monaco! First of all, the French Riviera is probably one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and even though the beaches aren’t sandy, they do make for some incredible photos.

blue on blue on blue

I was with one of my sorority sisters, Danielle, that weekend, and we had a grand old time. We shopped in Nice at the Galleries Lafayette, often considered the original department store, and then headed over on a short train ride to Monaco. In Monaco, we visited the Prince’s Palace, which is actually still his residence! The palace is absolutely gorgeous, and the rooms are very well maintained in styles of particular periods of Monaco’s history. After dinner by the harbor, we headed toward our real destination for the night: the Monte Carlo Casino. To get to the Casino, you have to basically walk by the street of high-end shops à la Gucci, Ferragamo, and the like, just to remind you that if you win it all at the casino, you can use your new money to get a whole new wardrobe! And after passing the casual Porsche, Ferrari, and Maserati in the parking lot, we went inside the Casino. It’s not actually that big of a place in the public gaming hall (though I would love to see the private poker rooms), but it is beautifully decorated in the Belle Epoche style. It is honestly magical; you really feel like a princess or James Bond sitting at the bar or watching a game of Roulette.

On the long walk up to the Prince's Palace, there are some prime photo spots. Maybe when I get a yacht, I'll park it here.
On the long walk up to the Prince’s Palace, there are some prime photo spots. Maybe when I get a yacht, I’ll park it here.

Ironically, weekend number three was to Milan: Italy’s banking and finance capital and I was there THE DAY AFTER the Brexit vote, where I was meeting my aunt and uncle who live in London. My train was ~two hours~ late so I didn’t get into the city until after 9pm, and so I met them at a bar where we could discuss the result over a drink. On Saturday morning, we got up bright and early for a walking tour of the city that started with Milan’s most famous resident, Da Vinci’s Last Supper. I didn’t actually realize that the Last Supper was in Milan of all places, but it is painted on the wall of what was monks’ dining room at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.


After the church, we saw most of the famous sites in the city – the Milan Cathedral (Duomo), the outside of the Scala Theater, the Sforza Castle, and the Galleries Vittorio Emmanuale. It was terribly, terribly hot and humid in Milan that weekend, so we pretty much needed an hourlong breather after everything we did, and so after lunch and a rest, we went back to the Duomo to see the inside and go up to the terraces on the roof. Despite a long line outside, people can disperse very easily inside, and it is not at all as crowded as St. Peter’s Basilica. Another cool thing about the Duomo is that there are over 3500 statues on the outside, and each is unique.

On top of the Duomo feat. my photobombing uncle
On top of the Duomo feat. my photobombing uncle (also yes I am wearing the same dress as in Monaco…)

On Sunday, we decided to go to the Castello Sforzesco, the home of Milan’s ducal family, the Sforzas (less known than the Medici and Borgias, but still pretty cool!) The Castello houses a ton of artifacts from early Christianity, as well as works that would have decorated the bedrooms and offices of the Sforza family. One of my favorite things at the Castello was the parks on which it sits. There is big Arc de Triomphe-looking arch at the end of the park that was initiated by Napoleon when he conquered Italy. Well it didn’t get finished by the time he was exiled, but the Austrians that essentially cleaned up this part of Italy after his defeat did finish it, except they turned the horses that sit atop the arch the other way to face the Castello instead of France, symbolizing France’s defeat and Italy’s self-determination.


After one month in this beautiful country, I don’t know that I could call myself a real Italian yet, but I am getting there. I’ve really mastered the coffee thing (never have cappuccino in the afternoon), and I have found that I love outdoor cafes where I can people-watch. Even more important is that my Italian is improving in leaps and bounds; I’m no longer afraid to ask strangers a question, and I’ve gotten much more confident in using my Italian even in tourist-y places where their English is excellent. I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been afforded in coming here and I really do think that my experiences in this country will impact my interests and values for the rest of my life.

Practical Applications of Classwork

Such a rare and wonderful opportunity is using what you learned in class in real life. Last week, I did just that on my visit to Bologna, Italy, with the International Studies program. Our program – the International Studies Leadership Seminar – was sponsored by the Aronson Center for International Studies. We spent the week in Italy at the SAIS Bologna campus, meeting current faculty and receiving an absolutely fascinating one-off lecture from Dr. Erik Jones about European Affairs. We not only experienced the culture, but developed and refined our leadership skills.

The Leadership Delegation at the SAIS Europe campus!
The Leadership Delegation at the SAIS Europe campus!

This trip was particularly special for me because I just finished Intermediate Italian here at Hopkins, and it was my first time in Italy. My paternal grandparents immigrated from Italy in the early 1950’s and have been a point of inspiration for me for my entire life – I even wrote my Common App essay on them. Despite five full years of Italian classroom learning (all of high school and now my freshman year here at Hopkins), I was extremely apprehensive about using the language with real Italians. Shortly before I left Baltimore, I had coffee with my Italian professor and asked him about what I should see and do, since he was born and grew up near Rome. Between advice that the Colosseum is lame and that I should hit a few of his favorite restaurants, the thing he said that scared me most was that Italians will speak to me in English. Even if I respond in Italian, he said, they will still insist on using English.

We also visited the microstate of San Marino
We also visited the microstate of San Marino

I’m happy to report that he was mostly wrong. Italians were some of the most welcoming and kind people that I have ever met. They were all pleasantly surprised when I asked for still water (not sparkling, gross) and asked if they could make pasta without cheese or butter for one of the other participants who is vegan. When one of my friends and I stopped in the Gucci store – because we were in Italy, how could we not? – and I asked for a dinner recommendation, the extremely kind woman working the front brought me down two glasses of champagne to sip while we perused the850 purses.

train travel is exhausting
train travel is exhausting

I used Italian in almost every interaction with an Italian, from ordering food to asking for a certain size of shoes (I could also write a post about the societal expectations of women and small feet – I’m a US size 9.5 and I sometimes couldn’t find shoes in my size in Italy). Probably the most important use of my Italian was when we visited the Parliament in Rome. We were very graciously introduced to a member of the Chamber of Deputies and we got to ask him and his aide (the self-described equivalent of Doug Stamper) some questions about Italian politics, including a Jobs Act written by a SAIS professor and an upcoming referendum concerning the Chamber’s political power.

Literally all that needs to be said about Rome can be seen in the Lizzie McGuire Movie
Literally all that needs to be said about Rome can be seen in the Lizzie McGuire Movie

Overall, it was a wonderfully exhausting week, and I am so grateful to Dr. Van Morgan, SAIS, the Aronson Center, and the JHU IS Program for choosing me to be a part of the Leadership Delegation.

I also can’t wait to return to Italy on Friday to stay for my summer program in Siena. More to follow…

~Spring Fair~

This weekend marks one of the seminal Hopkins traditions: Spring Fair! Our annual food and fun festival is the largest student-run fair in the country and it is a weekend-long marathon of food, music, and merriment. Even though this is my first Spring Fair, I thought I’d write about my favorite events and (more importantly) foods from this weekend.

Thursday – watching all of the vendors set up on the quads was so excited and gave me a sweet preview of what I’d be eating this weekend.

Friday evening – ice cream from A&B soft serve. I got a sundae but one of their more popular items is ice cream dipped in chocolate.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 17.05.34
*heart eyes emoji*

Friday night – the concert!!! Marian Hill, Schwayze, and headliners the Chainsmokers performed. It was a seriously great performance and even if you didn’t get a ticket, you could basically see the entire thing on Snapchat

So dope!!! Disclaimer: I did not take this picture
So dope!!!
Disclaimer: I did not take this picture

Saturday late morning – a corndog from a giant stand I didn’t catch the name of (but had every fried food imaginable) and Wild Bill’s soda. I heard Wild Bill’s was a staple of Spring Fair and I had to grab one of their cups for free refills all day. Pro-tip: mix Wild Bill’s orange soda with a little bit of the cream soda to get an orange creamsicle drink

Everything is corndogs and nothing hurts

Saturday at noon – my shift for Pie a Pi Phi! Pie a Pi Phi is my sorority’s big philanthropy event this semester. For $2, you can pie the sister of your choice in the face all to benefit children’s literacy efforts!

Thank you for supporting children’s literacy, Zanir

Saturday early afternoon – more food, this time from B’More Greek. I had a chicken souvlaki pita wrap and it was delicious; definitely an essential stop if you want a break from fried food. I also walked around the vendors and craftspeople on the Gilman Quad and got my dad a Father’s Day gift!

Saturday evening – I had to take a break from the food and especially the sun and I worked on a paper that I had, and actually got a lot done, probably because I knew I’d be sleeping a lot today (Sunday) from going out on Saturday night.

Saturday night – grabbed another blooming onion and a crab cake sandwich because #maryland

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 17.05.59
crab cakes are bae

Sunday morning – sleeping 💤

Sunday at noon – Pie a Pi Phi shift #2! It was quieter today because I think people were still sleeping.

Sunday afternoon – naptime 😴

REGRETS FROM THE WEEKEND: I did not get Fried Oreos or Chicken on Stick (yes, it is not Chicken on A stick) but I’ll stake out the lines early next year.

Overall, it was a really amazing weekend. I mean, I’m sunburnt ad exhausted, but now I know the ins and outs of Spring Fair, so I can make next year even better.

“Obtainer of Rare Antiquities…”

What I’ve been told when I’m struggling with a topic to blog about is “write what you learned in class today.” So that’s what I’m doing. And today was kind of an exciting day because I got to look at the objects in Hopkins’ Archaeology Museum!


Ever since I was little, I have been enamored with Ancient Egypt – probably because I admired Cleopatra and Nefertiti (#girlpower) and loved the Great Pyramids. I’ve been consuming historical fiction about Egypt since for as long as I can remember, my favorites being Crocodile on the Sandbank, Nefertiti, and the Mummy. As I got older, I found out that the study of archaeology was a really cool thing, probably around the same time that I first watched the Indiana Jones movies.


Since I’ve come to college – even though I haven’t chosen archaeology as my major – ancient history has stayed with me as a particular interest. And when last semester, while I was picking my classes for this semester, I found that I couldn’t fit any more International Studies classes in my schedule, I decided to take an archaeology class: “Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors.” I was so excited to take this class, as it married my childhood love of ancient Egypt and my current passion of foreign affairs. AND the course description said that we’d be working with objects in the Archaeology Museum!

This guy is like an inch tall and was used as a game piece 3,000 YEARS AGO!!!!!
This little guy is like an inch tall and was used as a game piece 3,000 YEARS AGO!!!!! He depicts someone from modern Lebanon or Palestine

This class is absolutely fascinating – we are looking at Egypt’s depiction of foreigners to see what Egypt thought of them. Last Thursday we looked at “sympathetic magic” (kind of like voodoo): Egyptians would put representations of foreigners on various objects that would symbolically crush them, in hopes of crushing their enemies in real life. King Tut’s tomb has some amazing examples of this, like sandals with pictures of foreigners on the soles, so that the king could be stepping on his enemies every time he walked. Tut also had an unusual amount of canes in his tomb (historians think he had club foot that required the use of a cane while walking), and some of these canes are decorated with the bodies of foreigners, so that Tut could grind them into the floor as he leaned on the cane.

Quite similar to Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec, Egyptian kings lived in luxury and walked in style over their enemies)
Quite similar to Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec, Egyptian kings lived in luxury and walked in style (over their enemies)

Today, anyhow, I went into the Museum to look at the object that I will have to write about for my next essay in this class, actually about the use of sympathetic magic. It was so amazing to get to look at a pair of sandals that were LITERALLY OVER 3,000 YEARS OLD. IN PERSON.

ECM 1322a Front

ECM 1322b Front
Look at what I got to look at!!!!

Hopkins’ archaeology program is actually one of my earliest memories of this school. When I came for SOHOP, I took a one-off class with Dr. Betsy Bryan (you’ll see her name next to tons of Egyptian objects on display at the Museum) and I still remember what she taught us about Akhenaten and his residence at Amarna. And how I’m applying that knowledge in class!!!! I’m so grateful that my schedule worked out so that I could take this class – it was such an awesome, random, coincidence that it fit into my schedule perfectly. This department is absolutely baller and I really hope that I get to take more classes with them in the future.

Shout out to Prof. Arico who tolerates my Indiana Jones references
Shout out to Prof. Arico who tolerates my Indiana Jones references in class almost every day

Sorority Post #2 – Secret Week!

A little while back, I wrote a blog about JHU’s formal sorority recruitment process in January. I still 100% feel #noragrets about joining Pi Beta Phi, and this week is a great week to talk about even more benefits of it – because this week is Secret Week!

Spring Break Forever

Secret Week is an absolutely magical week in which your Big (a sister in the pledge class above you – and in my case, TWO Bigs!) gives you gifts every day in order to welcome you to the sorority.  This week, your Big is a secret, hence the name Secret Week. She sneaks around your dorm leaving you things, messaging you over a fake Facebook page, or, in my case, texting me with a burner phone to make sure I get my gifts. You can’t really miss them though…. my entire bed is covered in stuff every day.

Texting with the burner phone

Of course, this week is more than just getting tons of sorority t-shirts and candy (though it is a major plus). This is the introduction to your Big! This is the sister that will be the first person to congratulate you for acing a midterm and the shoulder you will cry on during a rough patch. She will mentor you throughout your college experience, and she is one of the first people to welcome you once you are initiated into the sorority.

“Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”

My secret week has been amazing, and I’ve gotten so many gifts that I don’t know what I will do with everything. I came back from Spring Break last Sunday to an overflowing bed – I got wall signs, a Pi Phi blanket, tons of t-shirts, and more candy and baked goods than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. That was only Day 1. Day 2 was generally pop culture themed – I got stuff from Disney, Harry Potter, and Star Wars (as well as more candy and Pi Phi shirts!) Day 3 was Treat Yo’Self Day – probably my favorite day out of all of them. I got spa supplies, nail polish, makeup, AND a giant Insomnia Cookie was delivered to me. That day was also incredibly well-chosen, because it was also Pi Phi’s date party! I got to wear my new lipstick and eyeliner to the venue. Yesterday – day 4 – was Spring Break Forever: I got a giant inflatable shark and tons of tropical-themed candy and clothes. As I write this here at 2:20pm, I know I still have a delivery coming at 3:30, so we will see what is in store for me this afternoon!



Tonight, my Bigs will be revealed to me at our Revelation Ceremony, and I can say that I love them so much already. They absolutely spoiled me this week and I am so so thankful for them. Can’t wait to see you tonight, Biggies!!!

Harry Potter, Star Wars, & Pi Phi – what’s more to love?


The Definitive Ranking of Outdoor Study Spots

Spring is finally (!!!) upon us here at Hopkins! With the warm weather comes the ability to get a tan while you study for Orgo. Here’s the best places to take advantage of the warm, fresh air.

7. The Beach

Before you argue with me about this, I do recognize that the Beach is great fun. It is perfect for Ultimate Frisbee, having a concert (like when we had We the Kings during Hoptoberfest!), and sunbathing – but studying? No way. There are no chairs, so you have to sit hunched over on the ground to accomplish anything. I love you, the Beach, but don’t ask me to study on your beautiful, wide open space.

Look at these people. Not getting any work done. Better soak up the sun instead.

6. Freshman Quad

The Freshman Quad is…alright. Upsides: often, there are chairs here, and it’s an expansive place. Downsides: far away from everything that isn’t the AMRs (especially for upperclassmen), can get loud with music coming from the dorms and the FFC. If you live in the AMRs and need some fresh air for your European history studying, the Freshman Quad will do you just fine.


5. Shriver Quad

Shriver is a reliable spot on which to get something done here at Homewood. Sometimes there aren’t any chairs, and sometimes you find yourself in the middle of construction or a kickball game, but you pretty regularly can work here in a quiet area. Plus, it’s very close to some of the farther-away buildings like Hodson or Shaffer.



4. President’s Garden

Right next to our very own President Ron Daniels’ place of residence is the President’s Garden. The garden is in a hidden little spot by the Greenhouses at the back on campus, but still very easy to find from Gilman Hall. It is a quiet and underrated gem of this campus. Though there’s no chairs back here, you can go Canterbury Tales-style and indulge your intellectual hunger in the grass of this little meadow-like nook.



3. Brody/MSE Terrace

A great option for any studying need! Chairs and tables with umbrellas make this a comfy spot whether cloudy or sunny. More tables and chairs would be great to seat more people, but the vicinity to the library and ~amazing~ Brody Cafe (the Daily Grind) make this a solid space to socialize and study alike.


2. Latrobe Terrace

UNDERRATED! UNDERRATED! The terrace of Latrobe hall is the perfect intersection of a quiet back-corner of campus with tons of seating and table space. You feel like you can accomplish something here because of how comfortable you are while studying. Latrobe is almost the best spot to study on campus, except for…

1. Gilman Quad

Like I’ve written earlier, Gilman Hall is bae. Almost better than the hall itself is the quad, where there are dozens of chairs to study alone or in a group. Typically no one is obnoxious or loud, and you will often find people practicing their tightrope-walking skills or bringing their dogs on campus for some exercise. Not only is there the ability to accomplish a lot in this space, but you feel incredibly integrated with the hubbub of school life. It’s quintessential Hopkins, and my favorite spot.


MUNday Funday

I think I have finally started to recover from a two-week-long Model United Nations-induced haze. I spent both this past weekend and the weekend previous at a Model UN conference, and I was reminded of how much I love Model UN and why it inspired me to pursue International Studies as a major here at Hopkins.

Parks and Rec truly captures the magic of MUN

First, for those of you that don’t know, Model UN is the single greatest activity that has ever been created. Participants, called delegates, are assigned a position and a committee – typically a nation in a UN body, but could be a real person in a cabinet, and it could be in the present day or a historical time period. The main “goal” of a conference is to eventually produce a resolution, which outlines what the UN will do about a particular problem we are discussing. This process is, of course, a lot more complicated than just that. You not only have to make formal speeches on the topic, responding to points made by previous delegates and offering possible solutions, but also navigate group dynamics when you actually sit down to write the resolution with your bloc of allied nations. The work you’re doing over those four days feels so real, and sometimes you have to take a step back and say, “chill out.” But that’s probably because I am a very hype person (#nochill).

Leslie gets me
Leslie gets me

Two weekends ago, JHU’s traveling competition MUN team, HopMUN, went up to Boston to compete at Harvard’s college conference. I was with a partner, Sophie, and we were representing Japan in the UN’s Human Rights Council. We discussed the right to health worldwide and how to most effectively bring that right to the most people. We, as always, had an amazing time doing the actual committee work, but also hanging out with each other. As is MUN tradition, the delegate dance was a bit of a mess, but great all the same.


Even though the ~9-hour Greyhound ride~ up to Boston was probably the most stressful experience of my life, and even though we didn’t win an award for our work, it was completely worth it. The debate, writing, and interaction between everyone is a truly rewarding experience that sharpens so much more than just knowledge of global affairs. The other students I see at MUN conferences are probably going to be the people I work with for the rest of my life – I want to get to know them and their interests, too, not just their country’s policy.

The entire HopMUN team - the best people at Hopkins
The entire HopMUN team – the best people at Hopkins

THIS weekend, however, was a whole different Model UN ballgame. In addition to the competition team, Hopkins also has a group that runs a weekend conference for high schoolers, JHUMUNC. I did Model UN all four years of high school and it was so much fun to plan and prepare for a conference from the other side of the lens.


I was a dais member – like an assistant moderator – for the Papal States Committee, which was a committee with members of the College of Cardinals in 1450. Another amazing component to this was that the Papal States was one of four Italian Renaissance committees in JHUMUNC (which included dozens of other committees, too). So not only did our delegates have to handle Papal States-related issues (like the Pope being poisoned!), but also crises that concerned the entire Italian peninsula, like an invasion by the Ottoman Empire or possible alliances with the other three city-states, Florence, Venice, and Milan.

Morgan (my roommate for the weekend), me, Aleks (my chair), and Rachel. All four of us are in the same Italian class here at Hopkins and we helped staff the JHUMUNC conference.
Morgan (my roommate for the weekend), me, Aleks (my chair), and Rachel. All four of us are in the same Italian class here at Hopkins and we were on staff at the JHUMUNC conference.

I love Model UN in all its forms – when I compete, when I moderate, when I’m winning, and when I’m stressed. Every minute counts in committee and I am building my speaking and interaction skills along the way. This activity has shaped my life in so many ways. I can’t tell you why I signed up for it my freshman year of high school: I basically just remember showing up at a meeting and going, “okay.” Over my high school career, I fell in love with the quirks and frustrations of this activity and I decided that I wanted to do it – or as close to it as I could get – for the rest of my life.

What could be in this room???
What could be in this room??? Love u Zanir

When I came to Hopkins, I tried to tell myself that I only wanted to help with the JHUMUNC conference, not actually compete myself. It would be too stressful, too much work. I could just do the research without the competition. But I decided to apply to HopMUN at the last minute because, despite my brain’s protests, my heart was still all in. And then, to my surprise, I made the cut and got into HopMUN. Now having had two weekends in a row to compare the two clubs, I am not going to decided which I like better, because I honestly can’t. I honest-to-god-no-shame love this activity in all its forms, and I’m so happy I still have three more years of my MUN career.

Get hype. Also HopMUN spring recruitment applications are still live!
Get hype.
Also HopMUN spring recruitment applications are still live!

Toga, toga! Joining Greek Life

It has been officially one week since I received my bid to my sorority, Pi Beta Phi (ΠΒΦ), here at Hopkins, and what a week it has been! I’ve added probably one hundred new friends on Facebook and found dozens of newly recognizable faces on campus. It is wonderful to have someone wave you over to sit with them in a giant lecture class that you didn’t know one week before.

That’s me!

Fraternity and sorority life at Hopkins is smaller compared to most schools: we have just thirteen frats and five sororities (not counting the co-ed service, multicultural, and professional frats and sororities). Only three frats and none of the sororities have official houses on campus, yet over a quarter of undergrads here have membership in a Greek organization. It is a great balance of strong Greek participation by the students without it overbearing the social scene. In my close friend group, only my friend R and I decided to go through formal sorority recruitment, but we certainly don’t plan on leaving our other friends behind. R and I aren’t even in the same sorority (she is a ΦΜ) but we are still going to be close friends. I am most excited to simply know more people on campus. The Monday after I got my bid (formal invitation to join the sorority), one of the Vice Presidents of Pi Phi waved me over to sit with her in our giant Microeconomics lecture. Other sisters have asked me out to lunch and dinner to get to know me better (since I’ll soon be getting a Big!)

R and I on Bid Day!

A great part of Hopkins’ recruitment process is that it happens officially in January. This way, everyone has gotten their feet under them at school and can take the time to decide whether they want to go through recruitment. At my mom’s college, she had to arrive a week before everyone else in August before school even started to go through sorority recruitment. Spring recruitment is great because it allows girls that are on the fence about the process to go to informal meet-the-sister events and see if they actually would like to be a part of a Greek organization.

Pi Phi’s newest pledge class! Courtesy of Hopkins Photography Forum

I, however, knew that I wanted to be in a sorority since before I even applied to any colleges. Both of my parents were in Greek life (my mom is an ΑΓΔ and my dad is a ΤΚΕ) and they absolutely loved it, and their fraternity brothers and sorority sisters are still the people with which they correspond from their college days. Hopkins’ Greek Life may seem small to outsiders, but the flexibility one has within a Greek organization is partly what attracted me to this school. Every member goes to chapter meetings, formals, date parties (for which you can take a friend or date of any gender), and philanthropy events, but you can even get more involved in committees and the Executive Board of your chapter.


I hope to make ΠΒΦ a home for me for my entire life. I am excited to enter the professional world and have colleagues and acquaintances recognize my Greek organization. Pi Phi, and Greek organizations in general, have national recognition for their philanthropy and leadership, and I will be proud to wear my letters for the rest of my life.

The entire Pi Beta Phi chapter, courtesy of Hopkins Photo Forum

Best First Semester Ever

Today is Monday, January 4th and I have officially returned to campus for Intersession and second semester. Winter break was wonderful and much needed: in the just last week before break began, I had 3 exams and a final paper due. Needless to say, I slept on my plane home that Friday night, and then slept until noon on the Saturday after. Even though I was exhausted from almost nonstop studying, I couldn’t wait to come back to campus.

follow for more Hopkins adventures

My family took a trip to Florida over break, drove 24 hours from Chicago both ways, and I spent my week swimming, lounging about the pool, and reading for pleasure. Funnily enough, the place we stayed in Florida – Siesta Key – was the same place we came for Spring Break right after I found out I was accepted into Hopkins!

Skating in Patterson Park with Neha and Emma

Even though the beach was wonderful – in the 70’s and 80’s all week! – I couldn’t wait to come back to school, and not just because my dorm bed is more comfortable than my home bed. When I was first accepted to Hopkins, dreaming about my future life in Baltimore at the same beach on which I sat just last week, I never imagined the feeling of belonging that I do while at school. Hopkins students are really my type of people – dedicated to their work and passionate about their interests, but also the type of people who explore the (excellent) Baltimore food scene and go duckpin bowling with you on a Saturday night. For lack of a better word, Hopkins students are normal. We are all brilliant – I am studying alongside future doctors, lawyers, intellectuals, and innovators, but no one is haughty or condescending when they discuss their latest research or study abroad trip for the upcoming summer. I talk about the theories of international relations with the same people I discuss Star Wars. 



Birthday collages from R, Emma, and Neha. A pretty good summation of the amazing times I’ve had in just my first semester here.

And now I’m back on campus! I have made so many amazing memories with incredible people since I came in August, and I’m looking forward to so much more! Over Intersession – Hopkins’ optional January academic period – I am taking a class about International Relations and the Civil War and co-facilitating an alternative break through our Center for Social Concern, where I will spend the week learning, discussing, and doing service related to immigrant and refugee rights (and spend a day in DC!). My schedule for next semester is packed with fascinating classes, and I am especially excited for my class on Ancient Egypt where I will get to work with the objects in our Archeological Museum in Gilman. Outside of class, I am looking forward to Sorority Recruitment at the end of January and JHUMUNC, Hopkins’ high school Model United Nations conference, in the middle of February. Beyond that, Spring Fair and lacrosse season is still to come. All in all, if it’s supposed to get better from here, I can’t wait to see what other amazing things I will do here at Hopkins.