Guest Blog Celebrates Five Years!

Welcome to the Hopkins Interactive Guest Blog. For five years now, each week we feature a different Johns Hopkins student. To showcase the variety of posts featured here, we have built a Guest Blog Map dotted with each author’s hometown. We hope you’ll browse through and enjoy finding entries you may have never otherwise come across.


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Making A Home Away From Home

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Name: Elsheba Abraham

Year: Class of 2016

Major: Behavioral Biology

Hometown: Subang Jaya, Malaysia

Making A Home Away From Home

            It’s true when they say that college is a big step for everyone. It’s usually the first time we have to truly live apart from our family, make friends all over again from scratch, and simply learn to live independently from day to day.  However, the independence part of the college experience is intensified for all us international kids who often have to travel over several time zones to finally get to college. Though the process of getting to the US was complex enough, the real challenge begins when we actually get to the campus we all worked so hard for.

When I came from Malaysia to Hopkins in Fall 2012 as a doe-eyed, impressionable freshman, I had no idea what to expect coming in. A tip for you all foreigners: life in Hopkins is not exactly the same as the college life you see portrayed on TV (which could be a good thing or a bad one, depending on where you stand). First important lesson I learnt in Hopkins? College is what you make out of it. For me, that meant having a good set of friends who understood me and knew the importance of both studying and enjoying ourselves. Fortunately, making friends in the first semester wasn’t as difficult as I expected, since everyone was equally as eager to get settled in. From my Peer Ambassador group to classes, I somehow managed to find friends that I could get along with. However, my closest set of friends came from the people I lived with (Wolman 6 West!) and my dance group, JHU Eclectics.

JHU Eclectics

JHU Eclectics

With everyone having his or her own schedule in college and always running from one place to another, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos. That’s why my floormates and my dance group were (and still are) two very important anchors that kept me grounded especially through the craziness of Freshman year. My friends in 6 West were the people I came back to everyday after a long day on campus, and I saw my friends in Eclectics at least 3 times a week – with that much time spent together it didn’t take a long time for me to consider these people my second family.

Wolman 6 West

Wolman 6 West

As an international student that flew (literally) halfway across the world for college, another inevitable question that usually pops up is this: how did I learn to adapt to a lifestyle that was utterly foreign to me? Here comes the second important lesson that I learnt here: you must learn the right balance between being proud of your culture, and being ready to adjust to the lifestyle here. This was a little more difficult to handle, since it’s easy to get overcome by the (generally) strong and distinctive personalities we find here. However in my experience, people are usually as eager to learn about your culture, as they are to share things about their lives. Through time, I learnt to embrace the person I already was, but at the same time was open to learning other American idiosyncrasies that I usually found both strange yet compelling.

After two years here in Hopkins, I admit everyday is still a learning process. The first few weeks especially are always the hardest, you can’t escape that – but confidence in yourself and an open mind really does make things easier over time. With the right attitude, I really believe that every day in Hopkins can be better than the last.

The Bluejay That Almost Wasn’t

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Name: Catherine Orlando

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Harrison, NY

Intended Path of Study: Neuroscience

The Bluejay That Almost Wasn’t

“I’m really starting to worry that you won’t fit.”

This one-liner has been playing on repeat on my house since the first college item was purchased. First, the implication is not that all of my worldly possessions won’t fit, it’s that me, my person, won’t fit. Second, the first item was a 3.5″ x 4″ wallet, so I’m not exactly sure why this item in particular had my family so worried about my ‘fit.’

Clearly I can fit into small spaces with adequate food and water for survival.

Clearly I can fit into small spaces with adequate food and water for survival.

These jokes led to seriously real closet clean outs. The first to go? Tee shirts from other college campuses. I mean why keep them? Going to the dream school, there will be plenty of tee shirts there, why keep a shirt from a school I didn’t even like all that much? But I stumble upon a few, from college road trips, that remind me of one thing:

Hopkins is the school that almost wasn’t.

Now, I know what you’re thinking–Catie found a shirt from Yale and well, Yale was her first choice Hopkins was her second, Yale denied her and Hopkins didn’t. Nope. Or, Catie found a shirt from Stanford and thought about what a tough decision it was after they both accepted her. Incorrect (I did not even apply to Stanford, for the record). Or maybe, she found a Duke sweatshirt and well–regardless, none of these things happened. I like to think that my story is much more humorous (in retrospect at least) and slightly less commonplace.

University of Pennsylvania. You go on a tour their and the guides wear microphones  on their jacket lapels because it’s an Ivy and every tour is jam packed, and they babble about that toast story—actually a good one if you haven’t heard it, but not my story, you won’t hear it here. My parents always pushed me towards the front of the crowd, “you’re young! Hustle to the front and tell us all that you hear,” so of course I was doing that on the 12th (12th?) college trip on a 2 week spring break. Fun vacation, right?

I get a call from my father (here, for a time, it gets moderately not so funny, but bear with me) “come back,” he says, “I’m sick.” I’m baffled. Sick? I turn and I walk back 100, 200 yards, I find him on a bench, and my mother at the famed blue light system. I go to her first. She’s frantic. “My husband needs an ambulance, he’s having a heart attack,” of course this is all news to me, but I’m moderately okay at this point, people survive heart attacks all the time, and more importantly the blue light system will pull us through! (Keep in mind, I was going on two weeks of daily preaching of the glory of the blue light system).

I go to him. He’s calm, “I’m really fine.” Well now.

What happens next is funny (not funny then, funny now, only in retrospect).  It’s been five minutes, the blue light has honestly failed us (if I were dying, I’d be dead!) and a Security guard saunters out of a building, students are watching, I hate being a spectacle. “You need an ambulance?” The degree to which this guy was probably naturally aloof wasn’t helping him, because my mother, as I mentioned, was frantic, and he was not cutting it. “A truck is coming.”

A truck!

We turn, and there in the middle of UPenn’s quad is a fire truck, my dad’s name on it. Three firemen, again aloof, no sense of urgency, come on out, defibrillator in hand, and walk our way.

Aerial view oriented diagram of exactly what happened to us and where the truck was.

Aerial view oriented diagram of exactly what happened to us and where the truck was.

I’m pacing, I’m nervous, they’re making jokes. “You’re having a heart attack because your daughter’s going to college.” “You’re having a heart attack because you saw the bill!” “You’re having a heart attack because the Rangers can’t beat the Flyers this year!” (We are big New York Rangers fans). I was appalled, horrified, and only moderately amused.

Long story short, a day in the hospital to find there was no heart attack, maybe an arrhythmia, eliminated any chance of getting to Hopkins the next day, our last school to visit on spring break. And so we forgot Hopkins for some time.

August in New York isn’t hot, it’s encasing—it’s like walking through syrup every time you step outside. And it was only in this August heat that Johns Hopkins was remembered for the first time since my father’s heart ‘episode.’

Here I am, walking through syrup (not exactly what I meant earlier).

Here I am, walking through syrup (not exactly what I meant earlier).

Now when you’re applying to school you have parents and a counselor and teachers and friends and tutors all with opinions, so when the subject of Hopkins was breached with my dear college counselor, she sternly objected to it. “You need three SAT2s and you’ve only taken one and you’ve only studied for a second. You can’t apply there, don’t bother visiting.”

And just like that, my entire future could’ve been different. But I thought this was odd, it wasn’t one of he the schools well known for needing three subject tests, so we called admissions. “Oh no, you don’t need three, three is the maximum! Kids used to submit too many.”

So. Now arose a different problem, a crisis of self-esteem if you will. How can I possibly get into a school where kids are submitting ten SAT2s and I can barely take two? Why bother visiting when I won’t get in?

I have now, at this point in the story, my mother to thank for pushing the visit. We went, we loved it–everyone was nice; they all loved science and goofy anecdotes as much as I did and the general college details (urban setting, mid-size, etc.) were all right! And I decided I would ED to Cornell.

PLOT TWIST.

Not what any of you were expecting right? I know, I’m a loose canon. Gotta keep y’all on your toes.

So Cornell. I’d only visited a year before, and decided on a whim, really, and then I was set. I was all Cornell all the time. I wrote my supplement in a day, we visited again, I did Research upon Research. I was ready to be part of the Big Red.

But Hopkins was always there, in the back of my mind (an unscratchable itch, if you will). I still went to info sessions nearby (you have to show interest!) and at one point I found myself praying I would get denied by Cornell in ED, just so I could apply to JHU regular decision. Maybe a week before November 8th (not November 1st—the common app caused delays, remember?) everything changed at an information session in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Midway through I began reworking my Cornell supp, to see if it could answer Hopkins’ question. I started doing necessary Research to add to my essay, I had an essay, and then I turned to my parents and said, “I have a better essay, it’s not for Cornell.”

And we were whisked into action and changing things and changing mentalities and being sure and what a midnight decision this was and was I sure I was so gung-ho on Cornell I’ve only see Hopkins once and we have to get an interview even if it’s after the application deadline then you can see it twice and…

On the morning of December 13th, 2013 (Friday the 13th, thanks, admissions for that extra dose of panic) I received an email from a Hopkins alumnus requesting an interview with me. I showed it to my parents and thought that it must’ve meant I wasn’t in (now I don’t really know why this was the logical conclusion but I thought it was a sign for sure).

Now, I don’t need to describe in full detail getting in and flailing and falling over and crying (I’m a spaz, picture a gangly spaz doing spazzy things while crying) because, well, y’all already know I’m in! There’s no plot twist at the end of this blog post, and you know the ending of the story before it begins.

But what you still don’t know is what I found hiding in my closet that reminded me of how close I came to not being a part of the JHU class of 2018. And I find, out of all the college paraphernalia, the UPenn shirt the most difficult to part with, as it is the beginning of my Hopkins story, the beginning of my Hopkins adventure, and very nearly the end. Ironic that a memento of the first place where the universe conspired against my going to Johns Hopkins, is found as I pack for my future in Baltimore.

The beginning and the end (I did eventually pick up some Hopkins gear as well–go Bluejays!).

The beginning and the end (I did eventually pick up some Hopkins gear as well–go Bluejays!).

Hello, my name is…

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Name: Huixin Liu

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Sugar Land, TX

Intended Path of Study: International Studies

Hello, my name is…

When I got my college letters, I thought it would be the hardest choice of my life. Though I knew near from the outset that I wanted to be at Hopkins, I had to conquer a lot of doubt from my parents, my friends, and myself before I gathered the conviction to commit. When I finally submitted the form, I felt as if an immense weight composed of tense conversations and doubtful queries was ripped clear from my body. For the first time in an entire month, I felt at peace. I thought I had made the hardest decision ever in my life.

You know its official when your mother redecorates the alcove.

I was wrong. Names are so much harder.

I was born in Tianjin, China. My aunt was the one who found my name. She submitted my birth details to a certain agency that used my information to calculate the most appropriate name possible. They came up with two options, 刘博 (Liu Buo), and 刘惠昕 (Liu Huixin).

My parents chose the latter, simply because it sounded more feminine, and I’ve been Huixin ever since.

I was an adorable (and fat) baby.

Well, that’s not quite true. In China, I was 惠昕. It’s a rather pretty name, pronounced “Hwei-shin,” holding meaning about things like “kindness,” and “blessing.” It’s not overwhelmingly common, but it’s not strange, either. Not quite the American “Mary,” or “Jennifer,” but no “Apple,” either. It’s a good name.

When I immigrated to the States, I became Huixin. It’s just the pinyin of my Chinese name, but it didn’t stay just a simple romanization. After years of trying and years of being called multiple incorrect versions of one name I quit trying and began asking everyone to call me by the most popular mispronunciation, “Hickson.” Yes, it rhymes with Nixon. Yes, it’s also a rather amusing way to combine both President Jackson and his nickname, “Old Hickory,” into a convenient homage. Yeah, it’s not just a simple romanization, it’s a complete wrenching of sound and meaning.

Yet, I couldn’t let go of it.

My parents have made intermittent efforts to get me to consider changing my name, but I’ve always refused, to their consternation. I wasn’t making the popular choice. Very few of my Chinese friends have kept their Chinese names. I don’t know why they do it, and I do not have a desire to make any assumptions. I only know why I kept my name. I kept my name out of a sort of desire to keep part of myself, to remain true to my origins after moving to a place that changed my life, my habits, and my beliefs so thoroughly. I kept it as an homage, as proof of my past.

However, I’ve recently realized that my name and I are not doing each other justice.

I don’t deserve a name that runs like a jagged piece of glass through every introduction I experience. I don’t deserve to have to hear former President Nixon brought up constantly in conjunction with my name. And I certainly do not deserve the certain snide remarks of friends and authority figures alike wondering aloud to me about why I didn’t get a “normal, American,” name.

My name doesn’t deserve me, either. My name doesn’t deserve someone who actively masks and defaces it for the sake of convenience. My name doesn’t deserve someone who, at the start of every first roll call, rolls her eyes and responds with the wretched mispronunciation in a curt tone that suggests that her name is nothing more than a burden, an annoyance. My name, the name that means “kindness” and “blessing” underneath it all, certainly deserves kindness towards it too.

And this is why, after over a decade as Huixin, I’ve made the hardest decision of my life. I’m finally going to change the name that has followed me for so long through thick and thin, through all the highs and lows. I’m changing my name to give the both of us a chance to be better to ourselves, and to each other.

Unfortunately, this is an incomplete Extreme Makeover episode, and I have no final satisfying name-reveal complete with sparkles and heartfelt music. This is because I still haven’t figured out my new name.

There’s a lot of things to consider for my new name. It can’t be the name of a friend in my close friend circle, as it would be too jarring. It can’t be a name my parents cannot pronounce, as they’ll be introducing me as that in polite company for the rest of their lives. I really want it to start with an H, just so I have a connection. And really, at the end of the day, I just have to really be able to see myself in it. I now truly understand why there are so many baby name resources out there, as I certainly need all of them and several days of further discussion before I finally fall on the right name. But, you know what, I’m not scared!

I used to think that so much of my identity revolved around my name, around its story, around its difficulties. It doesn’t! Sure, my name is a part of my identity, and it has probably played more of a role in my life than names generally should be playing. However, I’ve realized that my name isn’t the end-all be-all foundation of my personality. I made “Hickson;” “Hickson” did not make me, and no matter what I end up calling myself at the end of the day, I’ll still just be me, only with less X’s.

So, if you see me on campus this fall, feel free to say hi. I’ll be more than ready to say back, “Hello, my name is…”

But don’t ask me right now, I have no clue.

The Secret Waitlist

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Name: Joanna Schneider

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Little Neck, NY

Intended Path of Study: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Vocal Performance

The Secret Waitlist

On May 16, 2014, at exactly 11:00AM, my phone buzzed once, but I didn’t hear it or feel it.

So maybe it didn’t actually happen.

I’ve always told people that I like to live in this “place of not knowing.” It reminds me of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s like the old cliché, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it really make a sound? It’s even a bit similar to the theory of Schrödinger’s cat (but let’s not debate that one because a cat can’t be alive and dead at the same time). I just like the idea of possibilities, hoping for the best, and living in ignorant bliss for a little while. It can work for the college application process, the SAT, a risky text message awaiting response, you name it.

When I was possessed to check my phone during the change between 5th and 6th periods on May 16th, I didn’t know that I was living in that place of not knowing. I was really just looking for something to pass the time, so I swiped my finger down the e-mail application to update it, and with one glorious buzz that signified an incoming message, my life changed.

That sentence seems a bit melodramatic, but there’s a backstory, and it really did change my life.

Now before you jump to conclusions, I was not put on the wait list at Hopkins. On Friday, March 28, I woke up on the most harrowing day of my life with 20,000 other hopeful applicants, and my voice was 100% gone. Not only was this the day that Hopkins released its decision, but it was also the opening night of my school’s annual opera. I was completely unable to sing and I couldn’t voice my terror to anyone. The stress was so exhausting that I fell asleep on my friend’s couch after a half day at school, but not before setting an alarm for 2:58PM so I could get log on to the Johns Hopkins decision site at 3:00PM. I accidentally logged in a minute early, but instead of the error screen I was expecting, I saw the biggest, happiest, most perfect “Yes!”

Some variation of this face and dance combination was happening for hours.

I was filled to bursting and honestly did not think that life could get any better when I let out the strangest, most blood-curdling victory scream of my life. It signified the end of a horrible period of stress and sadness and loneliness to make way for joy and relief. That was also the moment that I realized my voice was back. I cried tears of joy with my two best friends and called my mother, my voice now hoarse from screaming. We exchanged happy tears and promptly told everybody we knew (which is only natural, as I quite possibly have the loudest family on the planet). Only a handful of teenagers across the country shared my Hopkins-induced happiness that day, and for that I could not have been more grateful.

Before you think that this all sounds like a fairytale ending, here’s where it gets interesting. I was not just waiting for a decision from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences or the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University — I was also waiting for my decision from Peabody Conservatory. I have been singing classical music — yes, opera — for almost ten years, and I’m one of those crazy kids who refused to decide between a life of music or academia, so I applied for the Double Degree program.

As if applying to college hadn’t already been hard enough.

On April 1st, I received an e-mail notifying me that I was accepted into Peabody Conservatory and another that promptly followed it, rejecting me from the program that would allow me to combine the two.

What.

I had been accepted to Homewood and Peabody, but I couldn’t do both. I hadn’t been expecting to get in to my two dream schools, but I also wasn’t expecting to get so close.

That was when I realized I had to make the choice for the first time in my life. I was lucky enough to attend an arts high school, where it was completely normal to fangirl over both Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Young. It’s been a balancing game between music and science for as long as I can remember and here was where it would abruptly end. It was entirely out of my hands, and in the end, I decided to accept my place on the Homewood campus.

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to be accepted into Hopkins in any capacity, but the thought of not singing in a choir every day and never having to learn how to pronounce the lied of a German art song again made me feel hollow. SOHOP, the beauty of the Homewood campus, and my music teachers were all reminders of the limitless possibilities that the future held. I was finally beginning to come to terms with my decision when May 16th rolled around.

Unassuming, insignificant little May 16th.

The subject line of the e-mail read “Acceptance to JHU Double Degree.” I tapped it with one shaky finger. The message was short and simple.molly1

It was too surreal to believe.

It was too surreal to believe.

I flew out of my math class, my friend Rachel following suit in mid-text with my friend Izzy, who appeared moments later. I ran a lap around the floor and collapsed in a stairwell to catch my breath. I ran back to class where my teacher was still setting up the projector to put on Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein” like it was a normal day. My friend Jared turned to me to ask what happened.

Igor knew how I was feeling.

“I got accepted into the Double Degree Program,” I managed to squeak.

“What? Congrats! I didn’t know you were on a wait list!” he replied.

“I wasn’t.”

And it was the most wonderful reward after a month and a half of living in that place of not knowing (without knowing it).

Superstition, Biomedical Engineering, and America’s National Pastime

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Name: Tony Wang

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Intended Path of Study: Biomedical Engineering

Superstition, Biomedical Engineering, and America’s National Pastime

On December 13th, I got admitted to Johns Hopkins University for Biomedical Engineering, my top choice program, and it was probably the happiest moment in my life so far. While most people only managed to witness me bursting into Chemistry class, out of breath, clenching my phone, or walking around the school with friends congratulating me on my acceptance, I want to share some of the thoughts I had while waiting for that one letter.

I love baseball. I’ve never played an actual game of baseball, nor do I watch or follow it religiously. The extent of my baseball prowess is the ability to throw a ball around with a couple of friends in the goose-poop-infested backfield of my school. However, I find it one of the most fascinating sports in the world. I think my affinity for baseball begins with the fact that the star major league hitters, the best of the best, only hit the ball about 33% of the time. Wait, I can sign million dollar contracts with billion dollar franchises just by hitting the ball a third of the time? If I only needed to make 33% of my free throws to become the face of an NBA franchise, I’d be the next Lebron James.

For those of you who might not be very familiar with baseball, the role of a batter is riddled with variables and uncertainty. Even when a batter crushes a ball that gets pitched at them, there’s still a chance that a fielder just happened to be right where the ball is heading. Likewise, even when a batter hits poorly, there’s still a chance of a fielding error and he’ll make it scot-free. Unless it’s a homerun, anything goes in baseball. And it’s precisely because of this unpredictable nature that baseball players are some of the most superstitious people in the world.

Almost all baseball players, pitchers and hitters, have some sort of ritual or routine that they follow. Some will wake up at a certain time, eat a certain meal, wear the same jock strap they did during the last winning game, tap their bat twice on both sides of the plate, etc. I submitted my application on November 8th and every night, for the next 35 days, I would recite to myself 3 times “I’m going to get in,” before going to bed. As I was letting all these thoughts swirl through my head, I would plan my decision day out, down to my very reaction if I got accepted. Walking home from the bus stop every day, I would also chant the same thing, pumping myself up and jumping up and down, much to the amusement of neighbors passing by. Lucky underwear became uniform for the next 5 weeks. Never in my life did I want something so bad, so I stayed diligent with my rituals.

Baseball players also believe in taboos, which are things that they would abstain from or avoid in order to prevent bad luck. Some refuse to eat certain foods, refrain from shaving, or avoid certain numbers or phrases. I remember as a kid, my parents and I were driving through a neighborhood that was populated mostly by Chinese immigrants. As we continued down the street, I noticed that there was no house number 4, 14, 24, or 34. In their place were house numbers 3A, 13A, 23A and 33A. I asked my parents why and they said it’s because the number 4 in Chinese is bad luck because it sounds like the word “death”. I scoffed at their ludicrous belief and immediately regretted it as I got lectured for the rest of the car ride. But during this period of weakness, what I considered absolutely baloney became an immutable law of nature.

I consider myself a man of science. I’m not easily swayed by ghosts or the supernatural, nor do I generally believe in superstition. However, everything that happened during this period became a sign of my impending fate. My first heart attack came when I received an email from Johns Hopkins saying that they would be releasing the decision on December 13thinstead of December 15th. Friday the 13th. To me, this was like hearing that they didn’t even receive my application. What chance do I possibly have at getting in now that the decision would come out on the unluckiest day ever?

I was also declined an interview due to no alumni being available to conduct one. Even though it says very clearly on their website that interviews are not mandatory and most people get accepted without one, this was as bad as a rejection. I eventually did some more Research and found out that the interview was more of an extension of their tours, giving applicants a chance to learn more about Hopkins from an alumnus, which eased my pain a little. But deep down, there was still that doubt. I mean, how am I supposed to get accepted as a student when I’m not even worthy of a measly interview?

The morning of the decision release day, I had a dream where 3:00pm, came by but I didn’t check my decision because I was still in Chemistry class. I would be trying my hardest to pay attention to the board, when I got a text message from my mom that read, “I’m so sorry Tony, you didn’t get in. It’s okay, I’m still proud of you.” I woke up in my panic to find that it was just a dream. My mom was waiting for me at the breakfast table when I came downstairs and she asked me if she could have the login to my decision release so that she could check for me. OBVIOUSLY, that dream was some sort of omen, and so, I told her I couldn’t. She said she understood, gave me a hug, and drove me to school.

Naturally, all of my rituals and taboos were my only weapons in my fight against this unseen creature known as “bad luck”. But my rationality would kick in ever so often and I would always think to myself, why am I doing all this? Does any of this actually work? Why am I trying so hard at things that won’t do me any good? I asked myself, what can I do that would actually help my chances? And then it hit me.

My life doctrine has always been to live life without regret. Almost all of the risks that I have taken in my life were a result of that belief, that the pain of “what if” would be far worse than any other outcome. And yet, I had contradicted myself entirely. I put so much effort into all of my superstitions because I wanted this so badly. But why didn’t I study harder for my SATs? Why didn’t I try harder for my IB exams in May? Why didn’t I start researching earlier? If I really wanted this so badly, why didn’t I do everything that I could have while I had the chance? All of these regrets that I had during my high school career hit me. Hard. Now it was too late, so why should I believe in all this superstitious crap?

I started to think about baseball again, which prompted a smile. I can’t change the past, but maybe I can change the present with my routines and rituals. I did it for the same reason that baseball players did. In a world filled with chaos and uncertainty, filled with competition and admissions officers who are trying to extrapolate our life stories out of 500 word essays, why shouldn’t we try to gain a little more control of our lives? Why can’t we believe in something that gives us hope after we send out our Applications into an infinite black hole, which spits back a letter that changes the next decade of our lives after 5 weeks of gestation? And so for the next 5 weeks, I continued with all of my routines and rituals because I wanted to get in so badly that I’d do it by wit alone.

Getting admitted to Hopkins was just one step in the journey, and this isn’t going to be the last time I’ll have to wait on an admission decision like that. So to those of you who will be applying to med school, grad school, business school and many more, it might not be a bad idea to avoid some black cats and the number 13. When you feel as powerless as I did, as if the whole world is against you, it’s nice to feel like you can still do something to improve your chances.

As for me, I’ve learned a lot about myself over those past few weeks. I don’t see this acceptance as an excuse to coast through the rest of the year. This was a wakeup call, that I’m not living life the way that I intended to. I have plenty more hurdles to overcome in my life and next time, I might not be as “lucky” as I was this time. So for the rest of the summer, I’ll be preparing myself for a grueling first semester at Johns Hopkins. And who knows? Maybe I’ll learn how to hit a baseball too.

Hopkins: A Conversion Story

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Name: Molly Young

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Intended Path of Study: Writing Seminars

Hopkins: A Conversion Story

I didn’t know I wanted to go to Johns Hopkins.

No one in my family had gone there, it sounded a bit too prestigious for my resume, AND like every other person who has only ever heard the University’s name in passing, I assumed you were supposed to be a pre-med science devotee if you really wanted to go there. Have I made you wince yet? Please bear with me, dear reader, as I slowly bring you around to my far-more-enlightened present, in which I could not be more excited about being a Hopkins Blue Jay.

All my life, I’ve watched my older siblings grow up, excel in school, and eventually find their places in the professional world. A doctor, an engineer, and a quantitative statistician (aka the swankiest of all the titles for a financial advisor.) What do all of these jobs have in common? For one thing, math…science…MORE MATH AND SCIENCE. To be shamelessly melodramatic, just writing the word “quantitative” makes me feel…well…

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In all fairness, my siblings are totally awesome individuals whose mathematical and scientific endeavors I respect — from a safe distance. Overall, we’re a very nerdy bunch. WE all love Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Jane Austen, BBC America, PBS, you name it. We all like to imitate just about any movie star out there, and when the beat drops, you will find us unabashedly freestyling across the dance floor despite our relative lack of dance training as a group. But then they have all these interests about medical stuff and MATH stuff and building bridges and other such stuff, and that’s where you’ll catch me awkwardly electric sliding out of the situation, with my dignity and hopes for being a Humanities major clutched tightly to my chest.

Perhaps that was a bit melodramatic. My family has always been extremely supportive of my passions, and I’ve never been pushed to “become” the next version of any of my siblings. While benefiting from their example and advice, I’ve also been encouraged to carve my own path. And that’s where Hopkins comes in.

Naturally, my sister (the doctor and Jane Austen enthusiast) originally suggested Hopkins to me last summer when we met up in Baltimore during a health conference she was attending. Side note: if you’re ever running low on pens, notepads or water bottles, GO TO A HEALTH CONFERENCE. Just sneak in. Get one of everything. Never go school supplies shopping again.

Anyways, I brushed off the suggestion with something like “Right, ok. I’d never get in,” and “HAH. Don’t wanna be a doctor.” (Don’t give up on me yet, reader. DON’T YOU DARE.) She rolled her eyes, and calmly said, “Well, Hopkins is a great school. You should think about it…” Praise to the forces that be for older sisters like this one. This beautiful ethnic sunflower. This intellectually stimulating butterfly. This splendiferous shot of — I just really love my sister.

On the left, living dangerously. On the right, staking our claim of Young family land in Yosemite National Park. It’s ALL ours now.

Long story (somewhat) shorter, I looked into Hopkins, poked around the website and suddenly felt the need to monologue to the comoputer in the climax-of-a-RomCom kind of way. You know the one. “I love the way you brush your hair, the way you overcook your pasta, the way you wildly gesticulate when you speak, the smell of your shampoo. I’ve loved it for the past 8 years, but I’m JUST realizing it now. Marry me.”

Except mine was more like, “Writing SeminarsHistoryInternational Studies? Theater minors and Music at Peabody? I was so blind, curse my foolish ways!”

Fast forward several months and a full 24 hours after the acceptance decisions were posted. It’s Saturday morning. You’ll find my sister and me sitting at the table, both a little bleary-eyed. I nervously opened the decision “portal”, as they called it in a successful attempt to make me feel like I was in some sort of sci-fi thriller, potentially hurtling into “the portal of despair”.

Instead, my sister squealed in a “YES! THE EAGLES HAVE COME TO SAVE US!” kind of way (see aforementioned comment about the family Lord of the Rings obsession).

The eagles coming to save the Gandalf Gang, metaphorically parallel to the idea of the Blue Jays saving me from the Portal of Despair.

The eagles coming to save the Gandalf Gang, metaphorically parallel to the idea of the Blue Jays saving me from the Portal of Despair.

I got in. Fast forward another month or so, and I’m fresh off of my final college tour, Johns Hopkins. For the first time, I was feeling like a bona fide college kid as I strolled along on those red brick paths, straying away from my family on several occasions and essentially Live Action Role Playing that I was just casually walking to my next class. Total college student here. Psh. I had a backpack and everything.

A beautiful day for a tour. Notice the golf cart in the bottom left corner. I assume all Hopkins students receive one during orientation to drive around campus? Yes? Splendid.

A beautiful day for a tour. Notice the golf cart in the bottom left corner. I assume all Hopkins students receive one during Orientation to drive around campus? Yes? Splendid.

That day really felt like high school’s end for me. I left campus thinking, “This is my school.” Here I was, floating in some weirdly awesome version of limbo — at once fulfilled, and yet full of great expectations (melodrama part 2). I had spent the day on a picturesque colonial-style campus, interacting with down-to-earth Hopkinss students, several of whom were loving their experience as Humanities majors (cue Molly swooning). Also, they gave us a DELICIOUS lunch (swooning again). Most importantly, I felt grateful for the awesome and humbling prospect of joining the Johns Hopkins Class of 2018. It’s always such a dorky adrenaline rush to type out that last part.

You see? I told you it would all turn around. Hopefully, my conversion story inspires millions of people around the world to discover that Johns Hopkins is way more than “that school for doctors”. Frankly, I’m just glad my family gets a kick out of it. I smile in the face of the standard “Hopkins? I had no idea you wanted to be a doctor!” response. “Oh, you,” I reply to my unsuspecting counterpart, “I, too, was once as naive as you are now. Allow me to school you in the ways of the Blue Jay.” My name is Molly Young, and I live in the pursuit of good music, great food, and the Fountain of Youth (I kid. My last name keeps me fresh as a daisy for all eternity.) I’m passionate about my beloved Humanities, and I’m pretty darn excited about getting to campus this August. I’m a Hopkins convert if there ever was one.

And I think that’s just grand.

I'm on the left, backstage at the high school variety show, unafraid and unashamed of embracing the real me. Who is evidently full of "intrigue".

I’m on the left, backstage at the high school variety show, unafraid and unashamed of embracing the real me. Who is evidently full of “intrigue”.

Staying In Touch: A Blog About The Three Best Friends That Anyone Could Have

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Name: Charlotte Johnson

Year: Class of 2016

Major: Psychology (minor in Film and Media Studies)

Hometown: New York, New York

Staying In Touch: A Blog About The Three Best Friends That Anyone Could Have

The three of us on one of our first breaks during Freshman year. I’m in the middle!

The three of us on one of our first breaks during Freshman year. I’m in the middle!

When I graduated high school, I was ready in almost every way for college. I was done with hours of classes I didn’t care about, I was over people treated me as if I was not responsible for myself, and I was, despite my sadness to say goodbye, ready for my parents to stop calling me every 5 seconds to tell me they would miss me next year. The one thing I could not handle, was saying goodbye to my friends. My brain could not comprehend the fact that this external entity called “college” was inserting itself into our lives and separating us by miles and miles. I felt that I had worked for years (13 to be exact) to find the people I connected with. My friends were my greatest support network, my best happiness, and my pseudo family. And now, something was making us all start over, and I had no choice in the matter. I spent most of my time in senior spring crying, but we made a promise that we were stay best friends, regardless of distance.

We spent New Years Eve together. They were my midnight kiss!

We spent New Years Eve together. They were my midnight kiss!

It takes effort to stay connected with my friends from home, but I believe it is more than worth the effort. We’ve done a lot of crazy things to stay involved in each other’s lives. I’ve taken 4 buses over the course of 15 hours to make it to one of my best friend’s sketch comedy shows. My other best friend traveled to visit for only my birthday dinner, returning home that same night. Next week, I will be getting on an 8-hour train so that I can spend a few days at school with one of my best friends. We watch each others performances on YouTube, Facebook stalk each others roommates, send papers to one another that we are proud of, and ask for input on all sorts of issues. We try to talk on the phone at the very least, three times a week. This isn’t a stated rule, but if I haven’t been in touch with my best friends and it’s already Wednesday, my fingers seem to dial as if on their own accord.

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We love going to movies together. Mostly for theses swag glasses.

No matter what, don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t possible. Many teachers and family friends would tell me that their friends from high school fell away at a certain point. I adamantly disagree with these people. If it is important to you and your friend, nothing can keep you two apart, especially with technology these days. My best friends from high school have become friends with my roommates at school, sorority sisters, and anyone I’m dating (and vice versa). We involve ourselves in each other’s lives so that we can still move forward, without leaving our friendship behind. We always remember that it is important to send the silly, seemingly menial updates, in addition to the big ones.

It’s hard saying goodbye, but never let your new life opportunities get in the way of those who mean the most to you!

My favorite picture of the three of us! I think it embodies how happy we are together!

My favorite picture of the three of us! I think it embodies how happy we are together!

Bike and Build: Pedaling for Affordable Housing

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Name: Kaitlyn Cohen

Year: Class of 2014

Major: Neuroscience

Hometown: Toms River, NJ

Bike and Build: Pedaling for Affordable housing

Throughout my past four years at Hopkins, one of the questions I get asked the most is “How do you like Baltimore?” Every time, I answer the same way – I love it. For some people, this comes as a big surprise. Baltimore doesn’t always have the best reputation, but all of my experiences in the city have shown me the very lovable side of Charm City.

One of the most impactful experiences that have helped me love Baltimore has been volunteering with Sandtown Habitat for Humanity. I started working with Habitat while in high school, and fell in love with the organization. Baltimore has a lot of vacant row homes, and Sandtown Habitat works to convert these vacants into livable homes for families. There is something so satisfying about spending a day building, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s such a great cause!

Myself and two other volunteers on a build trip.

Myself and two other volunteers on a build trip.

Having access to affordable housing is something so important for living a happy, healthy life, and unfortunately it can be very difficult to come by. Groups like Habitat for Humanity and other affordable housing initiatives help bridge the gap by providing homes at cost to the proud new homeowners.  Working on the construction aspect is always a lot of fun, but some of my favorite Habitat memories involve meeting the homeowners, hearing their stories, and then handing over the keys at the house dedication.

I was a leader on the 2012 Habitat Spring Break trip. We framed the entire house in one week! Here we are with the homeowners and other volunteers.

I was a leader on the 2012 Habitat Spring Break trip. We framed the entire house in one week! Here we are with the homeowners and other volunteers.

I love working with Habitat and believe in the need for affordable housing so much that I’ve decided to dedicate my summer advocating for affordable housing in the US. Not only do I get to raise money for groups like Habitat and spend days building, but I’ll actually be riding my bicycle from Providence, RI to Half Moon Bay, CA all for this great cause. I am one of 32 riders on Bike and Build’s Providence to CA route this summer, and I couldn’t be more excited.

My Bike and Build route – all the way from Providence, RI to Half Moon Bay, CA!

My Bike and Build route – all the way from Providence, RI to Half Moon Bay, CA!

Bike and Build is a non-profit that sends riders on 8 different trips across the country. Each rider has to raise $4,500 to participate, and most of that money goes straight to affordable housing groups. My trip has 15 build days; which I’m sure will be one of the highlights of the trip. I’m not an accomplished cyclist by any means, but I’m up for the challenge. Working with groups like Sandtown Habitat has really shown me how impactful every dollar donated and hour volunteered can be. I can’t think of a better way to spend my summer!

Fundraising at the farmer’s market for my trip – check out my rider page at www.bikeandbuild.org/rider/7221

Fundraising at the farmer’s market for my trip – check out my rider page at www.bikeandbuild.org/rider/7221

If you want more information on JHU Habitat, like our Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/jhuhabitat

A Student-Run Advertising Agency? Challenge Accepted.

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Name: Julia Silverman

Year: Class of 2015

Major: Behavioral Biology

Hometown: Bronx, New York

A Student-Run Advertising Agency? Challenge Accepted.

Hey, my name is Julia and I am currently enrolled in a class at Hopkins that I can’t help but brag about. The class is called Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communication and is taught by Professor Leslie Kendrick. What sets this class apart from every other one I’ve taken at Hopkins thus far is the amount of hands-on advertising experience we have gotten in addition to typical class activities. The purpose of the class is to learn how to effectively work in an agency to promote a real product and see real results. In past years the class has represented Honda, The Navy SEALs, and Nissan. This year the class was given the opportunity to work with Hopkins alum, Keaton Swett, and his start-up MindSumo. MindSumo is a web platform that encourages users to compete in challenges sponsored by employers, in order to win prizes and get noticed by companies.  It’s a great resource for college students looking for internships or jobs.

I am personally in the Public Relations and Social Media Department with a group of six other hard working individuals. Using techniques explained in our textbook and lectures, we have developed a strategy to engage with our target market and generate buzz in the press. Our plan entails reaching out and communicating with local and national news sources, pitching press releases, and working with social media to engage the public in our campaign. We have two managers, Dave and Lauryn who spend a great deal of time putting everything together and running our team meetings.

Here I am, posing with members of the AdHop Creative team and the Hopkins Blue Jay!

Here I am, posing with members of the AdHop Creative team and the Hopkins Blue Jay!

As a Behavioral Biology major, a normal day in the AdHop Creative agency is dissimilar to all of the serious science lectures I usually immerse myself in. The modern and inviting Hodson classroom is the perfect environment for our interactive class. People don’t zone out and aimlessly scroll through Facebook on this class—we all sit engaged in what our classmates are sharing about their progress. The entire attitude of the class is very professional, but still maintains the comfortable feeling of an undergrad class. The different departments—PR and Social Media, Research, Advertising, Finance, Reports and Presentations, and Campaign Strategy and Implementation—all work extremely hard and the passion is felt buy the entire class when they share their updates.

As our campaign is in full swing we encourage everyone to look out for support our campaign and learn more about MindSumo. And keep an eye out for Sumos walking around campus!

A sumo on campus? #challengeaccepted

A sumo on campus? #challengeaccepted

Check out http://facebook.com/AdHopCreative or http://bit.ly/1eOS4WG for more information.

The Implications of Location Selection: Where To Chill

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Name: Teddy Kupfer

Year: Class of 2017

Major: Philosophy

Hometown: Camp Hill, PA

The Implications of Location Selection: Where To Chill

I spend a lot of time in locations, as many do. Most, in fact, but let’s not get bogged down in semantics/specifics/statistics. The Johns Hopkins University is filled with locations. Allow me to explain why some of these are better than others.

The Gilman Atrium suits those who like to slide their soles on smooth marble while listening to TAs and students commiserate or professors propound pretension. (I.e. overhearing conversations in the atrium is fun.) Generally I frequent the atrium in between classes, intending to do work. It is impossible to do work in the atrium. The food is distractingly good (I have a thing for goat cheese) and the atrium itself is not quiet. Someone told me once that the weird bulbous things hanging down from the ceiling absorb sound, but I think they’re just highbrow art. DO chill in the atrium if you want to talk to people and bask in the scene, or if you are reeling from your last logic lecture, or especially if you want to feel like a true blue intellectual. It’s pretty cool in there. However, DO NOT chill in the atrium if you want to be productive/save money. (To reiterate, can anyone tell me what those things are that hang from the ceiling? I seriously have no idea.)

The Reading Room is where I go after spending fifteen-seventy five (how do you hyphenate written out values? Please comment with the correct usage) on (admittedly delicious) microportions of food and talking to people while thinking “I really need to go to the reading room now.” The white noise in the reading room comforts and soothes. Sunlight bathes the room in… sunlight. Everyone in the reading room is there to be productive; everyone in the reading room is on Facebook. Or asleep: the ambience is lulling. DO: go to the reading room if you want to feel productive. DO NOT: go to the reading room if you want to be productive. Actually, that’s kind of a lie, because with proper self-discipline the reading room is an amazing place to do work. I just don’t have proper self-discipline.

Your Respective Rooms are great places for many things. Spending the majority of your time there… is what many people do. DO: hang out alone in your room if you enjoy it when people stereotype Hopkins students. DO NOT: hang out alone in your room all the time, unless you want to.

It is the same with The Library except DO go to the library if you actually have to get work done. The draconian decibel regulations do their job, and it is always near-silent on levels B and below. Also – it may seem mundane to us, but it goes four stories underground. I think that is kind of awesome. And of course, Brody. Brody is good, too, I guess.

Finally, there are many places to chill for those who are social. (The definition of “social” can be found on various definitory websites.) Regaling you with tales of activities occurring here would be improper, and probably confusing to some people… DO: be social if you want to. Seriously, just do whatever you want.