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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An Unusually Full Month of Queer Things


Name: Erica Taicz

Year: Class of 2016

Major: Behavioral Biology

Hometown: Seattle, WA

An Unusually Full Month of Queer Things

Hi there! I was (most likely) you in the not so distant past. The person reading about how many drinking fountains are located where in a school 2,300 miles away you might not have even applied or been accepted to yet instead of starting on a paper due tomorrow, and now I feel like I’m writing to my crazy self. Young crazy self, you need to take a seat. And read future crazy self’s beautiful guest blog. That essay can wait.ThisIsMe.jpg

Since coming to Hopkins about 500 cups of coffee ago I’ve been mostly involved with Health Leads (providing federal and community resources to patients and their families in clinical settings) and PILOT (small group tutoring). I’m from Seattle, so I consider umbrellas a pathetic substitute for waterproof skin. I’m a Nicaraguan Jew who speaks Spanish (fluently) and Hebrew (terribly). I’m an intersectional feminist. I’m a confused ex-pre-med, current maybe-pre-law cinephile who studies biology with a year left to get that mess untangled, and everything about this bothers my parents greatly. Lastly, I’m a lezzzbian, which does not bother my parents nearly as much. I identify as cis, use she/her/hers pronouns, and I prefer the term “queer” over “gay” in reference to myself.

While I could talk for ages about my annoyingly undying love of Chaplin’s Modern Times or the remarkable sun to rain to breeze ratio in Matagalpa, right now I’m going to focus on what it’s like to be LGBTQ at Hopkins. I decided to format this post as a sort of “calendar” with some of the more interesting LGBTQ things I’ve done in or around campus from October 27th to November 27th. Here goes:

October 27th Admissions Dinner

This event was hosted by the Office of LGBTQ Life at Hopkins in its brand new spiffy office! Which at the time, didn’t have any furniture, but I was just there for a holiday party and it’s all set up with as many rainbow decorations as you’re imagining multiplied by four. The purpose of the dinner was to talk about how Hopkins can better address the LGBTQ community in its admissions process and it was a chance to hear what other students thought about related articles. It was both interesting and very weird for me to think back on my relationship with my identity in high school.

The best result of the night was a tie between two free Chipotle burritos (shout out to the girl who signed up to come but didn’t, so I could take her food home for “my roommate”), and being asked to write this blog you’re reading. I decided it was a logical starting point.

October 31st Halloween in Fells Point

This one isn’t really directly related to Hopkins, but there were a few Hopkins students/recent graduates. It was a house party with mostly LGBTQ people and allies. I ended up meeting a ton of students from nearby universities, and the best result of the night was getting invited to the Big Gay Joint Birthday Turn Up Function (I ended up canceling because of my abusive relationship with passing out early with The Mindy Project on Friday nights. I loved the name of the event enough to want to include it here anyways).

The point is that there’s an LGBTQ community of students in the area outside of formally organized events. Speaking of those formally organized events. I’ll talk about a few of them in a bit, but here are two of the flashy ones which involve other schools. The Inter-Hopkins LGBTQ “Ball” happens in the spring and combines all the Hopkins affiliated schools (The School of Medicine, Peabody, Whiting Engineering, etc…). Also in the spring is B’More Proud, which involves any Baltimore area university students and is a day of all the gay activities your heart desires, like watching Paris is Burning and listening to Tegan and Sara. But not quite.

November 6th and November 16th SafeZone TrainingSZsig

This is a program which invites members of the Hopkins community to come and talk about the LGBTQ community for three hours. It covers the basics of sex/gender/sexual orientation distinctions and terminology, as well as ways to be a more effective ally regardless of how you identify yourself. I’m a facilitator for the discussions and there are many rewarding moments, mostly related to hearing personal stories or having Demere (the LGBTQ life director) reliably laugh at my lame, dry jokes when no one else does.

November 7th Town in DC with DSAGATown.jpg

DSAGA stands for Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance, the LGBTQ student group on campus which cleverly removes any future need to add on or change letters. They have weekly meetings dealing with everything from coming out to queer representation in the media. Generally the first meeting every year has enough student turn out to make the room a sort of hybrid sauna with a chalkboard.

They host events like this one, which also invited students from Peabody (the JHU music conservatory) to go to Town, a gay club. The first hour or so is a drag show and then people usually go upstairs and do the clubbing thing. It’s a good time with some of the most fabulous people at Hopkins packed together niiiice and tight.

November 15th Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

10733956_716149458434610_7526018427006721516_nI’m going to stretch the definition of what to include in this calendar, but on the 15th I got coffee with a graduate student who’s one of my SafeZone co-facilitators. The point here is to mention that Hopkins has a few formal mentoring programs through the LGBTQ office and DSAGA, but I’ve found that most of the older students are game to help just about anyone who asks nicely and/or desperately enough.

More coffee! On the 15th I also went to a DSAGA event, this time involving a showcase of artsy performances. There was poetry, singing, and a one man show involving “Julie” Caesar. I performed some slam poetry myself. You can’t see me, but I’m wearing a turtleneck and a beret right now (jk, I’m wearing fuzzy pajamas and a yamaka).


November 27th Brosgiving 2.0

I spent Thanksgiving at Hopkins with friends and about half of the group identifies as LGBTQ, so I decided to add it in. I wanted a nice round month from one 27th to the next, so yes, it’s a bit of a stretch yet again. I watched 3 hours of RuPaul’s Drag Race on the same day to make it gayer for you guys.

During this month, there were also events I didn’t go to. oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) had a conference (November 7th- 9th). Cheryl Clarke came to Hopkins for an event, Living as a Lesbian, hosted by the Department of Women and Gender Studies, the Center for Africana Studies, and the LGBTQ Life office (November 12rd). I’m sure there were others. The point is that there are never enough ways to occupy your time with fun gay things, but Hopkins puts forth an effort.

I’d like to wrap things up by referencing two Hopkins alums:389652_352323081483918_1380510476_n

The first is Bob Weatherford, who recently graduated but not before writing an eloquent letter about homophobia at Hopkins. Fear not, he talks about the many positive experiences he’s had. Regardless, it’s important to be critical, and he writes about improving on a general “culture of acceptance”.

The second is Ben Panico, the only kinda-celebrity I can say I kinda-know. He’s in the Huffington Post, the Advocate, the Washington Blade, and TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. One of those may be just a prediction. Besides being awesome at life, he’s also the only openly Trans staffer on Capitol Hill. Read about it! All your friends already read it. He also came back to speak to DSAGA on November 17th, which fits in my calendar as well (yay).

Feel like you’d like to find out more about BLGTQQP2SIAA things at Hopkins? I gotchu covered:

I can’t find a picture of it, but there was a rainbow flag hanging from the Breezeway (the white arches pictured in the background of the photo above) for either the entirety of last fall semester, or a good portion of it. It didn’t make sense to me for the longest time why Hopkins would just have it hanging there for so long. There didn’t appear to be a reason. Every day I saw it, I thought that it’d be the last day before they took it down. But it just chilled there for months.

And more so than any of the functions or groups I’ve mentioned, that flag left on the Breezeway for what some considered to be an uncomfortably long amount of time is the main reason I think Hopkins is doing a pretty decent job at supporting its entire community.


Rebel Without a Campsite


Name: Ivar Ogden

Year: Class of 2016

Major: Behavioral Biology and Psychology

Hometown: Hamilton, MT

Rebel Without A Campsite

So, I miss the outdoors, and while there is a chance for me to still go outside and enjoy the parks and hiking spots around Hopkins and Baltimore, I must also begin studying for finals (lord know I need to). Since I am a Hopkins student, I must use my resourcefulness and ingenuity to fulfill my desire.

I have a tent just sitting in my room that I asked my parents to send me.  I’m not sure why I asked for it, but I have it. It has been my favorite tent for quite some time. I used to take it to swim meets when I swam for Bitterroot Swim Team in the Montana Swim Federation. Most of the public swimming pools had grassy parks around them and since we only swam in the summer, it was federation standard that people camped in the parks instead of in hotels like some of you “city-swimmers”. And, although the rain fly of my tent was inefficient for the unpredictable Montana weather and I sometimes woke up partially covered in rain, this tent will suit my purpose.

As well as an outdoors enthusiast, I am also an RA, and tonight I am on e-duty. On regular duty, RAs go on rounds (check common spaces to make sure everyone is safe), deal with lockouts, and sit in their rooms for students who need help. When an RA goes on rounds they call the RA on e-duty. The e-duty RA is also a liaison between the RAs and Security. E-duty has a special lounge that doubles as the AMR Office of Residential Life; it is naturally called “the e-duty lounge”. I am here from 8pm to 1 am.

What’s stopping me from bringing my tent and sleeping bag to the e-duty lounge? Other people may judge my actions as odd, but I don’t need validation from strangers and those who know me should understand me by now. So, I brought my tent and sleeping bag to e-duty. It was great.

Me in my tent in my office.

Me in my tent in my office

I wish that this story had more conflict or some kind of rising or falling action. The morale of the story is essentially that I wanted to do something and I did it despite what people may say. But isn’t that what college really is? We find ways to make seemingly mundane tasks interesting. We fulfill our fleeting desires while also accomplishing our duties. It’s definitely the kind of axiom that has dictated my life at Hopkins.

Our view of the wilderness beyond.

Our view of the wilderness beyond

Ballet and Me: A Love Story


Name: Victoria Dawe

Year: Class of 2015

Major: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Hometown: Rome, Italy

Ballet and Me: A Love Story

When I quit ballet after middle school, I wasn’t particularly sad to say goodbye. I knew it wasn’t going to be my career and I figured there were other things in the world I would manage to fall in love with as well. I was thirteen, and thought I had all the time in the world to grow up and figure it out. Fast forward seven years, and here I am in my senior year at Hopkins, producing (and dancing in) JHU Ballet’s Nutcracker, realizing that my love affair with ballet will never really be over. Ballet and I have been off and on my entire life. High school me thought I was finally done with it: done with long rehearsals, endless pairs of pointe shoes, and constantly being sore. College me was somehow sucked back in, and realized I can’t live without it: the feeling you get from landing a double pirouette, the butterflies as you wait in the wings, or the thrill of being on stage performing.


My ballet career – then and now

The first week of freshman year I attended the Student Activities Fair and walked right by the Ballet Company’s table with no intention of stopping. Ballet and I had broken up a while ago, and I was over it. Or so I told myself. I guess my eyes lingered on their poster for too long, because the upperclassmen stopped me and bombarded me with flyers and class schedules and the next thing I knew I had my hair in a bun and was doing plies at the barre one week later. Ballet and I were back together.

If there’s anything that Hopkins has taught me, it’s to have an open mind. In your four years here, you will be presented with so many opportunities that you’ve never had before and I honestly think the biggest mistake you could make is to not take advantage of them. Whether it’s in regard to your schoolwork or your extracurriculars or your life philosophy in general, it’s always important to be open to change. I’m currently a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineer minoring in Entrepreneurship and Management. I knew I always liked math and science, but if you had told me in high school that I would have a business minor, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But after taking a couple classes in the department for the fun of it, I realized that this is actually something I’m really interested in.​ And the same can be said for the reason I got involved in ballet again. I almost skipped my first ever Hopkins Ballet class, until my friend reminded me that I should just try it out because “why not?”


My two most recent performances with Hopkins Ballet

My two most recent performances with Hopkins Ballet

I spent this past summer interning at The Washington Ballet, and it was honestly the best way to spend three months. I was located at their community outreach campus in Southeast DC, which focuses on bringing dance to people of all ages who may not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to it. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by people who love ballet as much as me and have the same relationship with it that I do: people who understand that it’s not only good for your body but good for your soul, and people who get that there’s no real way to put your love for it into words. Any given day at work was different, and I did everything from organizing costumes to assistant teaching to editing video footage to archiving old photos and press materials to interviewing dancers and even getting to take free adult dance classes.

Interns and staff from my summer at The Washington Ballet

Interns and staff from my summer at The Washington Ballet

Some of TWB’s students

Some of TWB’s students

I learned so much about the ballet world that I didn’t know before, and I learned more about myself and my dreams than I thought possible for a summer. I don’t quite know what I want to do when I graduate in less than a year, but after this summer, I know I want it to be ballet or performing arts related.

They say you never forget your first love, and I definitely won’t. There’s something about ballet that will always keep me coming back for more.

Making A Home Away From Home


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


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.


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…


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


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.


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


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


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…


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 Seminars…History…International 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


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.


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!