Slippery Marble, Crab cakes, and Dropped S’s: Oh My!

Name: Celeste Lipkes

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: Tampa, FL

Major(s): Writing Seminars and/or Neuroscience


I woke up this morning at 3 a.m., sweating, post-nightmare style, with my sheets wrapped around my ankles. Bits of my dream resurfaced as I stumbled to the kitchen to get some water: I had arrived for orientation, only to find that the “beach” on Homewood Campus had turned into a real beach (sand, seaweed, starfish, and all), that the entire city of Baltimore had morphed into a giant ocean, and that the other freshman were conveniently ignoring a tsunami looming in the distance. Oh, and I was naked.

As I finished drinking my water and tried to fall back asleep, I realized that maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me something. Namely: Holy crap! I know next to nothing about the school where I’m about to spend the next four years of my life. What have I gotten myself into?

The frustrating thing is, I’m always over-prepared for every situation. I use an alphabetized, two-page packing list when I travel, I always print extra copies of homework assignments, and — according to my Cuban friend — I carry “enough drugs in my purse to make a Columbian dealer blush.” (Except instead of cocaine, I transport family-friendly medication like Tylenol, Aspirin, Claritin, Benadryl, Prevacid, and iron supplements.) If I could use my obsessive compulsive personality to take control of every situation, why not this one? Why couldn’t I chart out the next four years of my life in Excel?

And then, in an unusual flash of clarity, it came to me: my problem was lack of information. That was it! All I had to do was read everything I could about Hopkins, and when I got there I would be completely prepared for anything thrown my way. But where to start? Where could I find reliable information about not only Johns Hopkins, but the Vietnam War, the history of polka dots, and the name of that fox trot song on the last episode of “So You Think You Can Dance?”

Yes. Wikipedia.

I open to JHU (, Celeste2and am delighted to learn that Hopkins is, in fact, “a private institution of higher learning.” (Thank God … I totally would have rescinded my acceptance if it were an institution of lower, or even mediocre, learning.) I continue. But before I hit the third sentence, I’ve fallen victim to Wikipedia’s deadly cross-linkages. I just can’t stopCeleste1 myself. The article tells me that “Johns Hopkins was the first university in the United States to emphasize research applying the German university model developed by Alexander von Humboldt and Friedrich Schleiermacher.” But who was Schleiermacher? Did he have any children? How did he die? Did he have a neck? (Answers: yes, one son; lung inflammation; according to the picture, no.)

I pry myself away from Schleiermacher and return to the Hopkins article, and am shocked to read in the side bar that Hopkins’ academic colors are gold and sable. I could’ve sworn they were blue and white. My Blue Jay sweatshirt is blue and white. My Hopkins hat is blue and white. Is there a difference between academic colors and school colors? I read the “school colors” article, and find information about “building morale” and “pairing two metals together,” but nothing about academic colors. So far, this is not helping to ease my anxiety. (Later I read that sable and gold are only used for “academic robes.” This reminds me of Harry Potter, and I instantly feel better about the whole situation.)

I suddenly remember that last summer before my Hopkins interview, my mom kindly pulled me aside and offered some advice: “honey,” she said. “I don’t care how high your SAT scores are, if you call it JOHN Hopkins, Celeste4_2 you’re in the dog house.” At the time I wondered why anyone would get so angry about an innocent mispronunciation, but I quickly discover in the “Origin of the Name” section on Wikpedia, that you are not a true Blue Jay unless you become irrationally irritated when someone truncates your school’s name. Real-life example: “Milton Eisenhower, a president of JHU, was once invited to speak to a convention in Pittsburgh. Making a common mistake, the emcee introduced him as “President of John Hopkins.” Eisenhower retorted that he was ‘glad to be here in Pittburgh.’” Lesson number one: defend the “s” in Johns to the death.

After reading about the campus’ architecture, this year’s acceptance stats (applicants increased by 156 percent from 2002. whoa.), and a description of Charles Village (with a slight detour to read about free burrito days at Chipotle Mexican Grill), I move on to what I expect to be an enlightening section: Food. Unfortunately, Food only merits a small paragraph under “The Green Campus at Hopkins.” There’s no mention of crab cakes or out-of-the-way Thai restaurants or upscale dining. The only thing the article mentions is that “Johns Hopkins recently switched its dining services providers…citing improved environmental services as an influential reason for the change.” Wikipedia: you disappoint me. Environment reasons? Yeah right! Hopkins switched its dining service providers because its nosh had been booted to the Princeton Review’s “Is it Food?” list. The director of dining services even said that he wanted Hopkins to make the Princeton Review’s top-ten Best College Food list by 2008 and be in the top five by 2010. Lesson two: If you aren’t at the top, get there. Quickly.

Celeste3 The pop culture section proves to be the most interesting. Hopkins carries lots of weight even in the fictional world: Dr. Gregory House attended Johns Hopkins for undergraduate and medical school, but was thrown out of the medical school for cheating. I wonder if the school uses this as a bragging point.

After reading the entire article (ok ok, I scanned the athletics section. whatever.) I find that I’m not really much closer to answering key questions about the next four years of my life: if I get food poisoning and am tossing my cookies from dawn to dusk, is my roommate obliged to help me? How often can I wear my trusty black flip-flops when the danger of slipping on the marble steps is a constant threat? How long should I wait before I delete Hopkids that I have neither talked to nor met from my Facebook friends? Is it uncool to use the word Hopkids? Etc. Etc.

I probably knew from the start that college was one of those things that you have to experience, not read about. However, I do feel slightly enlightened by the article. But for now I’ll wait out the days until September, dreaming about school and inevitably, sadly, making numerous, alphabetized, color-coded To-Do lists.

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  1. Thank god for Wikipedia and color-coding!
    Two things that will be very useful in your next four yearS!

  2. Celeste…this is a great entry. I laughed out loud numerous times, especially at “Did he have a neck?” Great job!

  3. Other pop-culture references:
    Dr. Preston Burke in Grey’s Anatomy (the one who got kicked off the show…oh well) was first in his class at Hopkins Med.
    Also, in The West Wing, President Bartlet’s daughter Elinor goes to Johns Hopkins.
    All evidence of the fact that I watch too much TV.
    Oh, and in answer to your question, Celeste, be careful about your trusty black flip flops and the slippery marble in the rain. My own black flip flops (this is my sixth summer with them–I will never give them up) have failed me a few times.

  4. The best blog about Hopkins I’ve read so far.
    I think the tsunami warning you that you don’t know almost anything about JHU turned into a tsunami of “useful” information which raised questions not only about JHU identity and spirit but also about Schleiermacher’s neck and Doctor House’s education at Johns Hopkins. :)
    I totally agree with you that nothing compares to first-hand experience when it comes to getting to know your college.

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