Name: Lauren Melissa McGrath
Year: Class of 2010
Hometown: Rockville, MD
Major(s): Writing Seminars, Anthropology
As a Maryland resident (I’ll say I’m from D.C., since the suburbs here are difficult to explain), I’ve visited Baltimore many times. Each of these visits (usually with the pretense of going to the aquarium) had one unifying element: my parents made fun of Johns Hopkins. Not the institution itself, but the name. Every Hopkins student has had the experience of correcting someone when they call the university “John” or some other variant of Johns (people can be pretty creative). I’ve had the pleasure of this experience for as long as I can remember. There was “Bob’s Hopkin,” which became “Jim-Bob’s Hop Skins,” which at some point became “Joe Hopkins.” Had I not been careful, I may have written a cover letter to Joe along with my admissions application, which thankfully, I did not. I feel as though after all of this verbal roughhousing, Johns and I are finally on a friendly first-name basis.
Aside from having an excellent time inventing new names for my university, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived in the fall of 2006. I had come from an all-girls college prep school, where I had spent 10 years in a plaid skirt. Imagine my surprise when there were boys living on my floor in Wolman (I hate to admit that on seeing them, I asked my parents if maybe we were in the wrong place). Eventually, I got used to the male presence on campus. I fell into my activities, my majors (Writing Seminars and Anthropology) sorted themselves out, and I began to finally have fun, to enjoy the thing I had been for which I had been “preparing” for a decade.
The Modern Dance Company became my release on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and as a member I formed some lasting friendships over late rehearsals, bad blisters, and last-minute costume mending. I continued my hobby of writing, which I channeled through the News Letter, and helped edit j.mag, one of Hopkins’ literary magazines. My weeks were full, and days were long, but I fell into a rhythm. The summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years, I took a JHU Art History course in London, which was an incredible experience. During the trip I met two wonderful friends, who convinced me to give their multicultural sorority, Delta Xi Phi, a try. The beginning of my Sophomore year I joined the sorority, and found some friends and sisters who have since become like family.
From experience, it is always the times when you’ve set a pace, when extracurriculars, classes and friendships are going well, that a tough situation comes barreling toward you. Inert, you’re thrown into something entirely unexpected. Sometimes, it’s just the jolt you need to realize the joys of the things you have. For me, this inertia-busting train came last summer, when I was diagnosed with a cyst in my brain. I emailed my sorority sisters, who sent me postcards, letters, and emails from places as far away as Germany, and as close as my own hometown. The dance company sent me a stuffed bear and words of encouragement, and my friends vouched to visit me at home and in the hospital. Their words and messages were healing, and I was headed for surgery.
Now comes the ironic twist (I’m a writing major, so there’s got to be an ironic twist somewhere): I had neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Now, when I came to college, I expected to experience new things, but neurosurgery was not on my List of Fun Things to Do in Baltimore. I should point out, however, that because the hospital is dangerously close to the Cheesecake Factory, an undergraduate should be careful not to wander there on a whim after reading this (and consuming large quantities of cake) and ask for the “College Nite Neurosurgery Special.”
Unfortunately, cake did not factor into my decision to have surgery. The institution that exercised my brain (in sometimes-frustrating ways) was now working IN my brain, to save my balance and hearing, among other things. In essence, Johns saved my life. For this, I made a quiet promise to myself not to make fun of his name again, although I’m sure he’d grant me the occasional term-paper induced slip-up (“30 pages? Why me, Jim-Bob? Why me?”). I’m pretty lucky though, to have a brain that works well enough to write a term paper, drive a car, or type a blog.
I can’t help thinking it was a stroke of fate that brought Johns and I together. Regardless of its name, or its educational merits, a university exists primarily for its students. I have been lucky enough to find the university whose missions, research, and education have benefitted me intellectually and physically. To be a Johns Hopkins student is to be inquisitive, self-starting, and slightly eccentric. If you are passionately interested in what Johns has to offer, he will be passionately interested in you.
I have found a place here over the course of the past three years. I feel positive that my appetite for learning about fiction, cultural taboos, Latin American politics, 18th century literature, psychological schemas, John Updike, and many other things, will be fed. As I’ve said, Johns and I are on a first-name basis, and like any good old friend, he is more than willing to give me his last penny to buy me food for thought.