Entry Title: Biophysics AND East Asian Studies…What?!
Name: Elaine Yu
Hometown: Fremont, California
Major: Biophysics & East Asian Studies
Yeah, that’s right, I have two majors and I go to Johns Hopkins University. No, I don’t live in the library. Yes, I have time to sleep. No, I was not the valedictorian of my high school. And yes, I have a life. Any more questions?
As a high school senior, I’m sure you’ve heard all the stereotypes: the nerds that spend their days in the library, the jocks that live in the gym, the weird theatre kids that wear all black, the hipsters that run the campus coffee shop, and the sorority girls and frat bros that party every night of the week. Where will you fit in? What major should you choose so that you can be who you want to be? Should you even apply to Johns Hopkins University?
Spring Fair at Hopkins
Let’s start with that last question. Yes, you should definitely apply to Hopkins. Choosing to spend 4 years of my life here is one decision I will never regret. Having been born and raised in California, I was wary of traveling all the way across the country to attend a school I applied to on a whim, thinking “There’s no way they’ll accept me.” I didn’t have a 4.0GPA, I had an average ACT score, I had never worked in a research lab, and I thought hospitals were a place for sick/injured people to go, not college applicants. Whatever, I applied anyway. While waiting for my friends to show up for Halloween trick-or-treating, I typed up an essay and submitted it with the Common App minutes before it hit midnight on the East Coast. 6 weeks later, I was in. Awesome! Now what?
Well, I knew I wanted to be a film director when I grew up, so I submitted my deposit and “declared” a major in Film and Media Studies. Fast-forward 9 months to Orientation, and I knew that I had made a mistake. I went to a bunch of random open houses for majors that sounded interesting—film being one of them. That’s where I realized my mistake—the scholarly approach to film that Hopkins taught wasn’t the trial-by-error, go-big-or-go-home style I had grown to love. So, if I didn’t want to study film, what did I want to study? Let’s just say I saw a short presentation in the hard-to-find Jenkins Hall and walked out knowing I wanted to be a biophysicist. A what? You know, one of those graying scientists that spends all day in a basement laboratory watching proteins wiggle under a microscope…not. I wanted to be someone who could think critically and analyze problems by observing and applying the knowledge I had learned over time. A pretty abstract goal, I know.
Here’s how the Hopkins Biophysics program is helping me out with that. 1: It’s a small department so you get to know all the professors really well. They’re all really nice and a great resource. 2: You take all the classes you need to be a pre-med as part of the curriculum, so you don’t have to figure all that out on your own in case you want to be a doctor someday. 3: Biophysics majors get to take classes that combine both biology and physics so you don’t have to take those boring entry-level lectures/labs to fulfill your science requirements. This gives you more time to take interesting upper-division courses that really help you develop the mind of a biophysicist. 4: If you’re worried about finding a research lab, don’t worry. You’re required to do 2 semesters of research so you’re basically guaranteed a year of experience and you already have a foot in the door if you want to continue. A plus is that you can do anything in a bio lab as long as there’s a physics aspect and vice-versa, so you’ve got lots of options to explore your interests. 5: Free food. Lots of it. All the time. Need I say more?
Okay, enough about Biophysics. What’s the story behind East Asian Studies? Let’s just say that I wanted to keep up my Chinese and found that Hopkins has an awesome “Heritage” language curriculum that allows native speakers who are illiterate to learn in a faster-paced environment. The East Asian Studies department also offers a lot of interesting courses discussing anything from ancient history to current political issues in Asia. An extra plus is that these courses often are deemed “writing intensive” and can help fulfill the 4 required “writing” classes for Arts/Sciences students. Sweet, right?
Alright, now I’m really gonna blow your minds. Every science major requires you to take a bunch of “humanities” classes to make sure you’re getting a well-rounded education. On the flipside, every humanities major requires you to take a bunch of “science” courses to achieve the same effect. So when you combine a science and a humanities major, you’re able to build a schedule where classes fulfill the core requirements of one major and the distribution requirements of the other. Are you confused yet? Let me put it simply: I take 5 classes a semester, am very involved in 3 on-campus clubs, work 2 campus jobs, and am part of a research team. If there’s one thing that Hopkins helped me realize, you can do pretty much anything you want here…or elsewhere, for that matter.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to study abroad in China studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. Between the two majors, I didn’t really have the time to spend an entire semester abroad, but I knew I wanted that experience. Somehow, it worked out. The two courses I took fulfilled my East Asian Studies major requirements and I was able (for the first time) to “shadow” doctors in a hospital setting. It was quite the eye-opening experience and I highly encourage everyone to go abroad at least once in his/her college career. Not only did I get to meet a great group of new people from elsewhere in the US, I also got to see first-hand how people in other countries lived their daily lives. In turn, I came to appreciate so much more the American lifestyle I was raised in, and, how great a school Hopkins is.
Have I answered all your questions yet? Yes, you should definitely apply to Hopkins. Here, you can choose whatever major(s) and minor(s) you’d like. The academic advising’s office provides really handy checklists (http://www.advising.jhu.edu/degree_checklist.php) for each major/minor so you can see all the required courses and plan out your semesters accordingly. These lists were really handy for me when I was trying to figure out what classes to take which semester.
It’s also really important to join a lot of clubs/organizations. Everyone needs breaks, breaks from studying, breaks from hanging out with your housemates/floormates, breaks from being on the Hopkins campus. Take breaks with people in different clubs. Branch out, do something fun, get off campus. There are plenty of opportunities to explore Baltimore and the rest of Maryland while making great friends. Some of my best friends are in the outdoors clubs. If you decide on Hopkins, you should definitely sign up for Pre-Orientation (www.jhu.edu/preo). It’s a week of fun-filled activities while camping out in the wilderness before Orientation and where I met a lot of my closest friends.
Climbing Sugar Loaf
kayaking over spring break
Before you start jumping to conclusions and stereotyping me as some sort of nerdy Californian hippie, let me really throw off your preconceived notions of the standard college kid. I am a science and humanities major. I work at the Digital Media Center as a graphic design, photography, and gaming specialist. I spend every weekend off-campus kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, caving, mountain biking, and trail running. Throughout the year, I help design lighting schemes for on-campus theatre productions. Every week, I spend hours on the phone talking to booking agents, band managers, and event technicians to plan Spring Fair, a 4-day music festival held right on Hopkins’ campus. Lastly, I volunteer afterschool at an elementary school to play indoor sports with the kids for an hour.
One day, I want to start a nonprofit organization that brings onsite emergency patient care to attendees at large music festivals and local shows. I also want to spend time abroad researching ways to close the gap between Eastern and Western medicine. When I retire, I want to work for the local ski patrol. Where do I fit in? Wherever I want. Where will you fit in? Wherever you want. You can be whoever you want to be here. You can choose whatever major fits your interests…or make your own (see “Interdisciplinary Major” checklist).
Here at Hopkins you will find, define, and become the person you were destined to be. So what are you waiting for? Apply now! I can’t wait to see you on campus.