Category: Freshman Blog Contest

Torn

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Name: Caitlin Dwyer

Hometown: Northport, NY

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: Writing Seminars

“This is the train to…Penn Station. This station is…Penn Station,” the monotone automated voice blares over the loudspeaker. I groan, realizing I have to open my eyes, not because I’m awake, but because in less than a minute, I’m going to transform into a speed-walking, fast-talking, “move or I’ll move you” New Yorker. Whoever coined the phrase, “concrete jungle,” was truly brilliant. The commuter scene is comparably tame, but once you descend those foul-smelling yet surprisingly magical subway entrances, you might as well sign up for the Hunger Games. As the train comes to a halt, I hop out of my turquoise vinyl seat, sling my black tote over my shoulder, and take a deep breath. Ten hours from now, I’ll be searching for a seat on the train back to Huntington, Long Island. Slipping through the sea of suit jackets and oxford button-ups, I find myself facing a poster for Bloomberg Businessweek, advertising the fish market in Japan. Chuckling to myself, I remember SOHOP, where the tour guides pointed out the Bloomberg paths. Bloomberg went to Hopkins. I’m going to Hopkins. Maybe that’s why I’m spending the summer in New York City, interning at one of the largest publishing houses in the world. While my friends are lounging around, sleeping until noon, and corralling eight-year-olds at summer camp, I’m going to be working in an office building. Some days, I miss last year’s job teaching at a creative camp for children with special needs, but other times, I’m glad I chose to step out of my comfort zone.

Sometimes, for lunch, I'd go to Eataly, this incredible Italian marketplace. They had the best coffee!

Sometimes, for lunch, I’d go to Eataly, this incredible Italian marketplace. They had the best coffee!

As I climb the stairs connecting Penn Station to New York City, I inhale the aromas of stale peppermint gum, cigarettes, and garbage frying on the city sidewalks. Right away, I see that the area surrounding Penn is a contradiction, walked by wingtips and workboots, characterized by briefcases and bag ladies. My eardrums are ambushed by the piercing sounds of brakes being hit too soon, horns hollering, and the resounding voices of street peddlers “ten dollaring.”

When I was younger, I hated the city. I hated the noise, I hated the traffic, but most of all, I hated the smell. Now, those things don’t bother me as much. I find New York intoxicating, because no matter what you do or where you go, there’s a measure of uncertainty, an element of doubt.  I remember this one time when my friends and I went into the city for a birthday. We planned to go to this cool taco place in Nolita (“It’s LITERALLY Mexico!” my friend Kevin exclaimed), see my friend’s older brother at work, and go to the Strand bookstore. No one bothered to check the weather beforehand—it was warm and sunny on Long Island—so when we emerged from Penn to find ourselves in a hailstorm, we were surprised to say the least. After four hours of battling the storm and sidling against buildings to keep dry, we finally crashed in a tiny coffeehouse near Gramercy Park. Looking at each other’s faces, drenched with cold sweat and raindrops, our eyes settled on my friend Lara, who was wringing out her hair. There was a sizable puddle beneath her ponytail.

“What?” she asked defensively as we all burst out laughing.

New York is the kind of place where you need to take everything one step at a time. You have to be able to adapt to missed subway trains, keep your cool in traffic, and brush off any “talkers” (those sketchy guys on the subway who compliment your purse and explain how “you’ll make a helluva wife one day”). The city is a college in itself, where life skills are exchanged by the passerby. But its most famous class is “Independence 101.”  New York has bestowed upon me a new definition of self-sufficiency, one that extends itself to life at Hopkins: functioning in the real world, without parents. I feel like an adult each morning as I button my blouse, zipper my pencil skirt, and step into my trusty beige flats.

Despite my valuable quotidian lessons in street smarts, I can’t help but wonder what I would be doing now, if I were home. It’s the Monday after high school graduation, three weeks into my internship, and technically my first Monday as a “college student.” I’m pretty sure (based on last night’s Twitter feed) that the majority of my classmates are sleeping in. During the three weeks between the last day of high school and graduation weekend, I had been looking forward to graduation. Working toward graduation. But now I’m graduated, and I don’t feel any different, I realize as I swipe my MetroCard at the Herald Square subway station.

My high school has a tradition where seniors, at 3:00 on the last day of school, can toss their notes into the Commons. By the time we were done, there was so much paper on the floor, it felt like walking through a foot of snow!

My high school has a tradition where seniors, at 3:00 on the last day of school, can toss their notes into the Commons. By the time we were done, there was so much paper on the floor, it felt like walking through a foot of snow!

I still feel torn, I decide, as I pass through the turnstile. Torn between relishing the last moments of childhood and diving headfirst into adulthood.

On the last day of school, I had the following conversation with a fellow student:

“What are you doing over the summer?” he asked.

“I’m working,” I replied, finishing my signature in his yearbook.

“Where?” he absent mindedly asked as he signed mine.

“The city.”

That certainly caught his attention.

“Like an internship?”

“Yeah.”

“Why would you do that?”  Not exactly the reaction I was anticipating.

“I’m really interested in publishing.”

“You’re a writer right? That might be cool, to get your new book published.” If only it was that easy…

“That would be really cool,” I agreed, “but, um, my job’s in educational publishing, not trade. You know, writing multiple choice questions and stuff.”

“You’re the only person I know who would start writing textbooks the day after you turn them in.”

“It’s just for experience. For the resume.”

“But you’re giving up your last real do-nothing summer. When do you start?”

“Monday.”

“Today’s Friday.”

“I know.”

“But what about prom, and graduation?”

Prom and graduation were a few weeks after school ended. I started commuting, and then took off a few days of work to finish high school. Prom was on a Thursday. I wore a teal chiffon one-shoulder dress, silver heels, and jewelry that combined motifs of crystals and pearls. I was going for a neo-Gatsby look. My town has a pre-prom celebration in the Village Park every year, where the kids pose for photos and wait for their limos and party buses. Even though I was with my friends, my family, and an entire community of familiar faces, I felt out of place posing for a prom portrait. I felt as if I no longer belonged at my high school. After spending days in the city on my own, living in the “Real World” between the hours of seven a.m. and eight p.m., prom no longer seemed like such a big deal. Prom is supposed to celebrate the end of high school, but for me, high school ended on the last day of classes.

“So where did you do your undergrad again?” one of the editorial assistants asks as we grab our morning cups of coffee. She takes Decaf, while I opt for Strong.

Caught off guard, I pause, and tell her, “Johns Hopkins.” My pencil skirt is suddenly constricting, and tiny beads of sweat form on the back of my neck. Feeling like a little girl playing dress-up, I wonder if everyone in the office (besides my supervisor) assumes I’m a graduate student. Deciding not to lie, I come clean, and she looks at me with disdain, though she tries to mask it with a practiced smile. To her, I’m no longer the go-to-girl for copy editing, multimedia searches, and question-writing.

I’m a little girl playing dress-up.

First day of kindergarten, first day of work.

First day of kindergarten, first day of work.

Seuss, Shakespeare, and Sickness

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Name: Will Krause

Hometown: Linwood, NJ

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: History

I haven’t vomited in over a year.

The last time I puked was during my Literature Class; we were having a roundtable discussion comparing Huckleberry Finn with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness when I realized that there remained, in my book bag, a thermos full of cold coffee from lunch. Not really thinking about anything other than how much of a weirdo Kurtz was, I drank it in less than thirty seconds and quickly excused myself to the bathroom once I realized the crimes I had committed against my innards. While that night’s assignment came out of Ms. McLaughlin’s mouth, twenty-four ounces of coffee and a fried eggplant sub from Rose’s Garden Grill came out of mine.

Some puppies, to help get that image out of your head.

Some puppies, to help get that image out of your head.

Vomiting, like eating, is a primal human experience–anyone who has ever been a person can attest to the initial queasiness, the feelings of hopelessness and submission leading up to the vomit, and the relief afterwards that all characterize the event of throwing up.

My friends and family tell me that I vomit more frequently than other people do, and they are correct; when a normal person eats something that disagrees with them, they lay down, close their eyes, and just feel better (I suspect ghosts are involved). For me, the Road to Feeling Better is a long, scary one, and getting to the destination almost invariably requires me to drive the porcelain bus (or the pavement bus, or the metal bus, or the ceramic bus–I have a very colorful vomiting history). My stomach is weaker than most.

The first battle in the War Against my Gag Reflex contains all the tragedy of a Shakespearean drama. It has the unity of time (all taking place on March 16th, 2001, otherwise known as my Kindergarten classes’ Dr. Seuss Day), the unity of place (it went down in the lunchroom and only the lunchroom), and the unity of action (there was one main conflict: William versus Lunch).

Can you spot the differences between these two pictures? Hint: There are seven.

Can you spot the differences between these two pictures? Hint: There are seven.

Act One introduces the vigorous young hero, a Kindergarten me. Like the Scottish King or the Moor of Venice, I achieve fame by taking what is rightfully mine–my lunch to be specific, which consists (tastefully) of Green Eggs and Ham; the green dye in the eggs symbolize my blissful ignorance to the events unfolding.

Act Two involves me, like the Prince of Denmark, resolving to overcome a certain hesitation; in this instance, I ignore the atypical color of my meal and choose to enjoy it regardless. Act Three–the climax–opens with me consuming my lunch. In the midst of this feast, I happen to gaze upon a boy whose name I will change to Rhymes-With-Shmyler (for legal purposes). As I watch my companion enjoy his respective Green Eggs from across the table, something awful happens in stomach, and as quickly as I had downed those eggs, I up them–all over Rhymes-With-Shmyler and his godforsaken unborn chicken. Acts Four and Five involve mops, nurses, and me, never ever eating eggs again.

Like EVER

Like, EVER.

Instead of killing all of the characters like Shakespeare would, the author of my tragedy simply killed my hopes and dreams of ever being able eat an egg without feeling nauseous.

This incident was just the beginning of a lifelong trend involving not being able to hold my food and then developing taste aversions. I stopped eating ham after one particular rewound-meal when I was six, and then I stopped eating meat all together when the mere smell of it would make me sick to my stomach.

I was eight.

During well-visits, my family would always inform the doctor of my unusual pickiness, to which the doctor would reply something along the lines of, “Eat better!” or, “See a nutritionist!” and then I would go home and eat one of the five foods that I could/would eat. Whenever I would try something new, my parents would always joke, “So does this make food number six?!”

I only liked the foods that I knew wouldn’t make me sick, and I took solace in plain and non-threatening meals. This lasted well into middle school, where, by eighth grade, I started to make slight progress in terms of my diet: I stopped ordering pasta salad “without the salad”, stopped declining offers to try things, and started bringing new foods into my diet.

AND I started eating the onion part of my onion rings.

AND I started eating the onion part of my onion rings.

My real progress happened within the last two years, during which I accepted taste-testing as a sort of hobby. My friends and I would root out the tiniest, most “hole in the wall” type restaurants, where we would pick the most bizarre items on the menu just for kicks. Weird foods soon became an integral part of my life. In the eighth grade, I wouldn’t even be able to identify what a tofu, quinoa, and avocado quesadilla was; now I can’t go without my weekly dosage. It goes without saying that I am much healthier.

As silly as it sounds, expanding my diet was a crucial part of my maturity. At some point during high school, I acknowledged the fact that, yes, I do have a weak stomach, but no, I shouldn’t allow that to dictate what I will or won’t eat. In truth, everyone has their taste aversions, whether they be to chocolate-covered pretzels, peanut butter, or iced tea. I am not special because I couldn’t hold my food as a child, and I knew that, sooner or later, only eating pasta and pizza was going to catch up with me. There are things in life that we simply have to stomach, despite how much we don’t want to; I wasn’t going to allow my fear of foods control my functioning. By shedding my incredibly plain diet, I essentially let go of a part of myself that was still clinging on to the comforts of childhood. As a child, I would never think that I would be the type of person who would compile a list of must-go restaurants in the Baltimore area before college, yet here I stand, eager to try new things and to further step out of my comfort zone.

Last week, I had eggs for the first time in twelve years (sunny side up, with toast). Truthfully, they weren’t that bad.

How Hopkins Kept Me Out of Handcuffs

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Name: Maggie Weese

Hometown: Bel Air, MD

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: Biology and Global and Environmental Change and Sustainability

There were three things I wanted for Christmas last year:

1.      To win an aluminum can collection competition. My school was competing against some local rival schools and nothing says Christmas like creaming your rivals in recycling aluminum cans.

2.      The second season of Parks and Recreation because I want to be Leslie Knopp when I grow up. Also, that show is hilarious, and I enjoy laughing.

3.      To get into Johns Hopkins University.

I love Leslie so much that I dressed up as her for Halloween.

I love Leslie so much that I dressed up as her for Halloween.

My mom would laugh and sarcastically say, “Wow Maggie. You are really shooting low” and believe me, I knew I was asking for a lot this year. With winning the can off came the stench of fermenting soda cans for a whole month; with getting Parks and Recreation on DVD came my incessant laughter and distraction from everything else; and with getting into Hopkins came its $62,000 price tag. But I was hopeful.

Well, December 15th could not approach any slower. Every day I would check my email “just in case” they chose to let me know early. But they never did. Apparently the whole 15th thing was set in stone. Well, after weeks of “patience” (or as I call it, freaking out a lot), the 15th had arrived. Everyone I had ever talked to (including two random strangers at Panera) knew that to me, this was more than a date. It was a declaration of my future, with or without Hopkins.

Now I should mention, I am a very superstitious person. It has gotten to the point that I will wait until I feel like it is the “right time” to check grades, scores, or even college letters. What determines the right time? It always varies. If I have a really great day sometimes I cannot help but think “Oh wow! This luck will never slow down” so I check. Or a really bad day, “Wow today is horrible. It only makes sense to get better,” so I check. But a lot of times I am wrong. It is not a sure fire equation but it makes me feel better about checking things. For example, I waited about two weeks before checking my AP scores last year, not because I did not care but because “it was not the right time.” Call it insane, call it pointless, it is just a weird thing I do (and probably also insane and pointless).

So when the 15th came it is an understatement to say I was nervous and being over analytical. That day I had school (oh the days of high school) and then a Christmas party at five with the members of the research lab that I worked in. I decided that I was going to wait until the right moment to check my Hopkins status whether that was at the Christmas party, the moment the clock hit six, or a week later.

So there was school, a blur of numbers, figures, and cell membranes. Then getting ready for the Christmas party, grabbing anything red and green and throwing it on. The drive to the Christmas party, the reality beginning to set in that I was approaching the finish line of my waiting. Then the Christmas party. I cannot really tell you anything significant from that party. A lot of eggnog and Christmas sweaters. People constantly asking me if I had either checked or gotten in. My constant “Uh I have not checked yet. It does not come out till six o’clock.” And then came six o’clock. At that point no one else remembered. But I did. Still, it did not feel like the right time, so I continued to wait. Presents were exchanged, hugs shared, cookies offered. I just sat and waited.

Finally the party ended, and I hauled my way back to my car. The drive was about 40 minutes and I knew it would be pure agony sitting and waiting. But I began the journey. I was 70% into the trip when the moment came. I realized it was time. I was ready to check my status. All I could think about was Hopkins. The beautiful campus, the hilarious math professor I had met on my first visit, the delicious chicken sandwich I had eaten at CharMar. It was all hitting me at once. I had to check! To get home! To..

“Whoop-whoop-whoop”

My face when I heard sirens

My face when I heard sirens

That was when I got pulled over by a cop. You have to understand, I am a rule follower. I do not jaywalk and I think bank robbers are bad. But it was 11:35 and it was dark and I guess I did not really notice that the speed had changed from 55 mph to 40 mph. The cop sauntered over to my car and asked his question. “Where is it that you were headed in such a rush?” He wanted to make sure I felt guilty, and he was succeeding. “And please tell me why you were going 15 mph over the speed limit? What was so important that you would risk your life?” I choked up an answer “Uh I was coming back from a Christmas party. I was on my way home.” He turned to me “A Christmas party? Have you been drinking ma’am?” I felt like I was going to throw up from nervousness. “No sir I have not. You can check me if you want!” He looked at me puzzled, “No I believe you, but why are you so frazzled.” I felt like this was kind of a rhetorical question because I had, for the first time in my life, been pulled over. Was I not supposed to be freaked out? But instead of giving him sass I brought up my other fear. “I find out tonight if I got into Johns Hopkins, the school of my dreams.” He shook his head, asked for my license and registration and turned away.

So more anticipation. Now I waited for both my Hopkins status and my ticket. It was clear that I was getting one. A few minutes later (or possibly centuries) the cop walked up to my window, turned to me and smiled, “Ma’am you should never be going that fast. You could die and then never get to go to your dream school, which, by the way is an incredible school.” He told me I was receiving a warning (by some Christmas miracle) and to slow down next time. He walked away and as he did he shouted “Oh and good luck with Hopkins.”

So then came the drive home, going five miles under the speed limit, the sprint into my house, the quick login to my email and my acceptance into what the cop had called an “incredible school.”

My face when I found out I got into Hopkins!

My face when I found out I got into Hopkins!

I am grateful for that cop because he gave me the luck I might have needed, but I am also grateful to Hopkins. And not only for accepting me and making my Christmas. My school did win the can off and I did get season two of Parks and Recreation, but nothing tops Hopkins. Not only for giving me the chance of a lifetime, a chance to find myself amongst the walls of Mudd Hall or the hill that is the beach. But for keeping my record clean. For getting me out of a ticket.

 

 

Just Fine

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Name: Allison Comotto

Hometown: Towson, MD

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: Political Science and Writing Seminars

“So you want to be a doctor?”

We’ve all heard it. The second the word “Hopkins” flies proudly from your mouth, your listener’s brain does its whole awesome forming connections trick, and you might as well be standing there with a scalpel in your hand and a surgical mask across your face. For some of the Class of 2017, this vision predicts the finale of a dream that just became fully in reach. And for others, like me, this vision just has the capacity to make things a little awkward.

I knew from a very early age that I wasn’t going to be a doctor.  I remember the exact moment of decision vividly, which is surprising, since although I’m scary-accurate when it comes to the memorization of The Phantom of the Opera song lyrics, I can never, for the life of me, find my darn house keys.

Like, ever.

But this moment is etched into my mind with the type of clarity that always accompanies a good mental scarring.

Picture, if you will, your typical fourth-grade sleepover, equipped with an overwhelming amount of chocolate ice cream and Disney Channel movies. We hold out until ten o’clock, feeling super cool for disregarding our bedtimes, before passing out on the couch. Not ten minutes into my slumber, I am suddenly reacquainted with Ben and Jerry in the form of an unmistakable warm, wet wave splashing across my face.  It took my sleepover, and all thoughts of becoming a doctor, with it. No matter how much I would love to help people in need, dealing with a fair amount of bodily functions is in the job description, and my squeamish self belongs far from a sick room. Far.

And that’s really turned out to suit me just fine. Middle and high school yielded a true passion for English and a general distrust of math and all math-y sciences (*cough* physics *cough*).  My college search was defined by the presence of a phenomenal writing program, and, after months of sitting through information sessions consumed by talk of sports’ teams and graduates’ starting salaries, I found my dream school sitting a mere twenty-five minutes away. I applied, ate an entire bag of Crab Chips in the minutes before decisions were released, and attempted my first cartwheel upon finding I’d been accepted.

I was so relieved to finally have an answer to the once-dreaded “so where are you headed next year?” But I quickly discovered that I had a new question ripe for the dreading. Which brings us full circle. “So you want to be a doctor?”

It wasn’t that I didn’t have a valid reply. I’ve known since day one that I’d find my home in the Writing Seminars department, nerd-ing out with fellow metaphor enthusiasts and getting to do what I love each and every day.

It was more the subtle hints of disappointment and confusion in their faces when I told them no. Like maybe they’d misheard me. These subtle hints morphed into very blatant displays of disbelief when I revealed my Writing Seminars plans, and suddenly I was just another foolish teenager preparing to pass over stellar academic opportunities in the name of irrational passion.  I was smart, but not that smart. Not Hopkins doctor smart.

After the fifth or sixth “so you want to be a doctor,” and one very uncomfortable “wait, you can still go to Hopkins if you don’t want to be a doctor,” I found myself starting to feel a little ashamed of the path I’d chosen. Ashamed that I couldn’t love something practical or lucrative. Ashamed that I was rejoicing over never having to take Calculus ever again. Ashamed that I was falling so short of everyone else’s expectations.

So I avoided the questions as best as I could and kept my details to a bare minimum. But I knew my less-than-proactive strategy would only prove effective for so long. The highlight of my summer is an annual family reunion in Ocean City. The Comotto clan comes from far and wide to spend one week together playing music and cooking authentic Italian cuisine. This year there will be a startling fifty-three in attendance. To me, that number meant fifty-three inevitable questions about my plans for medical school and fifty-three inevitable let-downs. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly quaking with excitement.

cousins

A week before the trip, my mom sent me an email with a link leading to one of the few Hopkins sites I hadn’t already perused. It was a story appropriately entitled “Storytellers,” written about the Writing Seminars major by a Writing Seminars major. By the end of the first paragraph, she had already acknowledged the horrors of “so you want to be a doctor” and the pressures we place on ourselves to do something important at a university like Hopkins, where everyone has an incredible contribution to make. Her advice to a student considering creative writing as a major and profession was both simple and powerful: “Take courage.”

And that’s precisely what I’m going to do. I’m going to own the eccentric, literary part of me that despises chemistry and faints at the sight of blood. I’m going to revel in the path I’ve chosen, because that path shapes the contribution I get to make. And there’s seriously nothing cooler than realizing your future is yours to do with as you please. Suddenly I can’t wait to see all fifty-three family members and answer all fifty-three questions.

No, distant cousin twice-removed, I’m not going to be a doctor. I’m going to be just fine.

photo

From Koenig and Cake to Anticipation and Acceptance

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Name: Anjani Patel

Year: Class of 2017

Hometown: Duvall, WA

Intended Plan of Study: Applied Mathematics and Statistics

From Koenig and Cake to Anticipation and Acceptance

As the guttural, gnashing sound of a lawn mower ripped through the most vivid dream, I woke up with a start. (Fine, since you’re all dying to know, I will share: I was eating chocolate cake with Ezra Koenig in a sun drenched meadow filled with dandelions. It was nice. No, it was rather spectacular.) With one eye, I glanced at my alarm clock. 7:03 a.m.

Ezra Koenig...

Ezra Koenig…

and chocolate cake. My two loves!

and chocolate cake. My two loves!

One of our neighbors has a strange propensity for mowing his lawn at 7 o’clock every Saturday morning. I am almost certain he’s a nice guy, but unfortunately, I could never get past that particular character flaw and find out for myself.

Nearly crying with exhaustion and frustration, I hauled myself out of bed and toddled downstairs to find some comfort at the bottom of a cup of coffee. Just as I was pouring my java, I remembered.

Today is Saturday. Yesterday was Friday. And the day before was Thursday. (I’m starting to sound like Rebecca Black.)

Bellatrix, for once you actually make sense.

Bellatrix, for once you actually make sense.

Admissions decisions for Johns Hopkins came out on Thursday.  Even the memory of opening the email informing me that my “Johns Hopkins University admissions decision is ready” had my heart racing.  Two days later, my stomach still clenched at the mere thought.  The hand that was pouring coffee was shaking, and I willed it to stop.  After I’d finished pouring, I sat down.

It was time.  I’d put off checking my admissions decision for a good 40 hours or so and it was time to put my big girl pants on and check.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I just had to enter an ID and a password, which I was 107% sure I still remembered.  I could do that.  I could.

With a little laugh, I flashed back to yesterday and last Thursday and thought about what had happened then.

I could not do that.  Checking that account was not so easy.

Trust Staples to hook you up with the perfect button for every occasion.

Trust Staples to hook you up with the perfect button for every occasion.

I didn’t even try to check my decision on Thursday, knowing the system would crash.  I also knew my blood pressure couldn’t take it.  And I had to babysit after school.  In the case of a rejection (and let’s face it, a majority of the decisions are rejections), I would not be able to properly take care of my neighbor’s children if I was lying on the floor in a fetal position wearing a sweater made from my tears.

“I made this one with my tears.” Spongebob understands.

“I made this one with my tears.” Spongebob understands.

Yesterday, I took a tour of the University of Washington (UW) because my parents are convinced that it is “the school of [my] dreams.”  So, like the obedient daughter that I am, I went to check it out.  Actually, they just threw me out of the house and told me to come back only after I’d “soaked in the UW atmosphere.”  Once at UW, I quickly gave up on actually touring the campus because I was too preoccupied to notice much around me.  Instead, I decided to end the suspense and went searching for Wi-Fi to check my JHU admissions decision.  In my question for internet, I spent an hour and a half in a UW bathroom because apparently “blanket Wi-Fi at the UW Seattle Campus” means “adequate Wi-Fi in one stall in the bathroom at the Visitor’s Center and absolutely no Wi-Fi anywhere else.”  (Yes, I’m cheap and don’t have a data plan.  And even if I did, my phone wears the pants in our relationship and does what it wants to… which is to say, nothing much.)  Yesterday, I spent five minutes attempting to access my ISIS account to view my admissions decision and the rest of the time trying to muster up the courage to actually look at the decision.

After I had spent way too much time accepting the surprising amount of terms and conditions set forth by the university (It was hard clicking on all those little boxes when my hands were shaking as much as they were.), I managed to connect to the university Wi-Fi.

Heart pounding, I checked my email and got my ISIS ID.  Surprised and energized by the progress I was making, I quickly went to the ISIS login page.

Things started to go downhill from here.

Things started to go downhill from here.

 

I went on to the ISIS login page and entered my ISIS ID and password.

And then I froze.  For the life of me, I couldn’t click that “Login” button.

After several deep breaths, I tried again.  Nope.  I was stuck.

I just needed to tap the button.  Then, I would know.  I’ve been waiting for my decision for three months.  Just do it.  Just do it. 

I told myself that in the bathroom mirror for over an hour, seriously wigging out all the other women filtering in and out.  Just do it.  Just do it.  

I will never look at the old Nike slogan the same way again.

I will never look at the old Nike slogan the same way again.

After upwards of an hour had passed with me standing in the same spot in front of the mirror and my mantra no longer made even a modicum of sense, I decided to give it a rest and go home.  I had psyched myself up too much to get much done tonight.  As soon as I got home, I changed into my pajamas, put the covers over my head, and willed myself to sleep and dream of cake and Ezra Koenig.

And now, it’s Saturday and I need to stop being such a scaredy cat.

And here you go: A requisite cat picture for ya’ll.

And here you go: A requisite cat picture for ya’ll.

With a calmness I had not possessed yesterday, I poured myself more coffee and went to the computer.  (Coffee makes me calmer, and happier, and nicer, and… functional, but moving on.)  I had realized just now that though my admissions decision was ultimately out of my control, how I reacted to the news was very much in my control.  The realization did wonders for my frazzled state of being.  The time had come for me to face the facts.  No matter how much or how hard I ran, the decision would not change.  The house was quiet.  No one was leaning over my shoulder, no one was breathing down my neck.  Though my hands and legs were still a bit shaky and my heart was going faster than normal, I was ready to press the “Login” button.

After taking a final deep breath, I clicked the button that had caused me to sweat off two pounds the day before.

“Yes,” what?

“Yes,” what?

“Yes,” what?  Yes, that I’d logged in successfully?

Or “Yes,” I was accepted?

I refreshed the page.  And again.  And once more.

“Yes,” what?

“Yes,” WHAT?

I leaned back, waiting for the screen to change.  Then, the screen switched to my acceptance letter.

I let out a breath that I didn’t know I was holding.  There, in that chair, in front of our family computer, I was truly happy.  After almost two days of running away from this exact moment and two days of hysteria, I was finally still.

In the days (and hours) to come, a lot of decision making would go down.  There’d be many loud calls made to California, Philadelphia, Texas, Oregon, New York, and India informing friends and family of the news.  I’d be fielding several calls loaded with congratulations, advice, worries, and requests to watch The Wire.   Sitting in that creaky computer chair, I almost ran upstairs to tell my parents and brother and start the whirlwind that the next few days were sure to be.  But I reined myself in and took a few minutes to contemplate the future.

When I woke up this morning, my future was murky.  Now, it is still undecided, but at least I know where I will be heading next year.  As soon as I saw my acceptance letter from Hopkins, I forgot about all those other colleges (sorry, Mom and Dad).  And so, quietly whistling “Good Morning Baltimore,” I headed to the kitchen, donned an apron, and started to measure out some flour and sugar because it was time I whipped up some cake for Mr. Thompson, the owner of the lawnmower that had woken me up at the crack of dawn this fine Saturday.

It was time to bury the hatchet and thank him for jump starting the day my life changed.

 Now can ya’ll see why chocolate cake is one of my loves?

Now can ya’ll see why chocolate cake is one of my loves?

 

Icebreakers

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Name: Amber Zhang

Year: Class of 2017

Hometown: Maple Grove, PA

Intended Plan of Study: Biology

Icebreakers are the worst.

(Not the mints, but those are pretty bad, too, when they spill all over the bottom of your backpack.)

I’m talking about those first days in a new environment. Everyone’s standing around in this big circle. And then the person welcoming all of you starts off with those dreaded words, “Let’s do an icebreaker!”

All icebreakers generally fall around the same lines. You say your name, where you’re from, and some interesting fact about you. There’s only one problem: I never know what to say.

I don’t have some interesting story to my name. I’ve lived in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia my entire life. I’ve moved once which was so far away that I can still see the roof of my old house from the window of my new house. (Moving was a life-changing experience indeed.) Nonetheless, I’ve been born and raised here. I always forget that people from other places don’t know what “hoagies” and “water ice” are. I forget that people automatically assume that I know the lyrics to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song. (Just about everyone here does.) To put it simply, I don’t know a place that isn’t here.

Philadelphia Cityscape

The City of Brotherly Love

People always say that first impressions matter. And they do. But I’m not going to lie, I spent the past two months thinking about how I would introduce myself. Because well, I don’t have a sixth finger, I haven’t traveled the world (much to my disappointment), I’ve never been skydiving.

“Hi, I’m Amber. I’m from outside of Philly, and I play tennis and like running.”

“Hi, I’m Amber. I’m from outside of Philly, and I love Paris.”

“Hi, I’m Amber. I’m from outside of Philly, and I like taking pictures.”

“Hi, I’m Amber. I’m from outside of Philly, and I collect keychains.”

You see, icebreakers don’t do anyone justice. They’re one-line snippets of what we find to be the most important characteristics of ourselves. But there’s always so much more to a person than that.

I could write for hours about myself with no hesitation. I could tell you how I blog on my own time or how I don’t get much sleep because I’m part insomniac and part I-don’t-enjoy-sleeping. I could tell you how in love I am with traveling and cityscapes. I could tell you how I love calculus and how many weird stares I’ve gotten when people hear that. But no fact really sums up me without another.

 

  Visiting my new home in December after becoming a Blue Jay.

Visiting my new home in December after becoming a Blue Jay.

Imagine a hot summer day. You’re with your friends about to cool yourselves off by spending some time in a pool. But when you get there and dip your foot in, the coldness that composes the blue, chlorine-drenched pool freezes your whole body in an instant.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little anxious for the first day, that first dip in the pool. Don’t get me wrong, I love making new friends. I love the idea of bonds forming, of paths crossing. But all that was on my mind for those two months was what I was going to say when we had to do icebreakers. I craved to say something spectacular, something fascinating, but I just didn’t know what.

The truth is I still don’t know.

But the thing is I don’t need to know.

I’m sure a part of all of us is scared for what’s to come when we go to Hopkins in the fall. But what we’ve forgotten is that the beginning is merely what it sounds like: the beginning.

Things don’t fall into place on the first day. People don’t become friends as soon as they meet each other. Adjustment isn’t instantaneous.

Because well, imagine that same summer day. Your body’s still chilled by the water, and the goosebumps are noticeably visible on your arms. But after a few more dips, you begin to host an unavoidable desire to take a plunge.

And suddenly, you’re drenched and happily enjoying yourself.

Hi, I’m Amber. I’m from outside of Philly. And I’m ready to take the plunge.

Hopkins!

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Name: Genevieve Ott

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: Film & Media Studies and Writing Seminars

Hometown: Parkton, MD

A Baltimore County native, I grew up with Hopkins in my backyard. I constantly heard the name (complete with both Ss―the locals know their stuff) on WBAL-TV 11 upon groundbreaking medical advancements. I commonly overheard conversations about the Blue Jays lacrosse team in my high school: “You going to the Hopkins game this weekend?” My brother accepted admission to JHU in 2011, bringing the school to an even higher level of familiarity.

hopkins blog 3

Though I aged alongside Hopkins, it always felt like something much bigger and better than me. To me, Hopkins was this effortlessly cool, perfect being; Hopkins was Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls, Viktor Krum fromHarry Potter (that one may be a stretch). And just like all of those iconic teenage hunks, Hopkins was totally unattainable.

But, I argued with myself, Hopkins is so cute. And so down-to-earth. And so nice. And have you seen those quads? To my horror, I realized that I had fallen in love with Hopkins. Hopkins, the one that had always been there. Hopkins, the one I’d been staring at my whole life.

Perhaps it’s more appropriate for me to describe Hopkins as that close friend who you always thought was amazing, but never really thought of in that way.

According to Ye Olde Bible of Teenage Movies, apparently it’s a breeze to gain the affections and attention of the heartthrob. I’ve seen enough bad rom-coms to know all it would take is proving that I can just be myself via a humorous public embarrassment. Unfortunately, however, I was dealing with a whole different circus’ monkeys. I knew that I had to combat something so horrible, so abysmal, that few make it out alive: the Friendzone.

I think it’s easier to become upwardly mobile in the old Indian caste system than the Friendzone. What could Hopkins possibly see in me? I lamented. I considered myself an untouchable.

Still, despite my obvious self-pity, (that godforsaken website College Confidential was created just to prey on your confidence. “I have a 2400, found a cure for cancer, and won the Tour de France in 2003. Chance me?” Nope, sorry, I’ll be busy feeling inadequate and crying into my pillow pet) I chose to obey Ye Olde Bible. I convinced myself to comply to The Grandaddy Law of bad high school movies: I decided to be myself. I replayed the archetypal sympathetic mother’s words in my head: “If they don’t like you for who you are, you don’t want them anyway.”

Works for me. Cue the bad jokes and ironic self-deprecation.

I crafted an application that reflected me, all me, including cracks at my miniature stature and bizarre-o family (they gotta meet the parents at some point, right?) I ignored the ten dollar words itching at my Wernicke’s area and tried to write conversationally, “grool” replacing “phenomenal.” I was able to grow up with Hopkins, and my personality shouldn’t change now just because I like-like them. With any luck, they’ll act as the perfect movie dreamboat and like me for me.

Well, director John Hughes apparently had it figured out; The Granddaddy Law, evidently, transcends corny plot lines and also applies to the college process, that was proven to me on decision day.

hopkins blog 1

Baltimore skyline from the Patterson Park pagoda.

The opaque screen with the stark blue “Yes!” on my computer screen, at first, baffled me. It didn’t cue the screaming, leaping elation or the tears of relief. It took me aback, like the surreal moment when the hunk stutters and says, “I-I-I… I like you too.” My first instinct was to step away in disbelief, X out the browser. But I did the opposite, clicking the blue box.

Then all of my doubt melted away and I was left with nothing but good ol’ primal love. I danced around the computer, shrieking and jumping and crying like I was performing a ritual on some shrine. I was intoxicated by the warmth of the moment, celebrating that my friend had liked my all along.

Leading up to D-Day’s heartfelt confessions, I used to see Hopkins as my brother’s school. Just by being myself, now it’s my turn. Now it’s my school, too.

And I don’t even care how cheesy I sound.

Enjoying Baltimore’s Artscape, the country’s largest free art festival, and exercising my inability to take anything seriously.

Enjoying Baltimore’s Artscape, the country’s largest free art festival, and exercising my inability to take anything seriously.

December 14th

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Name: Hayley  Strasburger

Hometown: Woodbury, CT

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Program of Study: Public Health

I wish I could write that December 14th, early decision release day, was a day full of anxiety, stress, and ultimately happiness. I wish I could describe how I spent the day biting my nails and regretting every sentence of my college essay. How I screamed and cried in exuberant hysteria when CONGRATULATIONS filled my computer screen at 6:01 p.m. But December 14th was not the day it should have been. That day has forever been stamped in my mind for all the wrong reasons.

I was a mess the week leading up to that Friday. I obsessively read Hopkins Interactive posts, and ate the weirdest foods at the strangest hours. It was difficult explaining to my mom why an entire package of flour tortillas disappeared at some point between 11pm on Tuesday night and 6 am Wednesday morning. My friends never wanted to hear the words “Johns Hopkins” again, and many worried about my sanity. My best friend even tried to get me to meditate. I realize now how twisted my thinking was, how I had placed emphasis on the wrong things. I thought if I didn’t get in I would be a failure. That Johns Hopkins was the ONLY place I would be happy. My entire future depended on that acceptance. I was beyond stressed, and it was all my fault.

I woke up on the 14th before my alarm, adrenaline coursing through my body. That day I don’t think I listened to a single thing my teachers said. However, in AP Bio, someone said they heard there had been a shooting at Newtown High School. I know many people who go there, many close friends, and the rumor was troubling. As the day progressed, the hallways became increasingly silent. Walking to Calc our principal and vice principal hurried past, looking concerned and very grim. It wasn’t until Psychology, my last class of the day, that I learned the full extent of what had happened. I live in Woodbury, a town right next to Newtown, so the news that young children had been shot at Sandy Hook Elementary was shocking and unthinkable. I spent all 46 minutes of that class trying to hold back tears. I thought of all the young children I knew who went to Sandy Hook. I thought of my own little cousins suddenly being gone forever. I watched as my good friend completely lost it in the seat next to me. Someone then shouted out another CNN update from their phone-the attack had been in a classroom of first graders. Mr. Bunovsky continued to teach for about ten minutes, until he broke down and couldn’t lecture through his tears. Seeing my teacher, a grown man, break down so completely is something I will never forget. The sounds of his sobs in a completely silent classroom were raw and terrifying.

As the final bell rang, kids filed out solemnly. Teachers with tear-stained faces lined the halls. No one was talking, nor were people hugging. We were numb. I drove my brother home. We sat down in the kitchen and turned on the news. It was a terrible cycle of the same stories, all centered around a tragedy still so fresh that no one knew the complete story. All I did know was the number of dead children reported was rising. Pictures of grief began to surface online. My Mom came home a few hours later after painting at her new office. With no access to internet or TV, my Brother and I had to break the news to her about how 20 elementary children had been shot. We had to tell her that Dawn Hochsprung, who had been our elementary school Principal, was among those dead. My family hugged a lot that night. We also cried a lot. My eyes never got a break from tears that day. At that point, I don’t think I realized how big the Sandy Hook tragedy really was. I didn’t realize how the town where I lived for much of my childhood, the place where I went to elementary school, and the place where most of my extended family still resides, would become world famous for such a heinous crime.

By 5pm that evening, we couldn’t take the news anymore, my parents tried to segue back to normal with our traditional homemade pizza on a friday night. My brother had disappeared to his room. I was trying to drown my thoughts in mindless tv watching. I happened to glance at the clock. 5:57. At that point, I realized that I hadn’t thought about Johns Hopkins since 7th period. I felt so ashamed over my previous fears and stresses. I had obsessed over opening a link to see whether I was accepted to a college. 20 families had to deal with losing a child. 6 other families had to deal with missing loved ones. My acceptance was something I had absolutely no control once I submitted that application. It made no sense to worry about something so much for so long. I thought I lived in a safe community. I thought my family and I were safe from any sort of danger. After December 14th, I realized how naive I had been. Life is fleeting. It is unpredictable, short, and so so precious. Instead of becoming depressed about college acceptances, I should have been treasuring every single moment I have with my family. There are some things we have no control over. We might live for a long time, we might not.

In a voice strangled by a huge lump in my throat and even more tears, I told my parents I was accepted. I felt uninterrupted relief and happiness for a short moment, but then revulsion. I couldn’t possibly be happy right now. Look at what had happened today. For the rest of the evening, and for the rest of that winter, there was a shadow that darkened everything and everyone. That Christmas was not Christmas. Even now as I write, I feel the deep sadness creep into me. It’s something that I won’t ever forget. I won’t forget how all of Woodbury waited for over 8 hours to attend Dawn Hochsprung’s wake. I won’t forget any of the funerals. I won’t forget any of December 14th.

I didn’t want to write about something so sad. But for me, December 14th was one of those self-defining days that irrevocably changed me. As a sometimes neurotic and obsessive type A person, I only have to think of that day to regain sight of what’s really important in life. My only hope is that people took a similar idea away from December 14th.

I have now thoroughly depressed myself, even though it’s summer and its sunny and in one month from now I move into my dorm (AMR I!). I’m very sorry that this isn’t a creative and funny blog post. It’s not fun for any of us to talk about Sandy Hook, but it’s something that must be shared.

Twas the Night Before Registration

3

Name: Sam Eberlein
Hometown: Fairhope, Alabama
Year: Class of 2017
Intended Program of Study: Biomedical Engineering
&
Name: Roxanna Nokes
Hometown: Troy, Alabama
Year: Class of 2017
Intended Program of Study: Political Science
Twas the Night Before Registration

Twas the night to browse ISIS, for all through the nation,

The Freshmen were anxious to start Registration.

Beside their computers the students dismissed

Their fears of appearing upon the wait-lists.

They sought after classes that would not be kind,

For visions of covered-grades danced in their minds.

There’s no guarantee for the class they loved most

Until clocks read “Seven” upon the East Coast.

When all of the sudden, the servers they froze!

On monitors worldwide a figure arose!

Though gone for two seasons, nobody forgot:

From The Office, manager Michael Scott.

“I’m finally free, thanks to one of my tricks

I’ve managed to flee from the website, Netflix!

And now that I’m free from the web and TV,

I’ll save Dunder Mifflin from technology!

blog1

Since internet articles don’t need your cash,

You’ve caused magazines and newspapers to crash!

My solution’s likely to make you all nervous:

You’ll register through the US Postal Service!

Now, Print it! Now, Sign it! Now, make the seal damp!

Now press it, address it, and apply the stamp!

The classes will fill up by the afternoon!

So mail them out! Mail them out! Mail them out soon!”

The man disappeared but he left behind terror,

The website persisted to show “Server Error.”

And so the Class Facebook page filled with discussion,

Current students begged them to use the “Search Function.”

Those who lived overseas roared oppositions,

And west coasters spoke out through signing petitions.

Dystopia threatened because of this plan.

A class divided against itself cannot stand.

Just as it seemed our class had burned and crashed,

A figure emerged from the symbolic ash.

We instantly knew that this man was our savior:

Michael Bloomberg, an alumnus and mayor.

To save Johns Hopkins from this cyber mess,

He took from his suit his new iPhone 8S.

He first asked his partner to go fetch the yacht,

Then said to his phone: “Siri, Call Michael Scott”

Hoping that he could make Michael Scott flip,

A meeting was scheduled upon Bloomberg’s ship.

It took Bloomberg minutes to make his appeal,

And once he was done he proposed “A New Deal”

“I know you’re upset, let me put you at ease:

We went digital just to save the world’s trees.

It seems that this move put your business at risk

To show our remorse I can offer you this:

Allow us to sign up for classes online,

And I will reverse your financial decline.

To submit their Health Forms, their task will entail

Submitting their forms either by fax or mail!”

According to legend, both wrongs made a right.

Michael Scott sprouted wings and flew into the night.

The students, all registered, held a parade

For the man who goes way beyond financial aid.

 

The Summer Before Everything

2

Name: Eva Pratt

Year: Class of 2016

Hometown: Middlebury, Vermont

Intended Program of Study: Classics

The Summer Before Everything

Saturday, July 7
Branbury Beach
9.5 miles from Middlebury, VT

I really shouldn’t have tried to blink.

It was all up my arm, in my hair, on my clothes, and now on my eyelashes, which refused to open. Feeling around the bottom of the machine, I turned off the heat switch and motor and then pried my eyes open with my fingers.

The room was a mess.

Fluffy pink strands of cotton candy were everywhere; the creemee (for all you non-Vermonters, soft serve ice cream) machine was covered in a sticky pink web, there was a strand in the rainbow sprinkles, and a small piece had even crystallized on the cash register, all the way across the room. Clearly, however, I was the cotton candy machine’s main target.

I scurried over to the industrial sized sink, sliding half way across the room when I stepped in a slick puddle of spilled lemonade. I sprayed myself off, pausing for a moment to admire how quickly a handful of the hated pink fluff was reduced to nothing by mere water, when my boss hollered out for another order.

It was our busiest day of the year so far at the snack bar down by the lake. Sounds like a decent gig, right? Working down by the water for the summer, selling creemees and hot dogs and chatting up campers. Any last hope I had for this quaint little job fantasy to come true was crushed by the arrival of the cotton candy machine. I still have nightmares about it.

Me working the inescapable cotton candy machine.

Me working the inescapable cotton candy machine.

Today was worse than normal. The line of customers refused to shrink, the creemee mix was far too soft, even for soft serve, and people were ordering the most inconvenient items on the menu at the most inconvenient of times. And I honestly wanted to backhand anyone who ordered another cotton candy.

I get it; cotton candy looks pretty cool. When the floss is spun on the cone just right, it looks like the tops of one of those trees from The Lorax. There’s not another food with quite the same texture, and it melts in your mouth better than warm chocolate. But once I started making the stuff, I began despising it. The smell of the burnt vanilla pink sugar turns my stomach and no matter how hard or how often I scrub, I still feel the tentacle-like strands sticking under my collar, snaking around my legs.

The end of the day couldn’t come soon enough, and when I finally got done at quarter of eight, all I wanted to do was go home and spend the night in the bathtub.

Oh, was this blog supposed to be about college? Sorry, but my abhorrence of cotton candy is really the only emotion I’m capable of feeling right now. I haven’t had much time to worry about going to school and being totally clueless, to feel anxious about never making friends, to problem solve how to fit my entire wardrobe into a tiny dorm room, to dread that I’ll end up hating my classes, to be sad about leaving home, to be overwhelmed by all this change.

After work, I slide on my aviators, put all the windows down, crank up the stereo, and floor it as soon as I pull out onto Route 7. It feels like I’ve escaped from prison, and when I’m shooting down the hill by the hog farm, I believe I can almost fly. It’s in these moments that I let my mind drift, and I allow myself to think about the future for just a few sweet seconds. I feel like this is the summer before my life really begins, that everything I’ve ever done has been leading up to next year, the year where everything is going to change for me, and it will be amazing. I’ve been waiting, waiting, for something truly great to happen, and I think, just maybe, this will be it.

I soar down another hill and the feeling shoots through my veins like an adrenaline rush as my stomach drops. Maybe I’ll take the long way home; drive a bit more so this feeling can last just a little longer. And yet, as the road levels out, I gaze out the window and feel a punch of guilt. With beautiful sprawling pastures to my left and the Green Mountains on my right, how can I want to leave here, the place I’ve lived all my life, so easily? I start to feel the sick twist of homesickness in my stomach, a feeling that I immediately halt from spreading any further. The clouds slowly blossom into a shade of pink with the setting sun, and an image of cotton candy pops into my head. I turn the music up louder and forget to think. I’ll do it later.

View of Lake Dunmore from Branbury State Park where I work.

View of Lake Dunmore from Branbury State Park where I work.

This Friday will be my first day off in twenty-two days (which, I’m fairly sure, is a violation of some sort of labor code). Maybe then I’ll take a moment to think about all those things. Maybe I’ll finally take a breath and catch up to all those scary emotions. Maybe I’ll spend the day on the Hopkins website, or stalking the class of 2016 Facebook page, anything to give me any indication of what next year will be like for me. But the summer isn’t even halfway over. I’ll probably just dream of cotton candy.