Just hours after graduation, my brother and dad attempted to move everything I was ready to part ways with out of my apartment. I watched as my bed, my textbooks, and my photos – which I thought were essential to my identity – were loaded up into a moving truck. It’s times like these when I question materialism. Maybe simplicity is really the answer to many of the stresses in life.
My plan had been established for months: I was to be a member of the 4K for Cancer cross-country bike ride to San Francisco. Over 80 donors had donated to my rider fund. They wanted to see that I went on this trip. I would be riding for them and their dedications, many of them part of the Hopkins community: from Dr. Carl Taylor – the founder of the academic discipline of international health – to a recent graduate starting chemo.
In three days, following two days of orientation, I would dip my back wheel into the Inner Harbor and have the odd experience of biking out of college. I’d part ways with Baltimore – a city that day after day since 2007 had grown to become my home. I was biking away from home. This was the plan. I had known I wanted to do this trip for so long and, yet, I felt anything but ready.
“Would you like your graduation present now?” he said.
I laughed. Couldn’t he tell that this was the last thing I needed? My brother had given me a large, sky blue duffel bag as my graduation present. That bag and its contents was all I would need for 70 days of biking and sleeping. And then that duffel bag would follow me to Vietnam for one or maybe two years. Over the past month, I had a compounded transition. Orientation for both Princeton in Asia – the fellowship program I got my job through – and 4K for Cancer. Both of which felt like college orientation all over again. In both we were told to go in with an open mind and pack less than you think you need to.
Reluctantly, I opened up the gift to find… a desk box. The old Gilman tower – which had already become a memory of my time at Hopkins – was prominently featured on the lid. My full name monogrammed underneath. Inside, there was an envelope, room for, well, desk objects, and a mirror on the inner lid. I laughed.
“Dad, I don’t think that is going to make the duffel bag cut. For one, I do not have a desk…,” I said.
This could be the last thing I needed in my life, I thought. I really didn’t have a desk – my dad, friend, and I had conveniently lost my desk moving between apartments in Baltimore in December. Enclosed in the envelope was a letter from my dad. Another thing I just couldn’t handle in my life. Over the last couple of days I had received one too many – I assumed, but had not had the courage to find out – thoughtfully written letters from friends and family. I was in denial that I was the first one of my group of friends to be leaving the Blue Jay nest. I had heard one too many “take a picture with me before I never see you again.” And, well, even my mother was asking when she would see me again and if she would ever get that one week vacation with me that she had hoped for years for.
I glanced at my reflection in the mirror: the exhausted face of a college graduate who had finished a draft of her never ending thesis too recently, failed to say goodbye to the people, especially colleagues, who had made my Hopkins experience what it was, and who was still trying – but seemed to be failing –at being grateful for the immediate support my family was giving me to make sure my plan went, well, as planned.
I started writing this blog in a bedroom in Kansas. I was unsure what town I was exactly in and whose bedroom I was falling asleep in. I’m currently writing this blog from a church in Colorado. I cycled – or more like climbed – the highest continuously paved highway in the U.S yesterday. Right now life really is a highway, just like the Rascal Flatts song says it is.
Despite my cycling style – slow and steady – my life is moving fast: too fast to have keys to a bedroom or to care that I don’t have a computer for months. And, well, I’ve been told my teammates that they like the way I pace on this literal highway of life. So, although I do question myself, maybe, for now, I should just keep peddling on.
My dad has reassured me that that box will be there for me when I reach that point in my life that my pace has slowed down. When I am ready to take mementos – the ones that are currently collecting dust in New Jersey – out of my desk box and reflect on my time at Hopkins. You know, when I’m ready to open and store those sealed envelopes from my support network.
I’ll admit that I already do reflect on my time at Hopkins. And that I know there will be plenty more reflection during those lonely times in Hanoi. A Hopkins lanyard that I bought freshman year is tangled on my front handlebar and I cycle with it each and every day. That lanyard will most likely end up in that desk box. Hopkins made me stronger.
Strong enough to build a path – mainly because of the opportunities offered and the people that I met – that I don’t think I would have taken otherwise. Freshman year did I ever think I’d be biking across the country? No. Doing research in the United States, Brazil, Switzerland, and Vietnam? Absolutely not. Did I ever think that I’d challenge myself to an environmental engineering class and a photography class? Definitely not. And what about voluntarily taking an extra semester to work with a history professor on a thesis? Surely not.
Sure, I have my own biased advice that I think made my Hopkins experience what it was.This includes working on C-Level the day before a big assignment or test, making friends on M-Level, leaving a fraternity party if it’s not your scene, studying abroad, getting a job, writing a thesis, volunteering in admissions. But, in all honestly, there is no specific advice I can give. Just go with it.
My brother left me on graduation day saying, “I’ll see you when I see you. And if I don’t see you soon, I’ll assume that you’re happy.” Hopkins made me ready for this goodbye. As strong as I can be. Without me knowing – “as by magic or sorcery” – I got through that metamorphosis I wrote about the summer before my freshman year.
And, with that, goodbye, Hopkins Interactive. I’ll see you when I see you (in a guest alumni blog that I already have in the works, perhaps). But, until then, I’ll be pacing on, even if it means the occasional covering in expired pancake mix.
“I don’t mean to sound like your parents, but do you have plans for next year?” Dean Conley, the Dean of Enrollment and Academic Services, asked me at my “Graduating Senior Exit Interview” today (an optional time scheduled for graduating seniors to meet with administration to discuss their time at Hopkins).
“Going to Vietnam…” I said.
* Pause *
Over the past couple of weeks, these words have begun to just naturally roll off my tongue. From meeting parents at open houses to casual conversations with strangers in the elevator of my apartment, I have begun to perfect my speech. I realize that I have been ignoring writing about my job hunt in my blogs but now that plans are settling, the questions have begun to start flowing:
What are you doing next year?
I am going to Vietnam starting in August for at least a year. I received a grant through Princeton in Asia, a private non-profit founded in 1898 and affiliated with Princeton University, whose mission is to “promote the free interchange of the best ideals of in the civilizations of both East and West.” As a fellow, I have been placed with Population Services International (PSI) in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Although Princeton in Asia has existed since 1898 and there were 165 fellows last year alone, this is the first year that this specific post exists. With a travel extensive position, I will be working with the region’s research teams to design anything from small qualitative studies to outlet audits looking at distribution strategies of health products. Projects that I may be researching include HIV, malaria, TB (my personal interest), reproductive health, and safe water in Laos, Burma, China, Thailand and Vietnam.
Why take this fellowship?
Returning from dearest Suisse, I was overwhelmed when I received an email from my academic advisor to consider highly competitive national scholarships and grants for my post-graduation plans. Don’t get me wrong, I was honored. But the idea of post-graduation plans just seemed somewhat nauseating. And the idea of developing a research project or putting together some applications that required eight recommendations was equally frightening. I really did debate if any of these grants were “for me” and by the end of this debating, I quickly managed to drive myself to get two applications together.
I found out that I was a finalist for both of them during the winter months. And, well, then it got tough. Princeton in Asia has many different types of placements, many are teaching posts, others are working for much smaller environmental non-profits for instance. But the PSI post was special for me: it was in my first choice country, with an organization that I had learned about in my coursework, and it would be doing work that I know would be productive.
I had a hunch that what happened was going to happen: I found out about the Princeton in Asia grant before the other grant and had to decide whether to take the job or not, and risk taking a “leap of faith.” Honestly, it was a good place to be in: having opportunities lined up before graduation day!
But I’m indecisive. And this felt so much harder than high school. I sought advice from my advisors, recent alums, family, and students (from my close friends to Vietnamese students). It was a harder decision for me than I thought it would be. I was literally questioning everything from the obvious (benefits and orientation dates) to comparing the average work schedule. I had anxiety attacks: Did I really want to be away from home for so long; did I want to spend Christmas in Hanoi? Why international public health? Why not an elementary school teacher? Why not a nice job in New York City? But the biggest problem was not being able to judge how my daily life is going to be before stepping foot into my new office; I definitely took the whole idea of being able to visit colleges as something for granted.
Southeast Asia has played an important part of my upbringing since middle school. My non-profit work at a young age got me to Cambodia in 2005 to visit the landmine surviviors a group of us had fundraised for. Since freshman year, I have had some kind of desire to work in Southeast Asia. But I found it rather difficult to find research opportunities in this region or even just to take a course on the Vietnam War let alone a language course. But, sure enough, I have made it follow me. Any open subject academic paper, there I was writing about Cambodia. I was eventually told that the best way to continue this interest was to just go by myself. And, after taking a deep breath, that’s what I am doing!
What was your thought making process like? What got you to accept?
I found out about this post the same day that regular decision Hopkins letters went out, which I felt symbolized something. Some may see this post for me as strange. I’m going to yet another continent to do research without knowledge of the language. But I think this post is the obvious decision for my career path. What ultimately made me decide was thinking about which opportunity I had at hand that would be less likely to get again and also which opportunity I would be more upset by if someone else was doing it. When I asked myself those questions, this post seemed to have won.
For my honors thesis, I’ve been interviewing tuberculosis experts. I have always enjoyed finding out and reading about how people got to their current career position. Rarely is it because of what they decided to double major in or where they went to school, it’s often about the opportunities they have seized and the people they have met from those. Come to think of it, I may have to take that last piece back since so many of the interviewees were Johns Hopkins alums.
Anyway, the best piece of advice I got was from Dr. Lee Reichman, the founding executive director of the Global Tuberculosis Institute at UMDNJ. Besides for advising more education, he told me to about getting his first job out of his Masters in Public Health. He said he was offered this job as Director of the Bureau of Tuberculosis of New York City. After that, he called 10-15 people that he knew in the tuberculosis community to ask them what they thought.
He said, “I really just wanted to tell them, ‘Oh look, I was offered this job, isn’t that exciting?’ And all of them said they were offered this job already and turned it down because it was impossible to do. And so, of course, that met my criteria: to do a job no one else thinks you can do. And, therefore, if you fail, nothing is lost…. And, so, if you want to make it in academic medicine, and this is what I always tell my students, you have to be smarter than everybody else or do something else no one else does….”
To me, and even my future supervisor, this post is one of those impossible posts that somehow I seem matched for. The task is to assist on research in a region that is so diverse within and across country divides. But in many ways, my Hopkins career path has built me up for this post and I am excited to just run with it.
How does it feel to have this planned out?
Honestly, I feel like a barbie doll these days. You’ve got studying Jess, working Jess, spring Jess, baking Jess, cycling Jess, and now Vietnam Jess.
Can I call you Hanoi Hannah?
Well, of course. Or as the beloved office I currently work at calls me: Jersey girl via San Francisco via Hanoi.
* End Pause *
“And don’t worry about asking,” I said to Dean Conley, “my dad asked me yesterday what I was planning to do come August 2012.”
|1. Birthplace and current hometown:||Ten Swamps, Armpit of America
(Tenafly, New Jersey and proud of it)
|2. Major/Minor||Public Health Studies/
|3. When I grow up I want to…||…stay happy, work for an intergovernmental organization, teach, and raise a family. How I get there? I’m unsure but it looks like I’m starting with working in Hanoi, Vietnam next year.|
|4. Favorite place to eat in Baltimore…||Because eating is all about the company you are with, I’m going to have to say CVP simply because it means that I’m eating with friends.|
|5. Favorite TV show:||Futurama|
|6. Favorite spot on the Homewood campus:||I refuse to have to pick a favorite place within one of my favorite places in the world.|
|7. Favorite color:||Blue and red, so I guess that makes violet?|
|8. Favorite sports team:||THE New York Yankees|
My Hopkins Experience:
- When did you know Hopkins was right for you?
Well, I can tell you that it was certainly not on my tour when a Hopkins student ran passed us and said, “I haven’t eaten or slept in days… I LOVE Hopkins.” Hopkins had been on my mind for a quite a time. I visited as a junior and from then on the school as an institution stayed on my mind. However, even after a student interview and tour, I still had reservations about the student body. I mean, seriously, had that student really not eaten for days? Fortunately, I stayed overnight the fall of my senior year and it was then that I realized this would be a place I would enjoy. After that night, I called my mom to tell her that Hopkins would be my early decision pick.
- What is one thing that would surprise your friends/family about Hopkins?
My friends at home are always surprised to hear about the major composition; that 1/3 of the undergraduates are engineers and that public health is the largest major.
- If you were the University President, what is the first thing you would do or change?
My answer actually changed this week. It used to be to have more research grant opportunities. Luckily for you guys, this week Dean Newman, Dean of the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, announced that starting in the fall of 2011, Arts & Sciences students will be able to compete for grants in the range of $500-$3000 to support either their senior thesis research or to work as research assistants for faculty for an average of 25 students a year for at least the next 2-3 years. This is super exciting.
Now that that’s taken care of, I think I would change the major requirements to require, or at least make it easier, for students to have a study abroad or applied experience within their curriculum.
- If you could go back and choose your college again, would you pick Hopkins? Why?
Yes. Why? The people. Why? Come graduation it is the student body that will keep me connected to this school. But it’s not just the student body – it’s the dean who opens her door to dinner, the professor who drives students for her photography class, it’s the security lady who calls me “baby” in the library, it’s the Hop Cop that drives me to my apartment late at night from the library, it’s the graduate-school professor who brings even his undergraduate students to a movie, it’s the world-renowned AIDS physician who gave me tape today, it’s my old supervisor who treats me like a daughter, it’s my thesis advisor who has been here for forty years yet still is as dedicated as ever, it’s my academic advisor who both physically and mentally pats me on the back (and plays Jeopardy with me at a student event), and it’s the administration who cares enough to give me a senior exit interview and hear about my time at Hopkins.
- What was your perception about Hopkins before enrolling and how has it changed since then?
I remember when I was a junior my friend Matthew called me and was asking for advice; he was choosing to apply early decision to either Hopkins or Tufts. I hadn’t visited Hopkins yet and told him that I thought of Hopkins as a place for medicine so it might not be the best pick for him. Looking back, I am horrified that I ever uttered those words. I’m happy to say that Matthew didn’t take my advice and went with Hopkins. How has that perception changed? Well, let’s just say none of my closest friends in my class plan to attend medical school next year.
- What is/was your favorite class?
That’s a tough one. Favorite non-public health class has got to be Basic Black and White Film: Wet Darkroom. I always wanted to take a photography class but I never thought that it would be at Hopkins. I can only describe the process of film photograph, from taking a picture to the developing and processing of the film, as magical. Sadly, the course is not offered anymore.
Favorite public health course (that is still offered): Global Public Health Since WWII. Simply put, I would not have the mindset about international development nor have learned the acronyms of the actors within the field if it wasn’t for this course.
- Describe your funniest memory or experience at Hopkins:
That’s an even tougher one. It was probably the time that my friend Michael made me so embarrassed that I ended up under an M-Level table in the library. Or the time that my friend Mohammad made me a birthday crown.
- How would your college experience be different if you hadn’t chosen Hopkins?
I think about this more and more as the graduation date becomes closer and I begin to think about paying back loans. Simply put, if I hadn’t chosen Hopkins, I don’t think I would have been a public health major; I don’t think that I would be biking across country this summer; I don’t think that come next year I could say that I did public health research in four continents in four years; and I don’t think I would have those people in my life that I discussed in question four. This school has driven me in the same way that it has driven the alums in the past – including, my personal favorite, Rachel Carson – and I am so fortunate for that.
- What has your greatest contribution been during your time at Hopkins, or what do you hope to accomplish before graduation?
I have one contribution for each of my largest student activities. First, is probably having helped plan the first undergraduate conference in public health with Public Health Student Forum. Now in its second year, the conference next week will include a UNAIDS keynote address, an alumni and career panel, the attendance of Dean Newman and other faculty, as well as several dozen students that have done research.
Secondly, I spend a lot of time giving back to Hopkins by volunteering with admissions, which has definitely been rewarding. I’m happy to say that I was the impetus behind the Academics Blog (http://blogs.hopkins-interactive.com/academics/). I am glad that the members of Student Admissions Advisory Board were able to develop and maintain this blog and surprise Admissions_Daniel with its success. I hope that this blog provides the evidence that prospective and admitted students from around the world need to change their mindset that Hopkins is simply a premed school.
- What advice would you give to a high school senior choosing their college?
It’s really interesting being back in the same shoes as many seniors in high school are currently in and having to plan their next major move in life. I was fortunate know early on that Hopkins was the school that I wanted to be at; to have that feeling of certainty that many of us at this school had and still have. If you can, visit Hopkins and see if you get that feeling.
But as I plan my next move, I realize that one doesn’t always have that feeling of certainty when planning their next step. I certainly don’t right now. Instead I have had to step back, realize how wonderful it is that I have the opportunity to make the decision that I am making, and adjust my mindset because of that realization. So if you don’t have that feeling of certainty, step back and realize that you are so fortunate to have the opportunity to decide whether to attend Johns Hopkins or not, and that no matter where you choose to attend its oftentimes what you make of the opportunities available rather than the institution itself.
Last weekend, I attended a two-day Leadership Symposium put on by Johns Hopkins Development and Alumni Relations (the same Symposium that JHU_Mandy just wrote about). The idea was to get graduating seniors and young alumni to “reflect. connect. pursue.”
At the symposium we were told to draw a timeline of our four years at Hopkins. The eventful timeline that I visualized is made up of the people that I have met at Hopkins who I’ve connected with and who have given me much of the support that I’ll need when I pursue whatever it is that I do next year.
Who are these people? Last semester, I introduced you to Stephanie, Janine, Sharlene, Jackie, Michelle, Tashi, Jenna, Ayano, and Alexandra in the entry “A Party of Blue Jay Hens.” 9 female Hopkins alums who I connected with at Hopkins who inspired me at the time but that I now admire for what they are pursuing.
Why no men? Mainly because that blog entry was waiting for now. Without further ado, I introduce you to the 9 most personally influential Hopkins men. In chronological order, because, well, this is my timeline:
2005: Matthew (New Jersey, Class of 2010, Public Health Studies)
I get asked about Matt every week. To put it simply, we met when we were 16 and instantly became, to say the least, best of friends. Before we had met, Johns Hopkins was conveniently on both of our college lists. When he got in in December 2005, I screamed in excitement in the halls of Tenafly High School. When I got in in December 2006, he screamed in excitement in Building A. Although over five years have passed and thousands of miles have been between us, he continues to be my biggest cheerleader.
Matt is a true example of the good worklife balance that is possible to have at Hopkins. As a person, he has the best work ethic of anyone I know. In high school and in college he never did schoolwork past mindnight. Where did that get him? London School of Economics. At Hopkins he became interested in health economics which brought him to LSE to pursue a masters in International Health Policy. His two specific interests are cost-effectiveness and China. I have a feeling this interest is going to stay with him as his program just placed him with a position at Double Helix Development, a health economics consulting firm that is looking to expand into China.
2007: Mohammad (New Jersey (at heart), Class of 2011, Public Health Studies)
I consider Mohammad my soulfriend. Coming into Hopkins, I knew there was this guy named Mohammad that I had to meet.
In middle school and high school, my main extra-curricular was volunteering with a student-driven non-profit, Global Care Unlimited. Still, my biggest accomplishment in life is probably to have graduated middle school having been a part of raising $30,000 to demine a village in Bosnia. Six miles away from me this guy Mohammad was in the local papers for having created The Peace Project, a successful attempt to raise funds for war-ravaged communities. On top of all of this, Mohammad and I shared a mutual friend who had told me beforehand that Mohammad was coming to Hopkins and that I had to meet him.
Orientation week came along, and there Mohammad and I were sitting next to each other in Conversations With the Earth (yes, that’s a class). We exchanged names and instantly realized who each other were. After his freshman year, he biked across country as part of 4K for Cancer (yes, he inspired me to do it this summer). Last year, he took a semester off to work with FIFA on their Football for Hope movement. Next year, having received a Mitchell Scholarship, he will begin pursuing a master’s degree in development practice, a new program funded by the MacArthur Foundation and offered by University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin in partnership with the National University of Rwanda (yes, I had to look that up).
Mohammad is an example of how Hopkins students, if they’re willing to put the time and effort into it, have a vast array of opportunities at their fingertips waiting to be seized. But to me Mohammad is less the guy who loves social development and is more the guy who makes me a birthday crown, surprise visits me in Geneva, and complains and gossips with me.
2007: Mike (Massachusetts, Class of 2011, Anthropology)
It was a crisp fall day when I met Mike for the first time. He was sitting on a park bench… Ha. Anyway, Mike is currently sitting next to me in the library. Although, I can’t see his screen he is probably reading a newspaper article in Arabic or editing someone else’s grant or writing his thesis related to his work at Charm City Clinic – a non-profit aimed to close East Baltimore’s health care gap. There is a good chance that he’ll stay up tonight reading Indiana Jones or watching a French movie. Come 9 am, he may knocking on the door of a patient who is receiving care from the Clinic he’s devoted his life to.
Mike is an example of how even a Hopkins pre-med student can fall in love with Baltimore while pursuing their interests. Next year, Mike dreams of living in Chad and becoming fluent in Arabic. I wish that all premeds were as socially concerned as Mike is. He idolizes Bruce Springsteen and Paul Farmer. And, well, given his singing abilities last night and his current diagnosis of my bug bites, he’s well on his way to become a combination of both.
2008: Dr. Bob Lawrence (School of Public Health Faculty, Department of Environmental Health Sciences)
Last blog, I wrote about just how awesome my job is at Center for a Livable Future. Well, that job wouldn’t be possible without its director, Dr. Lawerence. I sent Dr. Lawrence an email at the beginning of sophomore year. Before I knew it, I was in his office discussing landmines. I’m truly overwhelmed by him. In 2009 he received the American Public Health Association’s most prestigious award. How couldn’t he? Prior to his days at Center for Livable Future, he became the founding director of the Division of Primary Care at Harvard. He worked at the Rockefeller Doundation. He co-founded Physicians for Human Rights.
Dr. Lawrence is an example of how Hopkins students can find role models within the University’s faculty. I know Dr. Lawrence less as a professor with all of these accomplishments, and more as a professor who bikes to work, donates to my 4K for Cancer ride, and invites me to look at his baby pictures at a holiday party at his house.
2008: Dr. Lou Galambos (School of Arts and Sciences Faculty, Department of History)
Dr. Galambos is a beloved faculty member of the public health studies program. He has been at Hopkins since 1971. His path to Hopkins is an interesting one that includes engineering and the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, it is Dr. Galambos’s connections that secured me funding twice to do work abroad. He came to Hopkins with an ambitious project. For three decades, he edited the last 16 of the 21 volumes of The Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, he actually is known as a big-picture historian studying multinational corporates and big government. Because of this interest, he co-teaches the course Global Public Health Since WWII; easily one of my favorite courses at Hopkins. It taught me to question people’s intentions in public health and to look at historical events that have shaped the framework that we have today.
For me, Dr. Galambos is an example of how academia is supposed to work. He is my thesis advisor. Why? Because his course changed my perspective on global health, and led me to do research, which then led to his support. I wish that every student at Hopkins was able to have similar research experiences. Although, I admire him as a professor and as an advisor, I think of him as the professor who calls me JK, sends me emails from family vacation in Puerto Rico, and wears a Cat in the Hat tie and a lizard watch.
2009: Dr. Jonathan Golub (School of Public Health Faculty, Department of Epidemiology)
Dr. Golub is an example of how a Hopkins faculty, with a little bit of support, can pass down passions rather effortlessly. Dr. Golub’s focus is on the epidemiology of tuberculosis. Having the itch to go abroad during my sophomore year, I met with Dr. Golub. I left the meeting with his confidence that I could go abroad and make a difference on one of the studies he was co-authoring. Dr. Golub inspires me because of his ability to face MDs with a PhD.
As I continue to write and interview MDs on their thoughts on the history of tuberculosis funding for my thesis, I realize that this interest (that I hope to continue after college), would not have been possible without him.
2009: Michael (Minnesota, Class of 2010, International Studies)
I met Michael at a table on M-Level with JHU_Jackie. Jackie introduced us by saying that I had been in Brazil the summer before. Michael, who is fluent in Portuguese yet hasn’t been to Brazil, started up a conversation. And, well, he didn’t exile me for doing research in Brazil despite having little knowledge of Portuguese. Instead, well, he started embarrassing me, inviting me over for tea, and watching Glee with me. Our conversations haven’t stopped. And if there’s one thing that can cheer me up it’s Michael dancing to the song Tightrope (which is exactly what he did this weekend).
Michael is an example of why Hopkins students should study on M-Level. On M-Level he was able to not only meet me but he was able to develop the broadest base of knowledge of anyone I know. Yes, he’s a German major who is fluent in Portuguese and who came to Hopkins enrolled in Kiswahili. He studied abroad in Botswana, wrote an honors thesis & devoted his Woodrow Wilson research project to Thomas Mann, while still managing to write for the Twin Cities Daily Planet on how Minnesota Fun is just down the road.
On a more serious note, Michael is an example of how Hopkins students should stick with their interests when looking for jobs. Michael currently works for NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) in the District as a program assistant for their East and Southern Africa unit. I can’t even tell you how tightly my fingers were crossed that this position would work out for him.
2009: Wolfgang (Berlin, Class of 2011, Computer Science)
And, well, once you meet one awesome people, you meet another one. Thanks to Michael and his crazy connections from his broad base of knowledge, I met Wolfgang on M-Level. It was there that he stole my diet soda, coded, and told us the stories behind his wristbands. But I really met him, in the true sense of the word friend, in New York City this past summer where we were both interning. Our friendship started off rather dizzying (literally and figuratively). But despite that, he’s broadened my horizons – by simply being the person that he is – more than anyone I know.
Wolfgang is an example of a Hopkins student who treats their education as a gift. Wolfgang’s story is a story of someone who worked hard and planned his life out so that he could eventually get the education in the United States that he wanted (without sacrificing fun). During an interview in January I was asked, ‘What annoys you about people?’ My answer was people that don’t value the education that they’ve been given and also, in some cases, earned. I wish that every Hopkins student had the mindset that Wolfgang has and appreciated quality higher education in in the United States (despite the annoying professors, classmates, and stress that that education gives all of us). After graduation, Wolfgang’s solution-oriented mind will be back to good use with Bloomberg L.P. in New York City.
2011: Wall-E (Baltimore, Class of 2011, Geography – yup, it’s a major at Hopkins)
Wall-E, short for Waltraud (obviously), is the name of my bike. My relationship with Wall-E is an example of why every Hopkins student could benefit by having a bike. After just a couple weeks of riding, I can say with certainty that Wall-E has shown me more of Maryland than any one item or person. I’m hoping our friendship builds quickly since for 70 days this summer he’ll be my physical support.
My dad for a while tried selling me on our state university. Given both of my parents got quality educations at state universities. I eventually convinced him that despite the price tag, the state university – because of its size and academics – wasn’t for me. I now realize that I should’ve mentioned student body in my argument. I think it says something that I’ve never met any college friends of my dad nor my mom.
Parents oftentimes want their children to have less life struggle than they did. It’s of course hard to visualize how me college experience would have been different if I had attended a different school. What I do know is that many people always say that the best thing about Hopkins is the people. I second that. And not just people, but I hope as you can tell from my personal touch, how naturally they’ve come into my life at Hopkins. I know for a fact that I would not have met these 9 (ok, well, actually 8 ) influences in my life if it hadn’t been for Hopkins. And I don’t think I would have met similar individuals if I had stayed in New Jersey. Who knows what life struggles are in store for me, but I’m sure they will be less of a struggle than they could be with this support.
(Sidenote – The title of this blog comes from the male symbol which represents the shield and spear of Mars)
Bloomberg. First reactions?
That politically independent superstar (i.e., a Hopkins alum)?
That financial data powerhouse (i.e., home to awesome internships/jobs for Hopkins students)?
The largest and, arguably, furthest building on the Homewood campus (i.e., where Hopkins students take physics exams)?
The #1 (as well as oldest, and largest) school of public health in the world? (i.e., home to research and classes for many undergraduate public health students)?
Indeed, Michael Bloomberg has left an impact on students at Johns Hopkins. And I’m not one to say otherwise…
Class starts at 1:30 pm. For me, this means that it’s time to catch the 1 pm shuttle to Bloomberg…
At first thought, taking a 25 minute shuttle ride probably sounds like a burden. But since sophomore year, I’ve spent time on the East Baltimore Medical Campus at the Bloomberg School of Public Health (Bloomberg). Whether it’s working or taking graduate-level courses, as required for the public health studies major, going to Bloomberg has become part of my daily routine. And, by now, I just can’t imagine my education any other way.
And so, with that, I give you some reasons that I love Bloomberg:
Seriously. Maybe it’s because I’ve decided to take Microeconomics for the fun of it. I stare at graphs representing wheat and corn production (today we expanded to…cheese!). And I’m reminded why I just couldn’t be an economist: because of the pessimistic social sciences outlook that comes with the field in comparison to the optimistic outlook to the public health one that I’ve cherished.
Confused? Take the first lesson of economics: the Production-Possibility Curve. It’s basically a curve that shows the different rates of production of two goods (say, wheat and corn). The thing that bothers me is that there is a maximum. Yes, I’m annoyed by points on a curve. Annoyed that there is, as the professor says, a God-given maximum amount of corn and wheat that can be produced.
Basically, finite resources annoy me.
Frustrated by this, my mind starts racing. Does this mean that there is a maximum amount of valentines that can be produced? According to that economic outlook apparently there is. Fortunately, that number must be pretty high. Although the definition of a valentine these days is fairly loose. According to the trustworthy broken like citation on Wikipedia, if we narrow it to just cards, we’re already producing 190 million valentines each year in the US.
Where am I going with this? You see I, the senior at Hopkins, have something in common with most of the seniors in high school reading this. The chances of us facing rejection (or already having faced rejection) not once but multiple times, based purely on probability, is quite high. Rejection seems inherent with life planning, and thus of being a senior. And for good reason. I hate to admit that the economic outlook may be right. Maybe I should just state it: there is a finite amount of spaces in the Hopkins Class of 2015.
This is scary especially for students that who have a history of being successful and enjoy challenging themselves, like many of you reading this I’m sure are. I can’t deny that being accepted had become a way of life for me prior to entering college. I just expected that I would get into the programs and positions that I found myself into. And having applied early decision to Hopkins, even though I didn’t expect to be accepted, I still didn’t have to face regular decision rejection.
Even scarier, is the real world: there is sometimes just one job opening with an organization, just one honor being given out, and just a small number of grants that can be awarded (yuck, financial limitations). And, unfortunately, in the real world rejection often comes first. As in, it may take lots of rejection before the puzzle pieces (of life?) fall in place.
Depressing? Not exactly. Having already faced rejection more than once this school year, I know that I’m prepared more than ever for the terrible inherent part of life. Maybe it’s maturity. But as I continue to listen to teen pop, I’d deny that theory. What I do know that my senior year mindset is better than my 5th grade mindset after having just found out that I didn’t make the 5th grade traveling basketball team.
So, with that, I’ll share with you my mindset/advice in hopes that you too will be prepared for whatever life has in store for you:
My Grandma Lynn writes the best cards. This year’s birthday card was all about how she had a feeling that this birthday was going to be a memorable one simply because of how much I had to appreciate from my friends to my school which has given me, as she puts it, a deepened concern for the world and confidence. She is totally right. I am so appreciative of what I do have and of just where the support has gotten me to be able to apply to competitive opportunities. Surrounding myself with good friends to keep me upbeat is the biggest blessing in my life.
Rejection can lead to some pretty ugly emotions. Feelings of jealousy. Feelings of self-worthlessness. Feelings of regret. Suddenly, every single question in an interview or every single part of an application comes rushing back. Sure, there are ways to approve from your mistakes but it’s also important to not get too nitpicky about potential faults. What’s my best cure to make sure my emotions don’t get out of control? Find an outlet to rant.
3. Be yourself.
I’m definitely made this mistake before and it makes rejection hurt that much more. It’s really important to make sure that I’m doing activities that I enjoy and planning out my life for myself. It’s important to be unique in an applicant pool. Too often I’ve found myself stuck trying to shape myself into the person that I think the selection committee is looking for.
This is definitely another trap that I’ve fallen into. It’s important to remember that positions (and university’s) play a game of matchmaking. Having watched seniors go through the job hunt before, I’ve noticed how acceptances come when the position truly matches one’s interests and passion. Because of this, sometimes I find it good to see a rejection as an indication of a bad match.
5. Oh, Life.
But sometimes the position seems to have been too perfect for me to be seen as a bad match. And in those cases, I think about fate. I will definitely say that I’m a believer in fate. There are some things that cannot be controlled. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to. I hate to be cliché but everything happens for a reason. Rejection from one school could lead to accepting an awesome place at say, Johns Hopkins! Or rejection could lead to challenging yourself even more.
Thinking through my options has definitely helped me. In high school, knowing that I had safety schools that I would be happy going to made me OK with the thought of facing rejection from my reach schools. Now, as I prepare for the real world, knowing that there are internships available or Hopkins jobs to consider in case I don’t get my top choices has helped me cope with rejection.
Telling my friends who have graduated and haven’t found a full-time position to stay optimistic is hard. The best way to stay optimistic I find is remembering that it only takes one chance encounter or one job application to get accepted.
And, with that, I am prepared for senior spring. To not be afraid to apply for an opportunity, because, well, what’s the worst that could happen? Rejection. And, well, even in a finate world, I think I can handle that one.
Write a brief essay (250 word maximum) in which you respond to the following question:
A typical student at Johns Hopkins spends less than 15 hours each week in a classroom, leaving lots of time for volunteer opportunities, clubs and organizations, athletics, social events, and other on- and off-campus activities. Aside from the academic interests you’ve already expressed, in what activities do you plan to engage as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins
Cycling shorts are to be worn without undergarments.
I’ll be thanking my Johns Hopkins experience for that fact. Thanks in part to my Hopkins acceptance letter, I’ll learn about 4K for Cancer, make inspirational friends, visit my grandparents, lose my athleticism (thank you, Sophomore 15), but gain self-confidence. These events will culminate.
Come senior spring, I’ll be back on campus with a stack of UNICEF thank you cards and my New Year’s resolutions – or more like to-do list. At the top of the checklist: write thesis, raise $4,500 dollars, bike cross-country.
I will have added 4K for Cancer to my activities.
Hopkins 4K was founded in 2001 by students dedicated to biking from Baltimore to San Francisco in honor of loved ones affected by cancer. In 2008, the group expanded beyond Hopkins into a tax-deductible non-profit organization: 4K for Cancer. This year, there will be ~100 riders biking three routes.
The mission: raise funds, spread awareness, foster hope.1
Come senior spring, there’ll be no turning back. I’ll have: fundraised $1,610, mailed 16 thank you cards out the door, received cycling shoes, gained friends to motivate me more than the Spinning machine, which tells me to “strum the bicycle like a guitar” (I have no idea which hand I would strum a guitar with).
I will owe Dean Latting – the man behind that acceptance letter – a thanks. Due to his signature, I’ll have grown in an environment that has inspired me to go commando just two days after graduation.
Word Count: 250
(To learn more about the organization: http://cycleinspireunite.org/
For information on how to donate to my rider fund: https://4kforcancer.donortools.com/my/funds/14852-Rider-Fund-Jessica-Kraus)
1 Below is a description of how 4K for Cancer achieves its mission:
Raise Funds – Each ride will have approximately $40,000 to give out during the ride to individuals and organizations. A portion of the money fundraised will be given to the Baltimore Hope Lodge – which offers free accommodations to cancer patients as they undergo cancer treatment. I’ll be volunteering here during my senior spring. Much of the other money will go to providing scholarships to young adults who are cancer survivors or who have had someone in their life affected by cancer.
Spread awareness – Along the ride, my team and I will be staying at churches and community centers. We’ll educate people, especially those in underserved communities, on identifying the early warning signs of cancer and connecting cancer patients with resources in their community which can help them. This year, for the first time, riders will be providing (in partnership) early detection cancer screenings and how to do self-exams.
Raise hope – My team and I will be connected to cancer patients each and every step along the way of my journey. We’ll be visiting cancer patients in hospitals. And by cycling cross-country, we are trying to do a small part in the fight against cancer.
The senior Blue Jays
stand welcoming the New Year,
In terms of favorite childhood television shows, I think I was an atypical child. By the end of elementary school, my top picks were NBC’s Early Morning Show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and the 1900 House. The 1900 house was actually considered a reality TV show. It was about a modern family that tried to live in the way of the late Victorians in 1900 for three months in a modified house. I loved it.
For me, it was in many ways a psychology experiment. So where am I going with this?
In October, way back when, I admitted to my addiction with The New York Times, one that also has been a favorite of mine since elementary school. I posted a blog about how to be happy in college based off of an article from The New York Times. One of the biggest pieces of advice in the article was to wean yourself from devices:
“Devices have become security blankets. Take the time to wean yourself.
Start by scheduling a few Internet-free hours each day, with your phone turned off. It’s the only way you’ll be able to read anything seriously, whether it’s Plato or Derrida on Plato. (And remember, you’ll get more out of reading Derrida on Plato if you read Plato first.) This will also have the benefit of making you harder to reach, and thus more mysterious and fascinating to new friends and acquaintances.”
This piece of advice really spoke to me. The truth is that I can’t deny that I own an iPhone and although, for the majority of my college classes I’ve taken notes by hand, I do sometimes fall into the trap of bringing my laptop to class. However, after reading this article and being told by a friend that I should spend as much time on my iPhone as I do going to the bathroom (given that this was when I was trying to prove my friend wrong through Wikipedia on my iPhone), I decided to give this whole weaning thing a try. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to start reading more Plato and come off as fascinating to new friends? It was a psychological experiment of sorts.
I would go “old school.”
I would live in an internet-less, TV-less, and microwave-less studio apartment for the semester and follow my insanity along the way or maybe just my increased rate of reading Plato, as predicted by The New York Times.
During the first couple of weeks, I definitely felt myself going through withdrawal. Eventually, and after dealing with Comcast’s incapability to promptly set up internet, this wore off and I decided to stick with it. Along the way, as I’m sure can be explained by a psychology theory, I started catching myself picking up, even going out of my way, to acquire more “old school” ways.
- I decided to take Black & White Film Photography.
- I wouldn’t mind going a day with my phone left back at my apartment. In fact, I would frequently just simply let my cell phone’s battery die.
- I started competing with another senior on who could have the lowest monthly electric bill. We ended it in a draw.
- And then I decided that the best use of time this summer would be to bike cross country to visit my relatives rather than to simply fly (more on this later).
- I asked my for a world map for Christmas. Because, well, Google Maps is just not the same.
- By the last week of the semester, I was completely fine living in a furniture-less room
What did I get out of all of this?
- I did not automatically start reading Plato (or going to the gym).
- Instead I slept whenever I was in my room. (Possibly the biggest benefit). Those late nights of catching up on Glee and Gchatting in bed suddenly disappeared.
- Good grades. Although, I found myself spending a lot of time socializing in the library, I nevertheless spent a lot less time preoccupied in my room and a lot more time sleeping.
- I got a little carried away in the kitchen. I mean there wasn’t too much to do in my room but eat and sleep. Without a microwave, I found myself getting take-out a lot. However, given the time, I could get a little carried away in the kitchen. See the picture below of my Ireland cake. I made it for my friend Mohammad who received a Mitchell Scholarship to attend graduate school in Ireland next year. Like my 5 billion white chocolate Euro pieces representing the bailout?
- I learned that the digital camera is popular for a reason but film photography deserves respect. I had no idea that film photography involved such an expensive, tedious, though magical, process. After taking the photos, I had to process my negatives (which first involved sitting in a dark closet in order to get the film on a reel), set up the lab, develop my film, then keep developing my film until the print was perfect, and then finally mount it. (I’ll try to get my final photography in a blog but currently they’re in Baltimore).
- People really do think of me as “old school.” My final photography project led me to a food kitchen where I was, of all places, called “old school” for having a film camera and told to “upgrade.”
- A furniture-less room really does echo.
- Rarely are any of my emails so time sensitive that they need to be answered that same day, therefore not checking my email until the afternoon is completely fine.
- Although I don’t think I came off as the mysterious senior to anyone, as the NY Times article hinted at, I noticed that my friends started being sympathetic towards me and my living conditions.
- The MSE library internet is not half as bad as people say it is! It’s pretty reliable and is existent. I think people just have high expectations these days.
- When in my room, phone calls and text messages from friends were especially appreciated.
- It’s really hard to turn off a smoke alarm at 3 am with no furniture in the room.
- According to JHU_Josh, I was late finding this gem on Youtube: Katy Perry sings “Hot N Cold” with Elmo on Sesame Street!
Just yesterday, I paid my portion of the internet bill for my new apartment. It was the official end to my experiment. One that I’m so glad I threw upon myself but am also glad has ended.
The other day, my dad watched me as I started preparing to work on an essay on the plane. He didn’t realize that, for this particular essay, it would involve no books. Instead he watched as I found peer-reviewed articles online and looked up if there were electric outlets on the plane. He didn’t realize that it would be nearly impossible for me to write this particular paper without a computer. This of course got me thinking. What I did this past semester is nothing novel. In the United States, the majority of people who have passed through this nation’s university system were used to days without genius phones, internet, and digital cameras. It’s really amazing how fast the typical US college life can change.
Even just for myself as a senior. Although I can relate my Hopkins experience with current underclassmen, there are some things that have been a part of my Hopkins experience that I know won’t be for underclassmen. For example, I was one of the last students to use the wet darkroom in the Mattin center. This semester was the last time that film photography was offered on the Homewood campus. Last fall, I was one of the last students to have been taught by “Reds” WOLMAN. This probably also means, I was one of the last students to be taught with a slide projector. Any future Hopkins student will quickly learn how important the Wolman family was, and still is, to Hopkins and to environmental engineering.
The point is, soon us 1980s babies will no longer be on the Homewood campus as students. And although that means that some “old school” Hopkins opportunities that I have gotten will not be offered to other students, it doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t feel that they can’t wean themselves off of the “security blanket” that society has created.
So, go ahead, maybe not as much as I did, but try and see if you have better luck at getting yourself to read Plato by weaning yourself off of electronic devices…
Firstly, congratulations to the newly admitted members of the class of 2015!
I must apologize for my lack of blogging. I think I’m not the only one to admit that the end of the semester seems to fill up with an unmanageable workload that somehow becomes manageable. Just a day after my last final, I relied on friends (and their Zipcar driving, recycling, storage, and plant-sitting abilities) to make sure I was completely moved out of my apartment.
Why? Um, well, because my life would just not be nearly as exciting if I stayed put in the same room for longer than 4 months. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m a bit tired of living in piles. The truth is that I originally was going to graduate a semester early but decided that a Hopkins education was just too valuable to cut short.
And, well, now, I’m currently headed on a plane with my dad to Guadalajara, Mexico to visit my grandma who I haven’t seen in at least four years. The speed of my life, at 21 years of age, is already uncomfortably fast and about the only thing I’ve been able to plan ahead of time for is Christmas shopping. Where am I going with this?
There’s no denying that, at this perceived rate of time, I’ll be a college graduate before I know it. So, faced with uncertainty ahead, what is keeping me from having an anxiety attack?
Well, this past semester I had the chance to spend time with a few of my favorite female Hopkins graduates. Suddenly the answer became clear. It’s… them – those that were just recently in my shoes and managed to get through this life transition. Not just to get through it, but to succeed.
I introduce to you a few of those inspirational hens making up the party of Blue Jays (Did you know all female birds are called hens? And that a group of Blue Jays is called a party or a band?! Proof: http://www.birdnature.com/groupnames.html)
Why just females? Well, partially because if I highlighted the male graduates, I would need a much longer flight to write this blog. But, also, because it wasn’t until 1970 that women were even able to step foot on the beloved Homewood campus as undergraduates. Due to this male advantage, the alumni sex ratio is not exactly even, so it’s important to highlight successful female alums.
Steph (center) and Janine (right) – two public health studies graduates -
Where are they now? Less than a year since graduating, Steph is now at Columbia pursuing a Masters in Public Health and Janine is at Harvard Med. Whether they know it or not, I’ve looked up to these two since I stepped foot on campus.
I met Steph as a pre-frosh and she has continued to energize me. She kept herself busy at Hopkins and seemed to play and run nearly every club and intramural sport out there while still playing in the orchestra, working at student life, and cooking as if she had a family to feed. Throughout all of this, she inspired me to take beautiful notes in epidemiology and even helped design the my JH portal that so many of you newly admitted students will simply take for granted.
Janine is well…Janine. I wish everyone when they thought of pre-med at Hopkins could picture Janine. I met her through Public Health Student Forum. In fact, I can thank her for being appointed as freshman representative. She managed to race in cycling, become an environmental advocate on campus (which I believed led to her dressing up as a polar bear), and take off an entire semester to pursue tuberculosis epidemiology research in Morocco. Although she *only* made the third team of USA Today’s 2010 All USA Academic Team, she is definitely first team quality in my book.
Sharlene – a ’09 public health studies graduate
Where is she now? At Google. (Now you see why it’s so hard for me to answer the – “what can a public health graduate do with a degree?” question) Residential Advisors (RAs) are meant to serve as role models for their residents. I don’t know if they do for everyone, but they definitely did for me. Sharlene was my RA as a freshman. Although I would automatically be spending time with her since she was co-president of Public Health Student Forum, I had no idea that an RA would want to make room to spend even more time with her residents but Sharlene definitely did. She would eat breakfast and study with me. She too would find time during college to run away… to the World Health Organization! Although she’s always had dreams to become a doctor (and has already decided to eventually attend University of Maryland),she is currently working at Google on the AdSense team. That’s right she’s in…advertising!
JHU_Jackie (far left) - a ’10 philosophy graduate and JHU_Michelle (second from the right) - an ’08 neuroscience graduate - In this picture, I imagine we’re all being entertained by one of JHU_Daniel’s stories.
Ever wonder what happens to those crazy students that answer your questions at open houses or write those blogs? Well, they’ve all done some awesome things. I’ve been able to see two of my favorites Student Admissions Advisory Board alums this semester.
The first one up is Jackie. In college, she inspired me by simply being able to write philosophy papers. If that’s not enough, she is one of the best, and most dependable, study buddies I will ever have. Where is she now? Well, currently she’s on a train from CT back to our lovely nation’s capital. How do I know that? Well, we tend to talk a lot. Although, she can envision herself attending law school, she currently is working on all things social media for the No Labels movement. Let’s just say that when terms like “hyper-partisanship” are no longer used in our newspapers, I know that Jackie will have been a part of it.
And then there’s Michelle. As a freshman, I was a student with Michelle in Intro to Fiction and Poetry. I thought of her as an intimidating senior – one that I thought might break our curve (later I found out there was no curve in this class) and wasn’t afraid of being a few minutes late to class. I highly doubt back then that I could’ve imagined regularly talking to her for the next three years. As a freshman, I admired her as a Wilson fellow taking on epilepsy research while also finding the time to act in many productions. I’m positive I wasn’t the only one admiring her; she would go on to earn a spot on the JHU Board of Trustees as young trustee. What’s she up to? She works for a small company known as glassCanopy, where she helps with marketing Silicon Valley startup companies.
Tashi (far right) – a ’10 history graduate
I’ve been so lucky that Tashi decided to stay in Baltimore this year. This past semester, she has opened her door to her (and even her mother’s) delicious cooking more than once. She is one of the most giving and caring people that I know. Don’t believe me? She ended up having to go to the emergency room three times for a series of rabies shots all thanks to rescuing a terrified cat. I doubt she would have believed me if I told her that, in less than a year, she would be employed as a research program assistant at Johns Hopkins Department of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. But sure enough, that’s where she is: researching (and working directly) with youth.
Well, I could keep going on and on, especially if I include alums overseas. Don’t believe me?
- There’s Jenna, a ’10 chemical and biomolecular engineering, graduate who is now in Saudi Arabia at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology getting a masters.
- And Ayano, a ’10 public health studies graduate in Taiwan for a year as part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program.
- Speaking of Ayano, her childhood friend, Alexandra, is a ’10 international studies graduate who is now a Peace Corps health volunteer in Cambodia.
And I can’t even say they are the only Hopkins graduates that I know on Fulbright and Peace Corps programs…. See I really can keep going and going, but I think you see the point.
Jessica – a ’11 (let’s hope!) public health studies graduate wearing her Christmas best
Well, I currently do not feel like a college graduate nor do I have any idea what continent I’ll be on next year. Yet, I find reassurance in knowing that the above alums this time back in their senior year didn’t know where they would be now.
To the high school students out there, this blog hopefully gives you the same reassurance that it has given me. The most important thing for me to do when I get worried about the future is to look forward. And when I just can’t seem to imagine the future, I look to those friends (or even just acquaintances) who are recent graduates. So whether you have just been denied (or even accepted) from your top choice school, the most important thing to remember is that your hard work will pay off.