Required Watching

A city. It’s a funny thing when you think about it. A drop of a pin on a map, a pixel on a computer screen. A place where we initially end up by mere chance. A place that holds so much and means so much more.

Tomorrow I’ll once again leave my hometown of St. Louis to start my final year of college in Baltimore, yet this time the feeling as I near my departure is different. Tomorrow, hundreds of miles will separate me and a city that’s gone through so much over the past dozen days. On August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, a 15-minute drive north of my home, a police officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager. Yesterday, I went to pay my respects to the victim—Mike Brown—at a makeshift memorial in the middle of the road. His death, regardless of what any court trail may show, represents so much of the racial inequalities that pervade our city and our country. The questions raised are dire, and my city’s response—demanding answers, demanding equality, demanding justice—have confirmed what I know to be true of St. Louis: we fight for what our guts tell us is right.

2014-08-19 13.08.06

I bring up this admittedly doleful aside not only because I think it’s critical that we reflect on this event and its social undercurrents, but because I believe that it underlines the inherent power of a city and its identity. I’m proud to say that I’m from St. Louis, even when certain actions challenge that very conviction. I’m proud to say that I’m from St. Louis, because when we band together as a city, we can ignite change.

In no time at all, the class of 2018 will be heading to Baltimore—for some, their beloved hometown and for many others, a new place to call home. If I could urge the incoming freshman class to do one thing, that would be to get to know and love this city. Baltimore has easily become one of my favorite cities in the world; the people are incredible and the energy is ineffable. Like any place, Baltimore deals with its own set of issues, but the pros outweigh any measly con time and time again. I hope that upon settling into your dorm and the Homewood campus, you get out and explore the city. Get acquainted with its unique identity and find a way to make an impact.

Before you all get bogged down by syllabus week and lists of textbooks and required reading, I wanted to offer up a head start with a list of required watching—of course, this will not be graded, but I definitely recommend taking a look at one (or all) of the videos below to get an initial idea of what Baltimore is about. The videos aren’t exhaustive and the city is so much better in person, but it’s a good way to get a sense of what makes Baltimore tick. Welcome home, class of 2018—to Hopkins and to Baltimore.

For starters, let’s get our bearings. This is Baltimore:

Balti’s music scene is one-of-a-kind. Seriously, it’s rad:

Our art scene is just as renowned. One time, I helped an artist collective marry people outside of an old police box adjacent to Penn Station:

If you’re a fan of theatre, you’ll find tons of great performances. Single Carrot Theatre (below) is great, but look up some Wham City Comedy (a personal favorite) for some more, occasionally less appropriate humor:

People aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Baltimoreans care about land use and agriculture, one example being the Baltimore Free Farm—fun fact: some of my friends made this documentary through a class at Hopkins:

Street art has transformed the city. Keep an eye for the incredible murals and graffiti courtesy of Open Walls Baltimore. Also, I’m obsessed with this video (that’s to say, watch this one ! ! !):

See you tomorrow, Baltimore.

Hello Hopkins, my old friend

Agnes Denes at the Pulitzer, STL

Agnes Denes at the Pulitzer, STL

One year ago, as summer 2013 wound down to an end, I was finalizing projects on the last day of my internship at the Phillips Collection in DC. After saying goodbye to the staff and other interns, I grabbed some celebratory Shake Shack and hopped on the MARC train back to Baltimore. I got back to campus, played with a cat, had farewell drinks with friends at PJs (where I likewise won an impromptu Tabasco sauce eating contest) and then finished up packing before waking up at 4am to catch my flight home to St. Louis—and that was the last time I was in Baltimore.

It’s crazy, and at times a bit scary, to think that it’s been more than twelve months since I’ve been at Hopkins. While studying abroad for a year was undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve done for myself in recent memory, the one downside—if you can even call it that—is that a campus that was once my second home now feels a bit unfamiliar. In fact, the first-day-of-freshman-year-nerves seem to come back in small but unnecessary doses. What if I get lost? Who am I going to eat lunch with? When will I fit in my distribution requirements? (This one is a real concern…)

#sports

#sports

In a way, I feel like it will be the first day of college once again, only this time, the cards are stacked in my favor. I’ll be living with the coolest of friends (trust me, freshmen—give it a few weeks and you’re realize that you’re living alongside your best friends, too), I have the fall schedule of my dreams (then again, my first semester courses were pretty awesome, too. Thanks no gen eds!) and I have my favorite spots in Baltimore all lined up for good times ahead (if you want to get a head start on this, check out the Forums or my ideal 24 hours in Balti). So while I anticipate the potential strangeness of walking around Homewood once again, surrounded by a handful of new faces but a lot of old friends as well, I ultimately couldn’t be more excited.

Great things happen when you’re at Hopkins. For me, I feel unstoppable. My productivity is immeasurably better when on campus as compared to elsewhere, and there are so, so many opportunities to take advantage of. There’s time to work hard, time to have fun and time to pave out your own path. I’ve loved having the chance to see my interests grow, my skills broaden and have my passions truly encouraged and supported. 

So, to the incoming freshman class of 2018, my advice to you is this: while nerves are naturally and, quite frankly, a good thing—this is a huge transition, after all!—latch on to the energy pervading campus, the excitement and the possibility to truly grow, and focus your energy on that. It’s all too common to be anxious or scared or to not immediately find your stride, but that’s okay; simply take a minute, and realize that you’re in a place where amazing, incredible things happen—and now, you’re a part of that. 

Besides, take comfort in the fact that there’s a senior out there (hi) feeling just as anxious (anxious but optimistic) as you—just don’t count on me giving you great directions to your next class.

Getting lost with the greatest

Got lost with the greatest

Work of Art

So much love

So much love

It’s a pretty cool feeling to love what you do. It’s a feeling I had when I first curated an exhibit in Baltimore, when I interned at a D.C. museum last summer and when I spent a year at an Art History school in Paris. This summer, the feeling keeps coming up again and again, be it from every day I walk into my internship at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, every article I delve into or every time I encounter the work of a new and emerging artist. Thanks to Hopkins, I’ve had the opportunity to study exactly what I love—Art History—and I can truly say that I’ve loved every minute of it.

There are lot of misconceptions about what it means to study the History of art (e.g. we don’t spend our days fingerpainting—at least, not all of us), so I wanted to give you an honest idea of what it’s like being an Art History major at Hopkins. In the same style as JHU_Genevieve’s blog on being a Film & Media Studies student (CHECK IT), I thought I’d take you through my journey with the help four artworks that epitomize my experiences so far.

l_pl2_2332_fnt_bw_c39-2Sarcophagus Depicting Castor and Pollux Seizing the Daughters of Leucippus, c. 160

My first ever Art History assignment—an eight page visual analysis—was accompanied by my first ever trip to the Walters Art Museum, a renowned, local museum with a top-notch collection of ancient through 19th-century art. At first, I felt in over my head; how was I 1) going to write eight pages 2) about one work of art 3) spanning from ancient to medieval times, a.k.a. not my cup of tea (read: area of specialization) in Art History. Despite the initial challenges, writing the paper turned out to be quite cathartic. Regardless of whether a work resonates with you or not, a visual analysis assignment tests one of the fundamental tools for any art historian: your ability to look. In lieu of Research and expounding upon a thesis, a visual analysis paper poses a number of critical questions ranging from how is the composition constructed to how is the subject rendered. Even though I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about writing on a 2nd century Roman sarcophagus, exploring the basic methodology of the field was both interesting and rewarding. I came to see that I wouldn’t love every work of art that I would write on, but that honing in on one’s critical looking and writing skills never hurts.

johns_field_190x380Jasper Johns, Field Painting, 1963-64

With the end of my freshman  year came a Research paper for the second half of my Art History intro course—spanning from Renaissance to modern art, we were now in business. I made the trip to DC and chose a compelling, mid-career work by neo-Dadaist Jasper Johns. Finally working within the time period that I love, I delved into the Research with a refreshed sense of excitement. Working on this paper showed me just how incredible the resources at Hopkins truly are—I had an extensive selection of books on Johns at my disposal, my professor, having written a catalogue essay on Johns in the past, was invaluable, and my TA helped me to refine and elevate my argument. Pulling from critical essays on Johns, portions of the artist’s sketchbook and the work itself, I was able to produce a paper that I’m still proud of today.

529_600_bf719_i2rHenri Matisse, Le bonheur de vivre, 1905-06

One of the biggest lessons in my time as an Art History student came from my course “Matisse, Picasso and Twentieth Century Art,” an exhaustive and challenging class looking at the career of two of the most important artists in recent Art History. Despite helping me to see twentieth century artistic practice in a whole new light, I just couldn’t vibe with the professor’s approach to analyze the works we looked at in class. His methodology was heavy on psychoanalysis which, while interesting and practiced by a number of scholars, is far from how I personally choose to look at and study works of art. It came to the point that the mere sight of a Matisse or Picasso—which happens often considering the Baltimore Museum of Art’s renowned collection of twentieth century European art—would bring back unwelcome memories of Freudian psychosexual theory and the unconscious. However, the following year while on a free trip to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia thanks to the JHU Museums Club, I was able to see Matisse’s masterwork, Le bonheur de vivre, in person. The genius of the work was all I could take in and, no longer bogged down by an unfavorable approach to looking at the artist’s work, I was able to remember what drew me to these pieces in the first place.

Ulmer_041309_006Claudia Schmacke, Time Reel, 2009

Along with my favorite class so far at Hopkins—”Sculpture After Sculpture” with NGA curator James Meyer—came my favorite lesson to date. For our final seminar paper, we were each to choose the work of a contemporary sculptor and prepare a twenty-page paper and lecture presentation. I chose to focus on the German installation artist Claudia Schmacke whose work I had first encountered in high school at our city’s local art museum. The task of researching for and writing the paper, while extensive and spanning several weeks of time, never once felt like work. Each time I stepped back to think about the artwork, I was enriched with new ideas and a renewed sense of vigor. Getting to choose the artist that I wanted to study allowed for the undertaking of the assignment to occur quite fluidly and naturally. It was a much-needed reminder of why I love what I do, and there’s not much more that one can ask for than that.

A place called home

I had mixed emotions about coming home for the summer. My post-Paris plans entailed a few days reunited with family and friends before jetting off to big city X, Y or Z—but that’s not how things turned out. A month and a half into my St. Louis summer, though, my perspective has changed. So this blog is for the freshmen preparing to move to JHU this fall; my lessons learned during my first three years at Hopkins, first away from home and now back where I started.

1. It doesn’t hurt to get away / Living in Baltimore has characterized much of my time so far at Hopkins. One-third of my college choices were in Missouri, but my oldest sister – having gone to school just fifteen minutes from home – advised me to broaden my horizons and move to a new city. I’m so glad I did.

Ready to be a homebody with these cool kids come August

Ready to be a homebody with these cool kids come August

I should underline that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with going to home close to school—logistically, it tends to make a lot of sense. Personally though, I’ve seen myself grow along with the increased distance between me and St. Louis. This idea came up back in February while visiting a Hopkins friend in Brussels with Bianca; she had magically scored the three of us tickets to a sold-out Future Island show (one of my favorite bands who happens to be based in Baltimore). The singer, Sam, explained to us before the concert that he had to leave what he had grown to love – for him, his hometown in North Carolina – in order to push himself to the place he wanted to be artistically. This idea really hit home, especially on the other side of the Atlantic.

With this in mind, I can say that there’s nowhere I’d rather be to push myself and my boundaries than Baltimore. Quirky and inviting, exciting and unrivaled, it’s a city that encourages you to make it your own. I can’t wait to get back in August, re-visit my favorite restaurants, galleries and indescribable places that make Baltimore so unique, and to discover new favorites as well.

While going to school in a new city has taught me countless lessons, it’s likewise shown me that —

Me and the sister in Chicago

Me and the sister in Chicago

2. It doesn’t hurt to come back home, either / Being home admittedly took some getting used to in the beginning. St. Louis’ seminal kindness felt misplaced and my stomach churned at the thought of small talk. However, I soon came to see that everything that had changed about me over the past three years didn’t have to revert back to normal just because I was home. I’ve explored now places, retained my newfound love of getting lost, but have still had the opportunity to see the people that I care about.

On top of this, I couldn’t be happier with my internship at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and it’s been rather invaluable to see that there are meaningful things taking place in the arts outside of New York or LA. My co-workers at the museum are awesome, as most people at non-profits tend to be, and the art that I’ve had the chance to experience and write about has been pretty top-notch. My skepticism about the level of art being shown in St. Louis was shattered and I’m extremely grateful for that.

She's come a long way

She’s come a long way

While it can be a challenge to be home, it also means spending time with friends whom I otherwise wouldn’t have seen this summer and getting to explore my hometown through a perspective that was nonexistent three years ago. I’ve definitely amassed a good share of memories in these first handful of weeks and – despite how I felt before returning home – am looking forward to what’s to come.

The sole downside that comes with living away from home is that the idea of ‘home’ becomes plural and complex. For me, St. Louis, Baltimore and Paris have all been – and continue to be – home. I feel drawn to the three, aching for the others regardless of where I am, but that’s what makes the time spent in each of those places so meaningful.

The kids are all right

The kids are all right

C’est parti

Hopkins pals on my last night abroad

Hopkins pals on my last night abroad

“Your passport, please … how long were you out of the country?”
“Nine months, sir.”

“What were you doing?”
“Studying abroad.”

“What did you you study?”
Art History. In Paris.”

“What are you going to do now?”
“…That’s the question.”

I didn’t expect my first conversation back on American soil to put me in a haze of contemplation and self-doubt, but – thanks to the US Customs Agent who greeted me after my flight – it did. Seven words – what are you going to do now – felt like a crushing blow of reality, definitively turning the page on my life abroad and forcing me to think forward as opposed to reflecting on my life in France. I was still getting used to the fact that Paris was suddenly something I had to refer to in the past tense, and now the pressure was on to fill the summer months with as much adventure as I had over the past two semesters.

Target fruit snacks OR BUST (thanks, sister)

Target fruit snacks OR BUST (thanks, sister)

Business time

Business time

Week one was devoted to overcoming a little thing we call “reverse culture shock.” The first day was easy: I was greeted at the airport by family and a box of fruit snacks and two hours later was at Steak ‘n Shake making up for lost time. Days two, three, four, etc. didn’t go quite as smoothly. Small talk was not easy, recalling obscure English idioms was not easy and trying to feel at home in Saint Louis – well, that wasn’t a walk in the park, either. However, I’m back with a list of summer goals and (fingers crossed) good times ahead.

1. Internship at the Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis I started my internship this week and it’s been the perfect thing to get me over my post-abroad blues. CAMSTL is one of my favorite museums and it’s been extremely cool to not only be in the offices but involved in the organization of their exhibitions. I’ll be working on Research, label text and a catalogue for an exhibit opening in 2015 so it’s the perfect chance to hone some of the skills that are crucial to curatorial practice. On top of this internship, I received a grant from the JHU Second Decade Society, a group of Hopkins alumni that award funds to undergrad students in order to broaden the accessibility of unpaid internships; it’s definitely a testament to the type of support Hopkins students receive and the grant’s impact is huge.

Katharina Fritsch at CAMSTL

Katharina Fritsch at CAMSTL

2. Thesis writing I’m really excited to be doing a Senior Thesis for my Art History major. My advisor’s been beyond helpful this past year in helping me develop a proposal – despite the thousands of miles between Baltimore and Paris – and now it’s time to start the Research and writing. My thesis, in case you’re interested, will discuss the work of Pierre Huyghe, an artist whose retrospective I saw many, many times while in France, and how the various modes through which he engages the viewer forge a particular embodiment of spectatorship.

Pierre Huyghe at Centre Pompidou

Pierre Huyghe at Centre Pompidou

3. Travel Living in Europe brought about a side of myself that I hadn’t truly known before: an insatiable desire to travel. While Rabat, Ghent and Prague really took the cake, I’m looking forward to trips to Chicago and Columbia along with an exploration of the places still unknown to me in Saint Louis.

2014-05-17 21.12.31

4. Getting ready for Senior year I’m not saying I’m ready to go back to Baltimore already, but I wouldn’t mind it, either. Starting in the fall I’ll be living in a rowhome with two of my best friends, taking on an intense, yet lighter course load and working on curating another exhibition. It’s shaping up to be an incredible year and I can’t wait to take in every single minute.

Vouloir dire

rue Saint-Claude

rue Saint-Claude

Language is a remarkably powerful thing. Growing up, however, I had the peculiar sentiment that the contrary was true. My school district encouraged us to take language classes for no reason other than that it “looked good to colleges.” Thus, despite being that-kid-that-actually-tried-in-French-class, I never had the feeling that the accumulation of these skills could ever have any practical application. Although I felt a deep connection to French, I rarely felt the support that this endeavor toward learning another language could actually contribute to bettering myself. Oh, how I was wrong.

These past nine months abroad in Paris have been amazing for innumerable reasons. I studied at the school of my dreams, and not only that, but I made it through finals (more or less) successfully. I traveled to new and unexpected places. I lived a series of months that significantly changed my outlook on the world. Now at the tail end of this experience – fighting moments of dread with the onset realization that I’ll be waking up in Saint Louis in one week exactly – I can’t help but recognize the role that language has played in making this time abroad so meaningful, so important.

pont Alexandre-III

pont Alexandre-III

Picking up the nuances of the French language over this past year brought about a new understanding of others – their words, their meanings, their intentions – and ultimately a greater understanding of myself.

Conversations with the directors of the gallery where I interned during my first months in Paris, along with the occasional artist dropping by, allowed me to foster a recognition of the importance of commercial art galleries. Three glasses on the table, a bottle of leftover red wine, the sound of the rain drowning out any feeling of a world outside our own; through speaking with them frankly during good times and bad, I had a refreshingly candid look into the Parisian gallery scene.

On the streets of Rabat, seated at a café terrace facing the border of the Old Medina, I conversed with the café owner over a steaming cup of mint tea. Feeling the universality of the French language a long way from home, the discourse brought about a sense of comfort amid the relatively unfamiliar Arabic filling the streets.

l'École du Louvre

l’École du Louvre

Dinners with my host mom that truly defined my time in Paris. I’m incredibly grateful for her ability to whip up a 5-course meal every single night, but even more so for her much-needed wisdom. She witnessed my French get better and better, and with that improvement came conversations that grew more and more profound. She helped me to rethink things I otherwise wouldn’t have and her perspectives became invaluable. One question in particular forced me to encounter an intentionality in my language: qu’est-ce que tu veux dire?

It’s a question that reveals one of the many nuances of French. The phrase essentially translates to ‘what do you mean?’ yet in a literal sense evokes ‘what do you want to say?’ The idea that ones intended meaning through words comes from a place of deliberate language became especially important. With my brain scanning through an inventory of French vocabulary, it became clear that expressing myself concisely and honestly was of the utmost importance. Identifying what ways to communicate in another language forced me to dig deep into what I truly wanted to say.

Saint-Cloud

Saint-Cloud

But now – now I have the uncanny feeling that language is falling short. I don’t quite know how to sum up what these past nine months abroad have meant to me. I feel limited by language, unable to express to my host mom how much I appreciate all that she’s done for me, taught me, opened up my eyes to; unable to put into words how I feel about going back home, when all this time it felt like Paris was home; unable to put my finger on what exactly I’ll miss, or how exactly I’ve changed, or when exactly I’ll have another experience as thrilling and as challenging as this one.

île Saint-Louis

île Saint-Louis

But I have to be okay with that. Sometimes a feeling, a moment, a memory, can do even more than words to bring me back to this place. I feel so overwhelmingly grateful for this opportunity that it would be a shame to let the reality of my departure spoil how much this past year has meant. It’s been the time of my life, but there’s no reason for that excitement to end. Paris has changed me for the better, and now it’s time to tackle what’s next.

If you’re considering studying abroad, my advice to you is simple: do it. On top of that, learn languages; learn as many as you can. Then travel – as much as you can, as much as feels right. I wish I could tell high-school-me that all of that work in French class wasn’t in vain and that sticking with the language would ultimately be one of the best choices we’d make.

Paris, je te remercie et tu me manqueras – mais je reviendrai.

Paris, I thank you and I’ll miss you – but I’ll be back.

I mean it.

2014-05-01 14.10.58

And then it hits you

April has been a memorable month in Paris. I’ve finished half of my finals, leaving the rest of the month to prepare for the remaining three. I’ve had noteworthy host family dinners and even learned the value of Easter, thanks mostly to the copious amounts of French chocolates. I’ve registered for classes for my senior fall and am reflecting on which of the many available opportunities I want to take on once I return to Baltimore.

I discovered the value of the selfie in Amsterdam,

I discovered the value of the selfie in Amsterdam,

in Prague

in Prague

and in Berlin with my new friend, the Gate of Ishtar.

and in Berlin with my new friend, the Gate of Ishtar.

I hiked across Cinque Terre

I hiked across Cinque Terre

and had gelato for breakfast in Florence.

and had gelato for breakfast in Florence.

Unreal best sums up my thoughts on these travels along with these past two semesters as a whole. Throughout my months abroad, a common theme seems to be embarking on adventures that I could have never imagined. The challenges of life in Paris have been many, but so have the rewards. I feel like I’ve gone through so much this year and I know that the person going back to the US is different from the person who got on his first international flight many months ago.

A reminder of what's awaiting me in the USA

A reminder of what’s awaiting me in the USA

And then it hits you.

It hit me on Sunday. Riding the RER back into Paris after dropping my sister off at the airport, I came to the unwelcome realization that this particular morning marked only four weeks remaining abroad. As the view outside of the train switched between the city landscape and reflections from inside the train, it hit me. My time here is fleeting, as it always has been, but now I can count the remaining weeks on one single hand. In four weeks time I will get back on a plane and leave all of this behind. Am I ready for that? Can one ever really be ready for that?

And then it hits you.

Musée Delacroix

Musée Delacroix

It hit me once again on Wednesday. My writing workshop on art criticism was meeting at the southernmost point of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Surrounded not only by the stillness of the gardens but by the Haussmann architecture, the cars whizzing past, the fountain with horses jutting out from all sides, the sounds of a fellow student reciting her text – le monochromisme est n’importe quoi, l’abstraction est n’importe quoi, l’art est n’importe quoi – it hit me.

While my time in Paris is coming to an end, it will always be a part of me. My memories of lazy mornings brought to an end by the sight of the city outside my window; of picnics and dinners, of restaurants, bars and terrasses; of descending the stairs each day to the depths of the metro; of conversations, realizations and affirmations; of unapologetic declarations in the Jardin du Luxembourg that art is n’importe quoi – these things will always be a part of me. I’ve had truly – without any doubt – the time of my life during these months spent living in Paris. I will soon be leaving this city. I won’t, however, be leaving its impact on me behind.

Sometimes it hits you, but for all the right reasons.

Jean-Michel Alberola at Galerie Daniel Templon

Jean-Michel Alberola at Galerie Daniel Templon

April

Dear Me – three years ago,

Hey, what’s up? We’re going to go on a little journey, and, spoiler alert, I’m about to give away the whole month of April for you, particularly college decisions. Don’t worry – in the end it’s going to be worth it.

Here you are, April 2011! Judging by the fact that you're covered in paint, I'm going to go ahead and say that picking a college is starting to take a toll on you

Here you are, April 2011! Judging by the fact that you’re covered in paint, I’m going to go ahead and say that picking a college is starting to take a toll on you

So, about three years ago from today – by ‘today’ I mean ‘the future’ – you get home from work and lay down on the ground. The usual. You remember that there’s something important going on today, but what it is you can’t quite remember. You roll over to the computer and check your email.

“Congratulations from Johns Hopkins University” reads your unread messages.

“Oh yeah, that’s what was going on today. Oh wow, I got into JHU? Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

You stand up, pace around the apartment kind of giddily and call your parents. Yay for acceptances! But especially for having received your last admissions decision. As much as you despised the process of waiting to know which colleges would accept (or that other, not-so-fun thing – reject) you, here’s what you weren’t expecting: now it’s time to choose.

Easy, right? Wrong. There are a lot of factors to think through before you can make this pretty major, at times intimidating choice. Art school or liberal arts school? BFA or BA? Missouri or elsewhere? Rural college town, living in a city? Big school, small school, one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. You’re right, no time for jokes – we’ve got a decision to make.

Sometimes insomnia pays off

Sometimes insomnia pays off

Late one mid-April night you won’t be having much luck falling asleep. You’ll recall that place you got into a few weeks ago and grab your laptop to have a look. John Hopkins was it?

“Did you mean: Johns Hopkins University

Oh, right. Sorry Google.

You’ll pull up the school’s website and start looking around for a bit. First stop: the art history department. “Oh, that’s pretty cool” you’ll think, looking at the accomplished professors, cultural resources in Baltimore and the many courses that exceed your previous expectations. “Oh, now that’s really cool” you’ll realize as you click a link and discover that there’s a whole minor devoted to studying museums and lets you apply those skills in practical settings. You’ve been thinking about curating – maybe this is the way to go about it? Looking around for ‘a bit’ becomes a handful of hours. After all, there are tons of resources: student blogs, a database of course offerings, videos and more. You’ll ultimately fall asleep with your computer as a pillow and wake up feeling tired, of course, but also a little less bogged down by this dreadful decision. In fact, you may have already made up your mind.

However, our dad, after noticing that you’ve kind of been losing said mind the past few weeks, will attempt to expedite the process. He decides that waiting until the end of April to make this decision will take far too long and suggests (insists) that he, you and mom meet up at Starbucks one night to finally get this over with. I know, I know, how ridiculous, right? I mean, you don’t even like Starbucks. But, you’ll give in, arriving to the land of overpriced coffee an hour before closing, grasping tightly at a folder of various acceptance letters. You”ll spread them out on a table scattered with crumbs and one by one go through the options. Some simply don’t feel right anymore. Other, it turns out, just aren’t feasible. Some are extremely solid schools but, by simple comparison, don’t live up to the opportunities available at others. You’ll narrow yourself down to two and, with a sigh of relief, pick of the acceptance letter from Johns Hopkins University.

“Is that it?”

“Yeah,” you’ll respond, thrilled to not only be done with the college admissions process but also because you’ll be attending such an incredible school in only a handful of months. You’ve made your decision, and more importantly, you’ve made a great one.

The parents may or may not cry a bit, but one thing is sure: one of the Starbucks baristas will give you a free cake pop to congratulate you, and it’ll be great and delicious. Yes of course, you’ll wonder why someone would ever want a smaller version of a full-size cake, but let’s not be picky.

I would say that everything goes back to normal, but here you are just two months later, again covered in paint. On second thought, keep doin' what you do.

I would say that everything goes back to normal, but here you are just two months later, again covered in paint. On second thought, keep doin’ what you do.

So that’s how it goes. Sorry to spoil it for you, but then again that’s just the inciting incident that will bring about countless, amazing experiences at Hopkins. I’d hate to give away how great the next few years will be, but if you really have to know, you can always read this blog that we write about our times at JHU or even ask your future-self (me) a question on the Hopkins Forums. Also, if you have some cool friends in the future class of 2018 (hi guys – congratulations!), let them know they’re more than welcome to take advantage of these resources as well.

In the next few years, you’ll come to answer the question “why Hopkins?” time and time again, but it’s this April when you ask yourself “why not Hopkins?” that will change everything for the better.

Keep it real and eat lots of Steak ‘n Shake this summer – trust me,

You/Me/Joseph, 2014

Final spoiler! Here you are just a few weeks ago. Are we in Paris??? Why yes, yes we are.

Final spoiler! Here you are just a few weeks ago. Are we in Paris??? Why yes, yes we are.

The ‘study’ in ‘study abroad’

Oh, study abroad. Thanks to you I’ve travelled places that I at one time could have only imagined, eaten foods that deserve their own cult followings, seen enough art to fill a new edition of Stokstad and have experienced things that will be hard to forget. All of these aspects, though, seem to fit into the abroad category much more than the one labeled study. In fact, I’d say that all of my blogs so far have documented the amazing times spent living in a new country rather than recounting the first half of our beloved term study abroad.

The studying part isn't all that bad when it happens in a place like this

The studying part isn’t all that bad when it happens in a place like this

While I’m here to reconcile that, I’m also here to say that this is a good thing. While study abroad isn’t a break from academia, it can definitely help you to re-prioritize the time spent taking care of school-things and dealing with life-things. As I explained in my last blog, there came a point during my sophomore year where I became unhappy with the ways that I was letting school take over my life. Coming to Paris has changed that. While I could have chosen to spend as much time studying here as I do at Hopkins, it didn’t take long to realize that I’d get a much better perspective on this new culture by exploring it incessantly rather than looking out from the windows of a library. As I’m currently amid finals – I finish up classes at the end of this week! – I now feel much better being cooped up in a library or cafe to review for exams with the knowledge that the past seven months were a nonstop exploration of France.

Then again, it’s worth noting that my school here is pretty cool. In fact, as its classes are all on a yearlong schedule, the school itself is one of the factors that encouraged me to study abroad for two consecutive semesters. Allow me to formally introduce you to the site of my studies this year:

This is the École du Louvre

Here's our "campus"

Here’s our “campus”

And here's our "quad"

And here’s our “quad”

This is one of our classrooms

This is one of our classrooms

But then again, so is this

But then again, so is this

Basically, I use lucky as an understatement when explaining that this is where I’ve been a student for my junior year.

We do have some quirks, though. Whereas my Art History classes at Hopkins have ranged from 7 to maybe 40 people max, my classes here range from about 50 to 400 students/auditors. Yes, four hundred people in one huge amphitheater eager to learn about art. That was definitely something that I had never seen before and in its own way changes the nature of the time spent in class. Another particularity is that, as I’ve mentioned, our courses are yearlong, meaning that while I very gratefully didn’t have any finals to study for in the winter, I now find myself with seven exams on my plate – and for the actual students at the EdL, this number is much, much higher.

Le Musée Rodin, another magical place

Le Musée Rodin, another magical place

However, I want to emphasize the fact that I am unbelievably lucky to be doing my studies here this year. As it is a school devoted to Art History, I’ve had the privilege to study exclusively that over the past handful of months. A curator from one of Paris’ contemporary art museums taught me about modes of figuration in the 1950s. One of the three curators charged with the restoration of the Victoire de Samothrace taught me about Greek art from Neolithic to Hellenistic times; he found time to hold my final exam yesterday despite a busy schedule, i.e. going to Greece this week to continue his Research on one of the Museum’s most beloved artworks. I had a class that met in the Louvre’s galleries every week, took a German class in French, learned the custom of applauding the professor at the end of each and every one of his or her lectures (let’s bring this to the U.S., stat), and have been in an extremely encouraging environment when it comes to studying Art History – this is not unlike Hopkins at all, but it’s on a scale that I didn’t know was possible.

In any case, it will definitely be nice to come back to Hopkins for my senior year. I’ve missed the intimate class sizes and challenging discussions, the collaborative nature of classes and getting to express myself intelligibly in my native tongue. It’s been a challenging year in more ways than one at the École du Louvre, but rewarding in every sense of the word. Directly enrolling in a foreign university increases the hurdles of the study aspect of study abroad tenfold, but in the end, it brought about the challenges and the discoveries that I was so eager to have in Paris.

(1. Un iceberg inversé. 2. La plus longue conversation du monde).

As of late, my focus has centered around my calendar like never before. I open up iCal and my eyes graze the month of March. Then I go forward to May with two quick clicks of the mouse and see a date of departure whose existence I still don’t like acknowledging. Six clicks to the left bring me to September, the month when I arrived in France and I realize that, wow, this is really happening. I’m actually here. I press ⌘+T and I’m back to Today; March 10, 2014. It’s unnerving to see each day compartmentalized into its own little box, filled with a list of events and obligations which are then done and over with – on to the next one. My awareness that – at some fixed point – I’ll be leaving Paris has gone from negligible to astute over the last few weeks. From the very beginning I put myself in a mindset that this experience doesn’t have an expiration date, but that way of thinking can’t last forever. Coming to terms with this is, of course, a good thing – with realism comes a certain peace of mind – but seeing these boxes, these singular days, pass by as weeks and as months has me wanting to slow things down.

In my quest for a sense of presentness in this crazy world of iCal, I’ve likewise discovered that I can go back – way back – to the beginning of Hopkins and see what each month; week; day was like.

Freshman fall was incessantly new.

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 11.06.58 PM

I started my Art History and museum studies coursework and quickly realized that a minor in global environmental change actually was not for me. I saw my French skills improving and balanced busy weeks of tests and papers — we’re not talking about the 4-page maximum ones that I had known in high school. I joined SAAB, Relay for Life and the Tutorial Project and started a job at the Baltimore Museum of Art which would come to completely shape my first two years at Hopkins. This particular week I made it to the BMA Late Night, a cool, off-campus trip that really just entailed a quick walk across campus. I met new people, discovered different perspectives, at times doubted myself and even a few choices, but ended the semester feeling, yes, worn-out, but also capable of this new world called college.

Freshman spring I found a stride.

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 11.16.49 PM

I took the second half of my beloved Humanities classes and added on some creative outlets: a class in digital photography and days spent doing crafts with Baltimore elementary students through Art Brigade. I was doing the things I wanted to do with the people I wanted to be with. I was working hard and apparently even had time for a weekend trip to New York. I finished up the year on a high note, finally feeling confident in my decision to attend Hopkins.

Sophomore fall it was time to get serious.

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 11.24.03 PM

Or so I thought. I added a business minor that I would soon discover simply wasn’t for me. I was working harder – according to this particular week – to the extent that I had to schedule “NAPTIME” into my agenda. More excitingly though, I delved into more specialized classes, added an on-campus job and got an internship that would allow me to spend the semester galavanting around Baltimore and its arts scene. I started seeing the city in new ways and my time at Hopkins changed completely thanks to that new perspective.

Sophomore spring I cracked.

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 11.26.47 PM

I took far too many classes while my extracurriculars didn’t provide any relief in my constant search for free time. I struggled in some courses and succeeded in others. I absorbed myself in my work and sacrificed many a weekend night just trying to keep my head above the water. I opened an exhibition and secured an internship for the summer, which is to say that the work ultimately paid off, but at this point I was ready to get away, or more aptly-put, abroad.

And now here I am. My calendar is light on classes and filled with travel plans. First semester there was a gallery job, now there’s a stint as a babysitter. There are good days and days that pass as blurs. There was a fall semester where I’ve never been happier, and then the departure of friends whose time here ended in December, and now I have three weeks of class left, wondering what happened between now and then. As I’m on the plane back, I’ll probably be asking myself the same question on an even greater scale.

I can envision a day, now back at Hopkins for my senior year, when I’m sitting in class; my thoughts will drift back to the past six months and the three to come and my mouse will drift towards iCal, opening up the application. I’ll go who-knows-how-many months backwards and look at my time spent in France. I don’t know if I’ll remember every day or every week. Today I played Obélix with a four-year-old and gave an exposé oral on the Relief dit de Domitius Ahenobarbus at the Louvre. Will I remember that?

My hope is to transition into my final year at Hopkins as the student and the person that I want to be. I’ve seen myself change during my first two years at Hopkins and my third year abroad. It can be tough to reconcile a time in your life that exists in a flux – exhausting, even. But I am where I am right now, today, and I can certainly be happy with that.

2014-03-03 15.33.14

Joseph Kosuth at the Louvre