This blog marks my final entry for Hopkins Interactive. A little under four years ago I applied to the Student Admissions Advisory Board to chronicle my time as a student at Hopkins and now, seated on the hardwood floors of my house, devoid of furniture in the midst of moving out, I feel just as I did when I first arrived at this university: excited, overwhelmed, baffled, and still a bit naïve. One thing certainly has changed though—I’m now a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University. Picking up my diploma over a week ago was one of the most fulfilling moments in recent memory. I’ve dreamt about holding that piece of paper in my hands for years and knowing, finally knowing that I had successfully finished a trying undergraduate career.
I was most eager to see three words printed on the diploma as I eagerly pulled it from its envelope alongside a group of friends. I couldn’t help but smile as I read the words History of Art in a feigned caligraphic typeface. It’s a field that I’ve wanted to pursue since high school and now here I am. I’ve taken unbelievably formative courses with renowned faculty members and discovered artworks and artists and movements and ideas that complement how we understand the world and ourselves. I’ve studied at a school of art history in Paris and for the first time in my life saw the world from a totally new perspective. I’ve curated exhibitions, worked with artists, and written about the field. Hopkins and Baltimore equally enabled me to explore a discipline that I hold incredibly close to my heart, and my diploma commemorates four years of chasing a dream—curating—and an area—contemporary art—that I love.
A few hours before obtaining that glorious piece of paper (and subsequently refusing to let anyone else touch it), I was seated on the lacrosse field with ten fellow art history majors at commencement. Bookending our collective anticipation of walking across the stage, I saw my friends take the handful of paces that symbolically transformed them into college graduates. In these few seconds of glory—names announced, hands shook, blissful victors projected onto screens beside the stage—it hit me just how much we had been through as students at Hopkins. As one friend crossed the platform, I couldn’t help but remember his enormous academic achievements, his infectious enthusiasm, his honesty to himself and to others, and the countless memories that we shared this past year. As another had her name announced, I swelled with pride as I saw her dream to study in the United States finally achieved. This was made all the more meaningful by flashes of the times when we confided in one another about our fears and challenges; when we celebrated each other’s accomplishments; and when we realized that we had found a best friend in the other. As the wind and rain continued to chill the attendees of the ceremony, I was warmed by the sight of another friend traversing the stage and remembered how much she had grown, how tirelessly she had worked in pursuit of improving as a writer, and how often her unrivaled positivity reminded me that everything would be okay. And everything was okay. We had made it. We really, truly made it.
College is no cakewalk, but at Hopkins I’ve seen just how painfully true that can be. We’ve struggled, we’ve doubted, we’ve wavered, and we’ve fought to be where we are today. But along the way, tremendous things have taken place. My friends—a small fragment of the entire Hopkins community—have achieved incredible things, persevered, found a reason to keep going, to try harder, to do better, and we did it together. The sense of community that I’ve found at this school is something that I’ll never forget and ever more so, the sense of pure, unbridled pride that comes with graduation is so profound that I can only smile when I think about these past four years. Hopkins has pushed us but we pushed right back and now, finally, we’ve earned the right to call ourselves alumni of this university.
I don’t yet have the words to describe how it will feel saying goodbye to the last of my friends, headed toward unfathomable adventures and beyond impressive jobs. Instead, I want to close on a quick anecdote that I’ve yet to share on this blog.
In the interest of being candid (as I hope this blog has itself proven over the years), I’ll admit that it took me a while to finally be happy at Hopkins. If we’re being completely honest, it wasn’t until I returned from France for my senior year that I began to feel that I had made the right choice. My freshman year I was constantly reminded of what-could-have-been by one of my dream schools just two miles down the road. I couldn’t shake the draw of its creative energy and had many moments when I thought that I would transfer. But I stayed. My sophomore year I became increasingly critical of Hopkins to the point where complaining and pointing out flaws seemed like a productive use of head space. I went abroad for my junior year, in part, because I needed a break from this school, but what I ended up discovering was the tried and true value of being happy with yourself. When I returned as such, all of the petty issues that had overwhelmed my mind and conversations felt drastically insignificant. Instead, I surrounded myself with positive and fun-loving people, delved into a thesis and an exhibition, and embraced the sheer chance that brought me to such an incredible city. If you’re willing to give this university a chance, to open yourself up to all that it might offer you, then four years later there’s no telling just how smart, successful, and (dare I say it) happy you might become.
Hopkins isn’t perfect. Every university has its kinks, and ours is no exception. But as I reflect on this place and all that it’s given me, I know that the pros outweigh the cons. I’m a better person because of Hopkins and I owe so much to the professors and the friends and the mentors who made my college years so meaningful.
Writing this final post, much like the act of saying farewell to college, feels at once tragically cataclysmic and curiously mundane. I haven’t been able to fully wrap my head around what this end might indicate, nor do I really want to. Perhaps this numbness will wear off at a moment’s notice, but I feel okay with all of the change on the horizon. My plan for the moment is to stay in Baltimore and for once enjoy life at the pace of my own choosing. I hope to continue curating exhibitions and writing essays and reviews and I feel that the energy of this city encourages and allows me to do just that.
I could keep going but I suppose I’ll stop here. I could craft together a list of thank you’s, but I think those of you who helped make these four years so incredible know who you are. College has been real and I’ll definitely miss it, but life goes on. Time for what’s next—peace.