As my time at Hopkins wraps up and I enter my final month on the Homewood campus, I’ve been thinking about how much has changed since I arrived here nearly four years ago. While many things about me are different–I’m better dressed (I hope), have added a few piercings, about a foot of hair, and innumerable amazing experiences–I think the most striking thing is how much my dreams and plans have changed since I stepped foot on this campus in September 2008.
When I arrived here as a bright-eyed freshman, my biggest dream was to grow up to be Meredith Grey. I wanted to wear scrubs, I wanted to be a doctor. I was more sure of this than I had been of anything in my entire life. When I registered for classes my freshman year, I signed up for Chemistry, Calculus, and a lab. Right around Thanksgiving break my plans came crashing down. I’d been diligently plugging away at my pre-med curriculum all semester but not enjoying it in the slightest. I dreaded donning my closed-toes shoes and descending into the basement of Mergenthaler Hall for Chemistry Lab every Tuesday. I dragged my feet studying for my tests, and simply couldn’t picture four more years of this. After a mild crisis on the phone with my parents, I decided to take a break from pre-med, maybe permanently. The problem was, though, I had no idea what else I was interested in.
So I gave myself a semester of breathing room. I took English classes, Econ classes, finished up IFP, and bounced around a few academic departments. I joined a sorority, tutored in a local high school, befriended my future roommate, and generally tried to stop thinking about what I wanted to study. That summer, I worked in London for a boutique consulting firm that focused on helping women re-enter the workforce after having children. I liked it, but it didn’t help me figure anything out.
I arrived back on campus for my sophomore year relaxed and refreshed, ready to find out exactly what it was I wanted to devote my time to at Hopkins. After a few weeks of school I cruised into the office of Public Health and everything changed. I met Professor Goodyear and Dr Folda. I learned about Bloomberg, about studying abroad, about research, and concentrations.
Though I know advisors are assigned alphabetically, I can’t help but think that I found my lovely advisor by fate. Dr Folda I have connected over running, a mutual love of travel, and Africa. Her positivity and dose of perspective have helped me through stressful job applications, a difficult semester, and three years of Public Health. She is perceptive, helpful, and understanding, as happy to chat about job crises as registration for classes. She is wonderfully focused on academics for the sake of enjoyment, rather than accomplishment, and wisely asked me why exactly I was double minoring (I no longer am).
While I was studying abroad in Cape Town, she was there to set up Hopkins’ new Public Health program at UCT. We met up for coffee and chatted for hours. She talked about her time with the Peace Corps in Madagascar, and I talked about how I already knew I would have to find a way to come back to South Africa. My roommates abroad were stymied that I would have spent hours chatting with a professor…from college…while in Africa. It made sense to me, though, and when I came back to the States in November she knew exactly what I was going through. When I return to Lesotho this summer, I’ll be swinging back through Cape Town and Dr Folda has been kind enough to offer up the spare bedroom in her house.
When I started taking classes at Bloomberg, Professor Farzadegan, who teaches Epidemiology of HIV, sat me down after class one day and chatted to me about research in his lab. He told me to consider a post-bac, or a PhD. We spoke about MBA-MPH programs, and what I might want to do after McKinsey. If I wasn’t going to Lesotho this summer I’d be working in his lab. He helped me think about what I wanted to do while in Africa, offered advice, perspective, and contacts.
Four years ago, I wanted to be a doctor. Today I’m not sure that I know anymore what I want to be “when I grow up” but I know I have an amazing few years ahead of me, full of options I didn’t even know existed when I arrived on the Homewood Campus. Hopkins gave me the gift of options.
In the most material sense, I would not be going to Lesotho without Hopkins. I received a very generous fellowship from the university to fund my work with the Clinton Foundation, without which my adventures would not be possible. More importantly, though, without the professors and mentors I’ve had at Hopkins I never would have thought to postpone my start with McKinsey. They forced me to take a step back, consider my options, and seek the amazing opportunities I couldn’t even see for myself.
If you come here, if you keep an open mind, if you seek out the professors, and clubs, and classes that this place has to offer, you will undoubtedly leave here immensely changed. You will leave knowing what you are passionate about, knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, and having achieved so much. The next phase of my life is a little scary, and incredibly unsure, but I know that leaving from Hopkins I have everything I need to make the best of it. I’m a little terrified to take on this adventure in Africa, but I know I’m as prepared as I could possibly be, in large part because of Hopkins.
So if you’re asking yourself “Why Hopkins?” let me tell you.
Why Hopkins? For the best undergraduate research institution in the country. For jobs, for internships, for eye opening experiences. For the chance to travel the world, for the chance to see another side of the world right here in Baltimore. For every experience within reach, for being able to find what you love, and being able to do it.
Happy decision making!