It’s happening. I’m starting to understand. It’s that dreaded feeling…the knowledge that the end is near. Everyone says to hold onto each moment as it passes because nothing lasts forever. Everyone warns that the end will creep up and take you by surprise. And everyone claims that college will be some of the best years of your life. Well, that’s all the truth, and I’m finally reaching the point in my life when these thoughts have become my everyday reality.
As a soon-to-be graduate, I’m starting to recognize that some mundane aspects of my everyday life at Hopkins are more precious than I’d originally thought them to be. For example, think of how many pages of notes a typical student takes daily on a college campus. We’ve all used pens and pencils since elementary school. We’ve probably written on hundreds of thousands of sheets of notebook paper. However, if I had an active countdown of the number of notebook pages I’m going to write on for the remainder of my academic career, I’m pretty confident I’d be down to double digits right now. As of now, with no plans to go to graduate school, I’m starting to realize that these four classes that I’m currently enrolled in will most likely be the last four classes I ever take in my life.
I’ve loved school since the first day of kindergarten. I vividly remember my first homework assignment in fourth grade—I was so excited to get to it and beyond disappointed when I’d completed it too quickly and had nothing left to do. While I no longer find homework or note-taking to be that enjoyable, it’s still difficult to come to terms with the fact that I may never do either again in an academic setting.
Just last week I found myself frantically taking notes in my film course—a small, 10-person class where students do more listening and speaking than note-taking. My professor was giving a brief history of film in France before WWII, and I sat there writing down every last word, thinking to myself, Come on, Lucie, this is it…learn everything you can before you graduate! In that moment, taking notes seemed so imperative and pleasant, I just couldn’t get myself to stop.
On a similar note, I’ve been working on creating a short news reporter piece for an on-campus news organization called the Charles St. News. In order to film it I needed to borrow cameras and equipment from the Digital Media Center (the DMC), and in order to edit it I needed to brush up on my Final Cut Pro skills. I spoke with a representative at the DMC and—to my surprise—I learned that the DMC offers classes, workshops, and one-on-one private lessons for using all of their equipment. And what’s better? Everything is entirely free for Hopkins students.
For the past week I’ve spent at least two hours a day in the DMC. Some days I’m at a computer working on my personal project, other days I’m utilizing their free online video tutorials and becoming more proficient in Final Cut Pro and other editing programs, and, still, other days I’m having one-on-one lab coach sessions learning how to use their Canon XA10 and DSLR cameras. I know that all of these skills will really come in handy as I apply for post-graduate production positions; I just regret that I wasn’t familiar with the DMC sooner.
As you can probably imagine, senior year feels pretty surreal. There are days when I wish that I could freeze time and be a college student forever. Even though I know I’ve accomplished so much in my four years here and most likely couldn’t have handled more (just ask my friends how busy I was all the time and how many girls’ nights I missed), I still feel like there are tons of things I haven’t even had the chance to dip my toes into yet. That’s just how college is, though; you blink and it’s over. I’ll spend the next few months trying not to blink. Better get those eye drops ready.
Coming to Hopkins next fall? Busy searching through Hopkins Interactive trying to figure out which classes to take? Look no further. I’ve found the class for you.
Creative Improvisation. It may not sound like the right fit. In fact, the course’s title might scare the living daylights out of you. But if the thought of standing up in front of a group of random students makes your heart race, then this class is a must-take.
The class meets for two and half hours just once a week. Professor Peg Denithorne urges students to step out of their comfort zones through team building and partner exercises, pushing them to work with students they’ve never met. She emphasizes that our classroom is a “safe zone” where we can say anything, do anything, and think anything without judgment.
So far we’ve done trust exercises (one person is blindfolded and their partner guides them around campus), team exercises (a group of people guide a blindfolded member of their group through a class-constructed “minefield”), and personal enrichment exercises (students keep an observation journal and share their experiences with the rest of the class).
My favorite part thus far has been the eclectic mix of students I’ve met. Although the course is in the school’s Theater Arts & Studies department, almost every major is represented. My twin sister, Allie, and my friends Liz and Rose are also in the class with me. To give you an idea of the students’ various majors, I’m a Writing Seminars major, Allie studies Economics, Liz, International Studies, and Rose, Biology. Our class is also full of engineers, athletes, students in Greek Life, and more.
Every single person who’s taken Creative Improv will tell you that it’s one of the greatest classes they’ve ever taken at Hopkins. Peg teaches students how to interact with one another, encourages touching and eye contact, and shares relaxation techniques. Her energy inspires students to let go and just be themselves. There is definitely not a certain “type” of student for this class—anything and everyone goes!
The class description might sound silly, but I assure you it’s not. The skills put to the test in Creative Improv are some of the most essential life skills. This course enriches the whole person–a refreshing change from most college courses that teach purely facts and figures. If you’re looking for one fun class to add to a rigorous curriculum, improvise….and improvise creatively. Consider Creative Improvisation!
The Writing Seminars major is amongst the most demanding majors at Hopkins. In addition to thirty distribution credits (credits outside of the humanities department), Writing majors need four semesters of English literature, two semesters in the Department of Philosophy, two semesters in the Department of History, demonstrated competence in a foreign language through the intermediate level, and close to ten classes in the Writing Seminars department. Many students actually shy away from the Writing Seminars department because of the program’s intensive requirements.
Even still, all Hopkins students are required to take some writing intensive courses before graduation. For example, my friend who’s a Biology major (Rose), is currently taking Introduction to Fiction and Poetry to fulfill a writing requirement for graduate school. Naturally, she’s turned to my friend Liza (an English major) and me for help!
I’ve been in her shoes before; although I entered Hopkins as a Neuroscience major, after I officially became a Writing Seminars major, completing my natural science requirements proved a bit more difficult. Having friends like Rose helped me get through it! When I forgot the various lobes of the brain, Rose was there to refresh my memory. When I couldn’t name the “stuff” in a cell’s protoplasm, Monique was there to shout “nucleic acids!”
I was there to explain to Rose that Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” is actually about an abortion, and that “The Lion King” is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Liza, who gets paid to edit students’ papers in the Writing Center, looks over our friends’ work for free, correcting grammar and offering input just because she wants to help.
As a prospective student, I was told that Hopkins students were competitive and entirely unwilling to help others—even their peers. I was told that people gave their friends the wrong assignments, deleted others’ notes, and did anything they could to get ahead. How could that possibly be the case while my friends and I are sitting here reading each other’s assignments, offering to share notes from previous semesters, and supporting one another through rough academic times?
My Hopkins friends have been a better support system than I could have ever asked for. Even beyond my best friends, every Hopkins student I’ve come into contact with—whether it’s through an organization, a class, or just randomly in an elevator somewhere on campus—has been the opposite of competitive. For the prospective or incoming students out there: don’t listen to the rumors! Hopkins students are sympathetic and giving. Yes, everybody here wants to succeed, but that doesn’t mean we’re selfish and unwilling to help; often, teaching others is the best way to teach yourself.
I’ve loved everything about my academic experience at Hopkins, and I can only hope that the real world is as good to me as the Hopkins community has been. Let my final semester begin!
As we roll into 2014 and my final fall semester officially comes to a close, I’d like to share five pieces of advice with incoming freshmen. Leaving home for a new city is strenuous enough. Add tough classes, new faces, and being forced to do your own laundry and you’ll have enough stress to cause hives and severe acne.
I know how it feels to be the one who’s leaving. People throw advice at you left and right—your parents, your friends, your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents…you get the gist. And while you may want to take everyone’s opinion to heart, I’d say the best advice comes from current college students.
I love being part of the Johns Hopkins Class of 2018 group on Facebook because there’s really no better place for incoming freshmen to ask questions. Current students know what’s happening on campus. We all have advice, regrets, and anecdotes to share.
JHU_Lucie’s Top Five Pieces of Advice for Incoming Freshmen
5. Be sure to make friends in different groups. Everyone feels vulnerable going into freshmen year. We all want to fit in, make friends, and define a “space” for ourselves in the social sphere. People naturally break into groups and cliques, and that’s okay. But what’s absolutely essential is having friends in various groups. Whether you have a subset of friends from a club, a sports team, a sorority, or a class, the more the merrier! More friends mean more parties, more laughs, and more “likes” on Facebook (and I mean, come on, what’s more important than a “like” these days?).
4. Take out-of-the-box classes. When perusing the course list, don’t zoom by classes just because they don’t sound like you. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to explore and you have room to stray from your area of study, dive into something new! I’ve found out-of-the-box classes to be the most fun and enriching of all. My twin sister (an avid supporter of my on-stage ventures but the least likely human to ever climb atop a stage on her own volition) pushed herself to take a theater course this past fall. The course’s final exam was a class production where she designed the playbill and even got up on stage for the final number.
3. Audition and try out for clubs even if you’re scared. One of the most frequently asked questions in the Class of 2018 group on Facebook is how competitive the performing arts groups are. I’ll be honest: they are very competitive. Tons of people try out and there are very few spots available (some smaller groups only have room to take two new members each year). Don’t let that discourage you from trying out, though. With no formal musical training whatsoever I auditioned for an a cappella group. I couldn’t read music and did a terrible job holding my own voice part in my audition. My personality clicked with the group, however, and after a couple of rehearsals I had developed a better ear for a cappella. After three years, I became the group’s president—still unable to read music. If you wind up being rejected from all groups, don’t shy away from starting something of your own. This leads me into my next point…
2. Start something and leave your mark. As a freshman, I thought incoming students didn’t know enough about Baltimore. After about a week of being on the Student Admissions Advisory Board (SAAB) and working with admissions counselors on Hopkins Interactive, I pitched and shot the pilot episode for a new video series that I titled “Learn More, See More, B’More.” Prospective students began writing about the series on their college applications, and what was previously a volunteer position became a paid job! I’m hoping the show will carry on in some capacity after I’m gone.
1. Time flies. First semester of freshman year feels the longest—but don’t be fooled, that’s just the adjustment period. Each semester thereafter moves faster and faster until you’re the oldest one in all of your clubs and you’re getting ready to try on your cap and gown. Everybody will tell you that time flies, and guess what? They’re right. You won’t really pay attention to them until the end, but you’ll wish you had. Enjoy every day, every night, every meal, every class, and every seemingly frivolous trip to CharMar.
People like concrete examples. I can’t tell you how often prospective students ask me how my writing courses are run. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked what kind of lab work Hopkins students do or what types of fiction stories we write.
This blog won’t be helpful for everybody, but ATTENTION: prospective Writing Seminars majors and anyone else who’s interested! Below is a writing sample; it’s a fiction story for my Advanced Fiction Workshop with Professor Brad Leithauser. Of course, this is a work in progress—it’s just the first draft. Nonetheless, this eleven page double-spaced story is a classic example of a Writing Seminars major’s workshop assignment. So sit back, relax, grab a cup of coffee, and read a story!
I thought I was going to vomit the moment Margie entered the restaurant; her tall forehead and misshapen ears induced a nausea in me that I had never before experienced, and I pressed my glass of ice water against my wrists to remedy the situation. The restaurant was dark and stuffy—a Manhattan tavern tucked away on a quiet, cobblestone street in the West Village. It was one of those hole-in-the-wall Italian places with carpeted floors and exposed wooden beams on the ceiling; the room was square and lit by a dozen brass candelabra and a single chandelier in the center. The white tablecloths seemed to indicate charm and cleanliness, but, situated at a wobbly table in the back corner, I was beginning to feel smothered and dirty.
Margie looked frazzled and weak. She had spent the day at home, in Westchester, with our two little ones, probably playing jacks or rock tag. She was wearing that dreadful houndstooth dress of hers—the one with the useless buttons on the front that didn’t unfasten—and her oily, black hair seemed to part irregularly, forming an enormous lump on the left side of her head. I stood to greet her and leaned in for a kiss, but she turned away.
“I had garlic for lunch. Pasta with garlic. No kisses, Jim.”
I inhaled as she spoke and, while I couldn’t smell garlic, her breath carried a noxious acridity fused with the unmistakable stench of cigarette smoke. She sat opposite me, stuffed her coat behind her back, and dropped her purse at her feet.
“Have you been smoking?” I said this while examining her nose; it had never looked quite so pointed. Her chin, too. In fact, every part of her face looked angular and sharp.
“I just smoked one. On the platform. The girls made me anxious today,” she explained as she picked at the flaking skin on her cuticles. I cringed, imagining bits of her thumb skin drifting through the musty restaurant air and settling in my scotch or in the olive oil dish. Her fingers were long and skinny, and her bright red nail polish had been on for so long that her nails had grown out and only the top half was still coated with the chipping, faded crimson. “Helen stubbed her toe this morning,” she said.
“Is she alright?”
“Well, of course she’s alright now,” Margie replied, “But she was crying for practically the entire day. And Tessa had a horrible stomachache starting at noon. I gave her crackers and had her drink a glass of ginger ale, but you know how she hates fizzy drinks. Anyway, what are you having to eat?”
The menu was flimsy in every sense of the word. For one, it was paper and had a tear in the right corner. There was an amber stain beneath the word “Florentine” and a spot where a dribble of brown liquid had dried. I had begun scratching at its crustiness when the waitress came over.
“Hello, I’m Caroline and I’ll be taking care of you this evening. Have you had enough time to look over the menu yet?”
Caroline was small and curvy. She looked young—twenty or twenty-one—and she wore her streaky blonde hair in a neat braid that stayed intact on its own without a hair elastic. Her black tank top was bunched at the shoulders and dipped low across her chest revealing a light brown birthmark amidst a palette of smooth, fair skin. Her arms were thick and strong, and her ski slope nose sat quietly on her face. I noticed her breasts almost immediately; they were surprisingly large for her petite frame but she kept them modestly concealed beneath her blouse. She smiled at my wife and me, and—I swear, I don’t know how it could have happened so suddenly, but it did—the crinkle along the edges of her narrow, hazel eyes looked so enchanting, so adorable, that I fell in love with her instantly. I looked at Margie and even she—the way she dragged her finger along the menu and wrinkled her mouth sideways in indecision—looked so agreeable and pleasant in that moment.
“Yes,” Margie said, “I’d like the spinach salad to start and then the mushroom risotto.”
“Yes, ma’am. And how about you, sir?” Caroline turned to me.
“Would you recommend the halibut or the filet steak?”
“I’d go with the halibut, sir,” she said as she leaned towards me and whispered, “The filet is always a little dry.” She winked and stood upright. I caught a whiff of her vanilla perfume and, once again, felt profoundly in love with the girl. It didn’t seem real; the moment felt almost theatrical—staged. I could picture it this way. The table was stage right and my wife sat to my left as I angled myself slightly upstage. The audience couldn’t see my entire face but they could see Caroline’s—full and heart-shaped—as she smacked her lips together and offered me a warm, closed-mouth smile, waiting for my response. I became hyper aware of my actions and thoughts (and of the fact that I was thinking about myself having thoughts), and, when I next spoke, I felt I was delivering lines from a script.
“Well, that was easy. Halibut it is! Oh, and Caroline? Thanks for your honesty.” I shot her a wink in return.
“Jim, you’re allergic to pine nuts,” Margie cut in.
“Pine nuts? Who said anything about pine nuts?” I smiled reassuringly at Caroline. Don’t mind her, I wanted to say. Plain and simply, Margie was a bad reader—always had been. Newspapers, menus, boxes of food. “Hey, Jim,” she’d say, “Did you read this? Twenty-seven people were set on fire in a bank yesterday.” “What?” I’d stand over her shoulder and read the article myself. “Margie, that says ‘twenty-seven people were fired from JP Morgan,’ not set on fire.” When I wanted to make split pea soup with ham, she came home with two tins of canned yams. “Margie, what is this?” “It’s canned ham, for the soup. You can drain it and slice it.” “These are canned yams, Margie.” “Oh. Well, maybe we have some ham in the fridge.” We didn’t.
“It says right here on the menu,” she turned it to face me, “The halibut comes in a sauce that contains pine nuts.”
“That says peanuts, Marg.” I handed over my menu and said, “Thanks, Caroline.”
Margie looked at her copy again before saying, “No it doesn’t! It says pine nuts. Right there!” She handed it to me, keeping her fingernail below the word.
I squinted. The restaurant was very dark. I removed my glasses and rubbed them on my shirtsleeve, then held the menu away from my face. It said pine nuts. “Oh, it does say pine nuts. Huh. Okay. I guess I’ll have the sauce on the side then. Thanks, Caroline.” I started to hand her Margie’s menu.
“I’m very sorry, sir, but the halibut is pre-marinated in that sauce. There’s no way to separate it.”
I felt embarrassed, as if Margie had set the whole thing up—as if she’d paid Caroline to wrinkle the skin around the edges of her eyes, to recommend the one dish with pine nuts in it, to lean towards me chest-first, to push her vanilla scent up my nostrils, to wink at me and get me to fall in love with her. Margie would have gone all out; she’d have chosen the restaurant for its dull lighting, placed us at the smallest table in the corner, given me a paper menu with some brown schmutz on it, and picked Caroline as our server. She’d have done it all so she could mock me later—so she could torment me with my fleeting sight and my inability to impress a young girl. I sighed and said, “I guess I’ll have the filet then.”
Our eleventh wedding anniversary was coming up and I had bought Margie a gold necklace. It sat, tangled, on a plush cotton pad inside a blue box on my lap. I had planned to give it to her at dinner, but I simply couldn’t. Perhaps it was the way she had looked—her disturbingly large forehead or the bags beneath her eyes—or maybe it was the fact that she had kept me from ordering the halibut. Whatever the reason, the box remained on my lap, unopened.
Caroline came back to our table three times throughout the course of the meal, and it was during her second visit that I decided the necklace would be hers; I could almost see it dangling delicately from her neck, its pendant deftly positioned beside her birthmark. I caught one final glimpse of her on our way out, and, as we exited the heated vestibule and were slapped by the harsh December wind, I remember thinking that New York City looked more beautiful than ever that night. The string of Christmas lights inside the Laundromat across the street and the heavy scent of mulled wine in the air produced a sentiment of happiness and carelessness in me that I hadn’t felt since I was a little boy. I spun myself around a lamppost (once again, feeling as though that were the stage direction written in the script) and we took the six to Grand Central.
The golden clock tower in the center of the main concourse was lit up red that night and holly wreaths hung on practically every open surface. Even the beggars looked beautiful—almost sacred—kneeling, heads bowed. The entire city seemed to be zinging with an almost toxic level of affection, and—to think—I’d be back the following morning. I decided I’d stop by the restaurant after work to grab a drink. I’d see Caroline again and I’d smell her again and perhaps I could convince her to come home with me. Not to Westchester, of course, but I could certainly buy out a hotel room for the night. I’d tell Margie that the hedge fund due diligence team at the bank had to work on an overnight project, and Caroline and I would split a bottle of Beychevelle in our white cotton robes. I carried on with this thought as Margie and I rode the Metro North home in silence.
The next day was Friday and the restaurant was a bit more crowded than I hoped it’d be at six o’clock in the evening. I entered the vestibule, removing my gloves and scarf, and glanced impatiently through the glass-paneled doors. Caroline looked more conservative than she had the previous night—she wore a pleated white dress underneath a black shawl-like sweater, and her hair was slicked back in a tight ballet bun. I entered and was taken to a small table in the front.
“Hello, I’m Rick and I’ll be your server. Can I get you something to drink?”
A tall, lanky man of about thirty stood before me. He held one hand stiffly behind his back and grasped his notepad with the other. His eyes were unlevel and separated by far too much space; I could feel him staring at me as I looked hopelessly across the room at Caroline, attempting to map out which tables she covered—I’d be sure to sit at only those tables in the future.
“Yes, I’ll take a scotch on the rocks please,” I said distantly.
I had the necklace in my pocket but this certainly wasn’t the night for that. I finished my drink and went home, vowing to return the following Monday.
The weekend went by slowly; Helen and Tessa had a dance recital on Saturday morning, a book fair on Saturday evening, gymnastics class on Sunday afternoon, and a puppeteering lesson on Sunday night. Margie had signed them up for the lesson, claiming her father had been an excellent puppeteer and would have loved to see the girls follow in his footsteps. On Sunday, after gymnastics, Helen—our nine-year-old—declared that she had an “enormous bellyache from all the flips and turns.” She refused to get in the car for the puppeteering lesson.
“I have to sit still, Mother. If I get in a car I might throw up.”
“Helen Judith, I will get you to that lesson tonight if it’s the last thing I do. Your father and I paid a lot of money for it and we expect you to go.” Margie always found a way to drag me into it.
“No buts! We won’t take no for an answer. Now, put on your jacket and I’ll meet you in the car.”
Margie went for tea at the Balters’ while the girls were at their lesson, so I had the house to myself. I had watched Caroline very carefully on Friday and I knew which tables she waited on. I prepared myself for Monday’s visit; I’d sit at one of her tables (preferably the same table and seat from my date with Margie so that she’d recognize me based on familiar surroundings—it’s scientifically proven) and I’d make a joke about the halibut’s pine nut marinade. We’d flirt briefly and then somehow—the details could be ironed out later—I’d produce the necklace. She’d squeal with delight, her tender, young frame collapsing onto my lap with such fervor.
Monday evening went decently. The corner table from my date with Margie was taken, so I asked to be seated at another of Caroline’s tables. She remembered me.
“Hello, you,” she said, “How are you tonight, sir?”
“Fine, thank you. And how are you on this delightful evening?” Once again, I felt I was reading from a script. I could see the pages in my mind; a majority of the text consisted of stage directions—smile, gesture broadly, take a sip of water—but every so often there’d be a line of dialogue, and no matter how ridiculous, how over-the-top, the language seemed, I felt compelled to say it. I wanted to flip ahead—to see what would come next. I felt I could change my word choices if I knew how Caroline would respond. I tried to do so on numerous occasions but it was impossible; the text remained entirely illegible until I arrived at that moment in real-time. I delivered my lines impeccably, and, despite the dim lighting in the restaurant, the script in my mind sat under the brightest, most clarifying light.
“I’m fine, as well. Can I bring you anything to drink?”
“Why, yes you can. I’d like a scotch on the rocks please. Oh, and what did you say your name was again?” Of course, I knew her name was Caroline. Those eight letters—three mellifluous syllables—had been fixed in my mind since the first time she’d introduced herself. Truthfully, I had just wanted to hear her say it; I wanted to watch as her lips curled around the “R” and her tongue slid between her teeth on the “L.”
“Caroline, sir,” she said, giving me a brief, closed-mouth smile.
“Caroline, right. That’s it—Caroline. A beautiful name.” I felt odd using the word ‘beautiful’ but it was in the script—right there before my eyes. “How old are you, anyway? You can’t be much older than twenty, twenty-one. No?”
“I’m twenty-four, sir,” she replied softly. She looked down and began dragging her right heel along the floor. When I looked closely enough I could see crumbs flying loose and resettling into the carpet. A pink flush arose in irregular splotches across her bridge of her nose and on her cheeks.
“Twenty-four? You’re much too pretty.” I winked, feeling odd once again, but there it was in the script—‘Winks.’
“Ha. Thank you, sir. I’ll be right back with your scotch.”
She dropped my drink off quickly and scurried over to another table with three young children. She squatted and spoke to the little boy, handing him crayons and extra sheets of blank paper. He was taking her away from me; I despised him.
“Goodnight, sir,” she said as she placed the guest check folder on my table. I tried to smile at her—to catch her attention one last time before the night was over. I thought about grabbing her arm and saying, “I got you this necklace.” It sounded so stupid, though—so contrived and immature. Perhaps I’d leave it in the folder; I’d pay with a credit card and that way she’d have to see me again after finding it. “Look behind the card,” I’d whisper, gazing into her hazel eyes.
I couldn’t decide what to do so I went home, figuring I’d return the following day with the necklace once I was a bit more prepared.
Tuesday was shitty; the weather was shitty, my wife looked shitty, and my morning commute was shitty. I had one thing to look forward to. The restaurant was, again, crowded when I entered. I was seated at one of her tables and was settling in when a man approached.
“Hello, sir. I am Alessandro. I be taking your order today. You like a drink?” He was young. Italian.
“Oh, I’m very sorry Alessandro but I believe there’s been a bit of a mix-up. You see, my friend Caroline normally waits on this table. I was hoping to see her.”
“Caroline what? I’m sorry, I new here.” He was quite unattractive—I felt bad for him.
“Oh no, that’s alright. Don’t apologize, please signore.”
He lit up at my Italian and asked me, “Parla italiano?”
“Oh, no. Solo un pò.”
“Oh, well thank you. Grazie. Anyhow, do you know where Caroline is tonight? Is she off?”
“Do I know where is Caroline? I don’t know Caroline, so how can I know where is she?” He cackled unpleasantly but stopped as soon as he caught my expression. “I shall ask somebody. Give me minute.”
The Italian walked off and an older man returned alongside him. I recognized him from my returning visits—I figured he was the owner or the manager.
“Hello, sir. This man tells me you’ve asked for Caroline.” His voice was thick and husky.
“Yes, I have. Is she in tonight?”
“Are you a relative?”
“Me? Oh no, I’m not a relative,” I replied, taken aback. “Just a friend. How come?”
“Well, sir, I’m very sorry for the circumstances under which I come—under which I have to,” he stumbled on his words, “to, to tell you this. But Caroline is no longer with us. Just last evening she was in a terrible accident—taxi cab on the Queensboro Bridge. It flipped or something like that. She was in critical condition until this morning but she…she just didn’t make it.”
I don’t remember too much after that point; I thanked him, left, and puked in the alley out back. Supporting myself against a brick wall, I slapped my coat pockets to find the necklace. It was in my left breast pocket. Caroline. My lovely Caroline with her birthmark and her strong arms and that braid. I had spoken with her just the night before—it’s always weird when somebody dies and you’ve spoken with him or her the night before. She’d been the only person on my mind for days. She’d been getting me through. At home, Margie had begun ignoring me. She said I didn’t help with the dishes and I never volunteered to put the girls to bed. She’d begun intentionally burning my steak and leaving sizeable wrinkles in my clothing. I felt the necklace’s box—its blue, velvety exterior. I couldn’t open it. I puked again and started walking to the six. It almost felt like I was floating—like a puppeteer above was in control and I was just moving, pushed and pulled at the joints by invisible strings. I rode to Grand Central then took the Metro North towards North White Plains. The train was chilly and, as I looked out the window and watched the city gradually fade into the suburbs, I began to feel trapped; I was a delicate pendant on an 18k gold chain inside of a blue velvet box. And whoever was holding me—whatever goddamned asshole had that box in his pocket—had refused to open it. He just sat with his mind racing, trying to conjure up the script that had been so clearly etched in his mind the previous night. But it was over. Through. The final page had been turned. And now, in its place, blackness pervaded—an emptiness darker than any Manhattan tavern in December.
Performance was a huge part of my high school experience; I was the president of my school’s Drama Club, I acted in sixteen shows, and I directed our senior class production of Grease. A new play came along with practically every new academic quarter, and the Drama Club was a very serious commitment; we’d spend hours on end (sometimes until nine or ten at night) rehearsing, blocking, choreographing, and more.
I didn’t go to college for acting—in fact, I went for neuroscience. For those who’ve read my previous blogs (particularly this one), I entered Hopkins as a pre-med neuroscience major hoping to become the next Sanjay Gupta. While I’ve always loved singing and acting, I thought my drama days would come to an end after high school.
During an accepted students event at Hopkins during my senior year of high school, my parents and I attended a performing arts showcase. For two hours, we watched Hopkins’ various dance groups, a cappella groups, and improvisation groups. I remember the Mental Notes very clearly; they sang “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid and I thought they were hilarious and very talented.
The Mental Notes is JHU’s only comedy a cappella group, and, when I watched them perform at the O-show during my freshman orientation, I remembered loving them the year before. I auditioned, and lo-and-behold, I got in! Click here to read my blog about getting in to the Mental Notes. The Mental Notes rehearse a little less frequently than the Scarsdale High School Drama Club (usually for seven hours a week), but any performing arts group is still a huge time commitment; we have one big concert every semester and about five or six other small performances including a potential off-campus tour.
Anyone who’s been in plays will tell you the same thing: there’s no substitute for the feeling that a performer gets before going on stage—the butterflies in your stomach, the shivers running down your neck, the whole shebang. These sensations begin occurring the day before (sometimes the week before) a performance, and they’re absolutely irreplaceable. I started to get these pre-performance jitters just before my first Mental Notes concert at Hopkins, and I instantly remembered why I had felt the need to join a performing arts group.
This past weekend was my second to last Mental Notes concert at Hopkins. My family, my boyfriend, and over two hundred Hopkins students came out, filling up the Bloomberg auditorium until people had to flood the aisles and stand along the back wall. This concert marked my last as the president of the Mental Notes.
My a cappella group has—by far—been the most rewarding experience for me as a college student; I’ve had the unique opportunity to mix two of my favorite things in the world (comedy and singing) all while spending time with some of the most amazing and diverse personalities that Johns Hopkins has to offer. The time has flown by so quickly and it’s pretty unbelievable that I only have one more Mental Notes concert left, but I’m fully dedicated to making it my best concert yet. As the Mental Notes were established in 1994, our next concert (in the spring of 2014) marks the group’s 20th anniversary. I’m looking forward to a huge alumni reunion post-show and a remarkable 20th anniversary concert that will send me and my fellow Mental Notes seniors out with a bang!
Well, this is it. This morning I had the last Writing Seminars pre-registration of my undergraduate career. Pre-registration allows majors to enroll in required courses before the actual registration date to ensure they can complete all their course requirements before graduation. Actual registration is on November 11th, and then it will really hit me.
I love registering for classes. I’ve always loved preparing for a new school year or a new semester. Buying school supplies is one of my favorite activities (I promise I do other fun things, too), and “new notebook” is one of my favorite smells. Organizing my schedule at Hopkins, however, is far and above the best.
My friends and I always look forward to the day when new classes are released online. We read and re-read the course descriptions and energetically send text messages back and forth, trying to convince one another to sign up for the same classes. Building my schedule is like a game to me—I add classes, drop them, and then add them again, moving things around to create the most desirable schedule with the best possible professors.
Beginning a new semester is just as fun; particularly the first week (when the real school work hasn’t yet begun) when it’s all about getting to know your classmates, professors, and course layouts. Many of my friends plan on going to graduate school after Hopkins. I don’t. It still hasn’t hit me that next semester could be my last semester of classes for my entire life. It may be my last time shopping for school supplies, labeling folders, taking notes, and having homework.
While many people might see this as a good thing (and I partially do, as well), I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia. I’ve always loved school. I used to play “school” with my twin sister when we were younger, before we had any real schoolwork to do; we’d switch off being the teacher and the student and we’d prepare class lessons, assign homework, and give presentations. I still vividly remember the first day I was given real homework—I came home with a huge smile on my face and was disappointed when it only took me five minutes to complete.
As scary as it sounds, graduation is just around the corner. I technically have months and months to go, but I’ve done this before—I know how quickly the time flies. In the meantime, I’m getting excited to register for spring classes, even if this is my final go-around. My courses at Hopkins have yet to disappoint me, so I’m really looking forward to the spring!
In previous years, I’ve almost always gone home for Fall Break. For me, a 3-day weekend means time to get away from schoolwork and relax with family. This year, however, was different. The JHU Mental Notes (my comedy a cappella group) went on tour during break; on Friday night an a cappella group from Haverford College came to Hopkins to sing with us, and on Saturday night we traveled to Washington D.C. to sing with an a cappella group from George Washington University.
Although it was this tour that kept me from going home over break, most of my weekend wasn’t consumed by a cappella; tour only took up Friday night and Saturday, but I had all day Friday, and all of Sunday and Monday to hang out in Baltimore!
After class on Friday, some friends and I took a trip to the mall in the Inner Harbor (Harborplace and The Gallery) and got frozen yogurt and manicures (I know, can we get any more girly?). I wanted to get a design on one of my nails but, through a series of mishaps, I wound up getting rhinestones. I guess they look cool…
Before my trip to D.C. on Saturday, I noticed that my iPhone wouldn’t charge. Normally, I’d go to the Apple Store right away, but, as I was leaving for D.C. within the hour (and the charge was rapidly draining from my phone), I had to do without my phone on tour (gasp!) and instead, planned to go to the Genius Bar on Sunday. My friend, Elizabeth, and I made a day out of it! We rode the Collegetown Shuttle (a free shuttle service) from Hopkins to the Towson Mall, and spent five hours enjoying Fall Break. We went to the Apple Store where I got a replacement phone, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at P.F. Chang’s, we got makeovers in Sephora, and we—yes—ate frozen yogurt (once again, I know—girly!).
Time spent on campus (or just in Baltimore) without having classes to attend is invaluable. Fall Break gave my friends and I the chance to explore our city, to ride the Collegetown Shuttle, and to enjoy each other’s company—oh, and frozen yogurt.
September becomes October, 80 degree weather gradually gives way to a wet Baltimore fall, classes start picking up steam, and summertime memories begin to fade. I had an amazing summer in New York City; time spent with my family, friends, and community was invaluable, and my internship at JWT helped guide me on my (ever-so-hopeful) path towards post-Hopkins employment! JWT brought so many different people into my life—people with whom I’ve remained in touch as the weeks and months have begun to slip by.
People often consider summer internship programs to be a set block of time. They wake up early, plow through the work, and go home—repeat for two months. When the summer’s over, it’s “Hello college” and “Goodbye working world.” They leave just as effortlessly as they came, forgetting the names of the coworkers they spent 9+ hours a day with for ten straight weeks. I’ve seen people make this mistake. I’ve watched them breakdown entirely, realizing they failed to take down names and emails, wondering how will I ever get a job now?
I’ve observed these people and I’ve learned from them. At JWT, I created a file with everyone’s name, job title, and email address. I put post-internship reminders in my calendar to reach out to and catch up with my boss, and I wrote down all I possibly could about what I did on a daily basis so that I could properly update my résumé. Lo and behold, about five weeks later, I’m well into my senior year at Hopkins, and—after keeping in touch and being sure to remain at the forefront of my coworkers’ minds—the head of production at JWT reaches out to me and asks if I’m available to do some off-site work for an upcoming shoot and invites me to come back to NYC to work on the set!
I signed a confidentiality agreement with JWT and with Clinton Kelly (so there’s not too much I can share about the actual shoot), but I got to spend the entire day with JWT’s Macy’s team, and even had the chance to meet and take a couple of selfies with Clinton Kelly from TLC’s “What Not to Wear.” As a fashion and lifestyle expert, Clinton answered people’s Twitter questions in a series of short and hilarious YouTube videos (over 30). I’ve embedded my favorite one below.
Summer jobs don’t need to be a 10-week deal. If you do it right, an internship can lead to another internship, freelance work, or even an entry-level job. Senior year has been really strange; I want to focus on my schoolwork, but I know that this is the time to crack down and start figuring out my life. Even though many companies I’d like to apply to don’t begin recruiting until after May, it’s a stress that will be weighing on me for the entirety of the year, as I’m surrounded by tons of others who are in the same boat and many people who already have jobs lined up. All I can do is continue to reach out, remain in touch, and—when the time comes—show them what I’ve got!
Senior year has begun and I’m enrolled in four amazing classes—Advanced Fiction, Intermediate Poetry, Subatomic World, and Trauma in Theory, Film, and Fiction. Deciding which courses to take can be tough; many students spend weeks at the beginning of a new school year adding and dropping classes after realizing that the course material doesn’t fit their interests or that they need different credits for their major.
My trauma course has, thus far, been one of the most fascinating classes I’ve taken at Hopkins. Our professor, Ruth Leys, seeks to break down the representation of trauma in literary theory, psychiatry, and more. The class primarily focuses on the traumatic events of WWII in Nazi Germany, but Professor Leys makes sure to keep the course material open-ended and easily digestible. Professor Leys was my Animal Minds professor in the spring of my sophomore year, and I definitely made the right move by enrolling in another one of her classes. She’s so passionate about education, and her genuine interest in the subjects she teaches really inspires her students.
Recently, my friends and I spoke about our favorite classes at Hopkins, and I decided to share some of their quotes with you! Current students: keep these classes in mind for your future at Hopkins. Prospective students and incoming freshmen: I hope that some of these classes and professors inspire you to come visit Hopkins to learn more about this amazing academic institution!Musical Theater from Aristophanes to Leonard Bernstein
“I joined this class two weeks late after dropping another class, and professor Susan Weiss welcomed me in warmly. She and I got coffee before I joined the class, and I could tell right away how passionate and inspirational she was. The final project is a production put on by the entire class—some students are going to sing, others will play instruments, and I hope to work on the set design. After telling Professor Weiss that my father works in the music business, she invited him to come in and speak to our class!”
–Allie Fink, Class of 2014
Classics of Art Criticism
“This fall, I look forward to Tuesdays and class with Professor Michael Fried. He’s telling us about the great art critics—Denis Diderot, Charles Baudelaire, Roger Fry and Clement Greenberg—and he’s also teaching us how to think. It’s a thrilling experience, sitting in a seminar room with the man who reconstituted our definitions of modern art. Professor Fried also writes poetry and contributes to and edits the cultural engine nonsite.org. He’s a humanist in every sense of the word, and his passionate command of Western culture inspires me completely.”
–Liza McIntosh, Class of 2014
Contemporary International Politics
“My favorite class that I’ve taken at Hopkins was Contemporary International Politics (CIP) with Steven David. Even though I took this fall of my freshman year, I have yet to find another class that I love quite so much. The incredible thing about Hopkins is that you are not only surrounded by such smart people but by truly passionate people, as well. Professor David’s love, passion, and knowledge for the subject made me—someone who is usually counting down the clock—not want the class to end.”
–Liz Mauer, Class of 2014
Structure of the Nervous System
“This upper level neuroscience class is taught at the medical school and mimics the neuroscience curriculum taught to the medical students at JHMI. Despite the level of difficulty of the class, it was one of my favorite courses at Hopkins and was one of the most dynamic, interactive learning environments that I’ve ever had the chance to be a part of. Even though it was the first time this class was taught, the fear of how we would be tested was easily overcome by how easily digestible the professor made the material. Also, Dr. Hendry has been one of my favorite professors for all four years, and I was glad that my capstone neuroscience class was taught by him.”
–Joseph Nugent, Class of 2013
Baltimore and The Wire
“My favorite class at Hopkins is Baltimore and The Wire, taught by one of the smartest professors at Hopkins, Dr. Beilenson. The Wire deals directly with the public health issues in the city of Baltimore and how politicians and public policy workers try to solve drug and crime related problems in the city. We’ve had several key political figures and famous actors come speak to the class. After taking this class, I was encouraged, along with several classmates, to start a tutoring/mentoring program at a local Baltimore high school.”
–Daniel Corbett, Class of 2014
My friends quoted above are studying everything from International Relations to Neuroscience, and from Economics to Art History. A common theme in all of our conversations was how smart their professors are, and how passionate he/she is about the subject material. I can’t tell you how many people claimed that their professor is “the smartest professor at Hopkins.”
Hopkins students love to learn. Do we love to learn so much because our professors are so amazing, or do we find our professors so amazing because we love to learn? I guess we’ll never know. Either way, Hopkins professors are obviously doing something right! I’m so proud to be part of a university where students and faculty get along this wonderfully.