Semester Obsession: My Planner

The love of my life.

A few of the bloggers for Hopkins Interactive have dedicated their most recent posts to discussing their “Semester Obsessions,” and I have decided to do the same. While brainstorming this blog, I thought about discussing how much I love snoods, which as JHU_Nick knows, are the fashion accessory of the season. I contemplated talking about how much I love Tamber’s Chicken Tikki Masalas, Ryan Gosling or any YouTube video that is remotely feline-related. But instead, even though it might be a little lame, I have decided to talk about the one item that I truly could not live without, my planner.

As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, one of my favorite aspects about Hopkins is how easy it is to get involved on campus because of the intimate nature of the Homewood community. For that reason my days are always chock-full of exciting events, which is why my planner is so crucial. Without it, there is no way I would remember to go to all of my activities, or hand in all of my assignments. A typical week in my planner read like this:

–       Sunday: 6PM – Alpha Phi New Member Meeting, 8PM: Alpha Phi Chapter Meeting

–       Monday: 12PM – Academic Advising Meeting, 1pm – Work in Admissions, 6PM – SAAB

–       Tuesday: History Seminar Paper #2 due, Victorians Paper #1 due, 10AM – Work in Admissions

–       Wednesday: 5PM – Tour Guide meeting

–       Thursday: 10AM – Work in Admissions, Oceans and Atmospheres Exam

–       Friday: 3PM – Girl Scout Troop Meeting, 9PM – Alpha Phi Casino Night

–       Saturday: 9AM – Prospective Student Fall Open House

Whenever younger relatives or friends ask for college-advice, I always respond in the same way: stay organized and learn time-management. For the first time since pre-k, you aren’t required to be in school for eight hours a day. Though this is an extraordinary increase in free time, you can easily squander it if you don’t find a way to budget your time.

No better Christmas gift than this.

On my campus tours, prospective students often question how JHU students are able to be so active. Yes Hopkins is extremely challenging, and yes this is the hardest I have worked in my life, but thanks to effective time-management, I am getting more sleep than I ever did in high school, and maintain my high level of on-campus involvement. Creating schedules allows you to achieve everything you want in a given week, while still allowing time for relaxation and fun!

I start each semester by writing in every major assignment in my planner, and highlighting it in orange. This way I know which weeks are especially busy and which assignments I need to get a head start on. Next, I write in all my meetings and events for the semester and highlight them in pink. For instance, I know that SAAB always meets on Mondays at 6PM and Girl Scouts always at 3PM on Fridays, so those automatically go in the planner. Finally, I create a Sticky Note on the Desktop of my computer each week outlining the particular events I’m attending and assignments I’m handing in for the next seven days.

So while this might seem aggressive to you, to have your calendar color-coordinated or your weeks planned by the hour, trust me, having some level of organization or structure to your routine is definitely a necessity to make the most of your college experience. And the Johns Hopkins planner from the Barnes and Noble School store comes with my highest recommendation!

One Fine Day: JHU_Tess’ Microblog of a Monday

7:00AM: I wake up to Collin Firth’s face…. on my TV screen. Not such a bad way to start off the day! Apparently I had fallen asleep last night while watching the classic “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” causing Collin’s face to be frozen on the screen. Considering always keeping it like that…

Too bad there's already a Mrs. Collin Firth...

7:30AM: Having recently discovered that I am most productive in the morning, I take out the essay on narrative literature in Ancient Egypt that I had been struggling over last night. I add the last couple sentences into my conclusion and happily put it away until the weekend. Thankfully it isn’t due until next Monday so I can spend the weekend doing edits.

8AM: Shower time. I hook my iPod up to the speakers I’ve placed on my bathroom counter and happily sing along to this interesting combination of jams:

  • Body Language (feat. T-Pain) – Jesse McCartney
  • Mr. Brightside – The Killers
  • Ride Wit Me – Nelly
  • Uptown Girl – Billy Joel
  • Whatever You Like – T.I.
  • Otis (feat. Otis Redding) – Kanye West and JAY Z
  • Sherry – Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons
  • Toxic – Britney Spears

Who doesn't love some T.I. first thing in the morning??

8:45AM: Time for the breakfast of champions: instant oatmeal mixed with granola and milk. Nom nom nom.

Aren't my dishes precious??

9:50AM: I head off to class and run into JHU_Zoe! We walk together, and talk about our family visiting – my little brother Simon is coming this weekend and I am soooo excited.

10AM: I enter Hodson Hall and head to my first class of the day, Introduction to the European Union. It’s an extremely topical class, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Today we are talking about policymaking, specifically the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

One of my favorite things about JHU: all the buildings are uniform and designed in this Federal brick style of architecture - so beautiful!!

10:37AM: My teacher just said that it is required by German LAW that every pig is looked at for 20 seconds a day…. Apparently it leads to happy and healthier pigs, so they instated this policy nicknamed the “Cuddle Law.”

10:41AM: I wish it were a US federal law that every person must cuddle for at least 20 seconds a day….

10:50AM: Time to head off to my next class, Ancient Egyptian Civilizations.

11AM: Today we’re skyping with a curator from the Cairo Museum in Egypt. SO FRICKIN COOL!!

11:34AM: My stomach grumbles loudly in class. Awkward….

11:50AM: Lunch time FINALLY!! I head to CharMar (Charles Street Market) to get one of my favorite lunches – spicy California roll sushi with Utz potato chips and a Diet Coke. YUM.

Charles Street Market aka CharMar!

1PM: Time for work! I work about ten or eleven hours a week in the Admissions office working for one of the directors, Admissions Daniel (hi Daniel!!). Today I am finalizing the last details of a new project that we’ve have been working on for the past two months. It’s a new page of Hopkins Interactive that compiles all the information we publish in a given month called “This Month @ Hopkins Interactive.”

3:34PM: JHU_Nick and JHU_Joe (who both also work for Daniel) are pretending they’re speaking with walkie-talkies to annoy me.

Me and Nick at work!

3:35PM: It’s working….



4:48PM: Time to call parents so they can give me lots of compliments on TM@HI.

4:58PM: Now I am heading off to a meeting for the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Tonight, the senior fellows are going to be present their projects so far, and give the younger fellows advice. Best part of being a Wilson Fellow? All our meetings are catered.

4:59PM: Wondering what’s for dinner…

5PM: Yesssss. Indian food. I love Nom-vember.

5:15PM: Time for seconds.

5:34PM: Time for thirds.

5:45PM: So cool!! I just heard a senior present on his project which is a multi-media novel that is going to be published on some sort of tablet app like an iPad application!

6PM: Back to Mason Hall for our SAAB meeting. We discuss the new cover design for the 2012 edition of the “Insider’s Guide,” as well as recruiting students to write Academic Blogs so we have a blog written describing every major at Hopkins! No wonder we’re the #1 university for social media.

JHU_Ruthie enjoying a SAAB meeting.

6:47PM: Meet with the SAAB committee I head, Features. We discuss which events we want to be covered for the November edition of “This Month @ Hopkins Interactive” and brainstorm ideas for a new video series called “Hopkins Defined.” Stay tuned for more about this AWESOME new project!

7PM: I head back to my dorm, Charles Commons (it’s like living in a hotel!!!).

Hands down best dorm on campus.

7:45PM: I meet up with my friend Dana, and we head over to the “Meet the Sisters Movie-Night” that our sorority, Alpha Phi, is having.

Me and Dana ΑΦ ♥!

8PM: EXCELLENT – we are watching “The House Bunny” which I have been dyingggg to see.

8:07PM: Wait this movie is hilarious.

8:27PM: Shelly: They’re kicking me out of the Playboy Mansion? 

Marvin: Maybe it’s because of your age.

Shelly: But I’m 27!

Marvin: But that’s 59 in Bunny Years.

Hahahahaha I love this.

9:45PM: Head to the MSE Library to pick up two books I have requested to loan from other libraries for my upcoming history research paper on the contentions between internationalism and nationalism at the 1908 Olympics. I met with one of the research librarians at MSE, and she helped me find all of these AMAZING primary sources. Everyone should take more use of the fantastic resource that are librarians!!!

MSE Library!

10PM: Finishing up the last chapters The Sea Captain’s Wife for my Undergraduate History Seminar class tomorrow. This class is required for history majors, and is one of my favorite courses of the semester. It runs for a full-year and is designed to teach history majors how to write a research paper of publishable quality. The entire second half of the class is devoted to personal research, concluding in a thirty-page thesis – SCARY!!

11:15PM: Yes I am a huge baby and need to go to sleep this early….. nighty night!

Enough about me, let’s talk about me: Meet JHU_Tess

For the next couple days, each blogger of Hopkins Interactive will be sharing their thoughts on the Hopkins experience, following the significant milestone of the acceptances for the new Johns Hopkins University class of 2015. Hope you enjoy!

The first day of Hopkins with my friend Merrill.

Get to Know JHU_Tess:

  1. Birthplace and current hometown: New York City, NY and Ridgewood, NJ.
  2. Major: History
  3. When I grow up I want to…: work in the publishing industry – either magazines or children’s books
  4. Favorite place to eat in Baltimore: is most definitely Tamber’s, which is a cross between a diner and Indian restaurant (check out the picture of my favorite meal there).

    Aftermath of my favorite meal - stuffed nan, vegetable pakora and chicken tikka masala. (Photo courtesy of Chewbaccannie)

  5. Favorite spot on the Homewood Campus: is B-level of the library.
  6. Favorite TV show: 30 Rock – Liz Lemon is my idol.
  7. Favorite color: Green
  8. Favorite sports team: Yankees or Knicks.

My Hopkins Experience:

  1. When did you know Hopkins was right for you?

    Alpha Phi Pham! I'm on the right with my Big, Annie!

    I fell in love with campus in late December of my senior year, and after working feverishly on it the second I got home; I sent my application in 24 hours later. When I was accepted and given the Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship, I was 99.9% sure that I wanted to go, but I wanted to visit Homewood one more time before I made the commitment. Being on campus for Accepted Students’ Day made me one hundred and fifty percent sure that this was the place for me and so I placed my deposit that very afternoon (and took a lengthy trip to our school bookstore).

  2. What is one thing that would surprise your friends/family about Hopkins?

    My family/friends would NOT be surprised over the state of my dorm room.

    I think my family/friends would be surprised that Hopkins is not just for pre-meds – actually the undergraduates are 1/3 social sciences/humanities, 1/3 engineering and 1/3 natural sciences. I think they would also be surprised about how safe campus is – Homewood was actually voted one of the safest campuses in the US!

  3. If you were the University President, what is the first thing you would do or change? If I were University President, I would probably install a Jamba Juice in one of our student unions. Jamba Juice could possibly be one of my favorite places in the world and I honestly believe it is a crime that Baltimore does not have a single one.
  4. If you could go back and choose your college again, would you pick Hopkins? Why? If I could go back again, I would not only pick Hopkins, but also apply Early Decision. There has been not one moment since arriving on campus that I have questioned or regretted my decision to come here. I love being in a city, but having the feel of a campus environment. I love my amazing friends and can’t even begin to imagine life without them. I love all of my professors and classes, even when the late nights they keep me busy in the library. I love all the opportunities and resources available on campus, and how easy it is to become involved.
  5. What was your perception about Hopkins before enrolling and how has it changed since then? One of my biggest concerns prior to coming to Hopkins was the workload. I was worried that I would be incredibly overwhelmed and would not be able to keep up with my homework. I have pleasantly found that is not the case at all. While I do have a lot of work, it is a completely manageable amount as long as you organize your time well. I love being involved on campus, and it is really easy to do so if you budget your time well.
  6. What is/was your favorite class?

    In Toledo with my Big, Annie, E.Diddy and Joel - my favorite people from my Intersession class!

    My favorite class that I have taken so far was the class I took over Intersession, Perspectives on the History and Culture of Spain. The amazing thing about this class was that it was taught IN Madrid so I got to spend three weeks this January (for credit!) in Spain. What I really loved was the structure of the course – we had discussion/lecture in the mornings, then we would break for lunch, and then in the afternoons we would actually get to see what we had spent the morning learning about. In addition to this fabulous learning environment, I also met some amazing people on the trip – check out the picture of me, Annie, Joel and E.Diddy!

  7. Describe your funniest memory or experience at Hopkins.

    Me and Steph - May 17th babies!

    I don’t think this really counts as a “ha ha” funny story, but it is one of my favorites since I have been at Hopkins. During Orientation, there is an event called “Play Fair” where all freshmen go to the Rec Center and do crazy icebreakers and get-to-know-you activities. When trying to persuade us to go, our RA’s said things like “I met some of my closest friends at Play Fair!” which of course I did not believe. However I went anyways, and low and behold, I met my best friend Steph. One of the activities was to try to find someone in the freshman class that has your same birthday, and as it turns out, Steph and I are both May 17th babies. It was such a random meeting, but something just clicked and we’ve been bffles ever since.

  8. How would your college experience be different if you hadn’t chosen Hopkins?

    One person I could NOT live without - Colleen Joanie (CJ).

    A part from not knowing all of the amazing people I have met since coming to Hopkins, if I had gone to another university, I don’t think I would be as involved on campus as I am at Hopkins. One of the things I love about Hopkins is how passionate the students are about their activities, so it is so easy to find things to do on campus. I have already studied abroad and received funding for research and I don’t think many other institutions offer such amazing opportunities to freshman.

  9. What has been your greatest contribution during your time at Hopkins, or what do you hope to accomplish before graduation? It is hard to say that I have had a greatest accomplishment so far, although I

    Pumping gas for the first time - in NJ it is illegal to pump your own!

    was very proud of myself for pumping gas for the first time. However, I hope that I will study abroad for a semester, successfully complete my Wilson Fellowship, intern at a publishing house and learn how to cook something that didn’t come from a box.

  10. What advice would you give to a high school senior choosing their college? I would tell them that if possible, physically visit the schools that accepted you. My opinions of places were drastically different once I was actually on campus. Also, don’t believe the rumors you hear – visit campus so you can actually see for yourself. I just wrote a blog you check out here about all the myths about Hopkins!







How Hopkins Happened

For the next couple of weeks, all of the Hopkins Interactive bloggers will be writing on a common theme:  our thoughts and reflections on the college application process.  We’ve all been exactly where you are now and hope that sharing our experiences will help you through this momentous (but challenging!) time in your life.

Graduation with my bestest friends Keara, Kendall, Laura, Hannah and Emily!

It is funny to think that a year ago today, I had visited twenty-six colleges – but Hopkins was not one of them. How I ended up here – at the very last school I visited – is largely thanks to my mother and a bit of divine intervention.

Like many prospective students, I really had no idea what I wanted in a college when I started the whole search process. Urban or rural campus? East or west coast? Tiny liberal arts college or giant university? I had no clue – so, I made my mom and three brothers visit them all!

Although I could not articulate exactly what kind of school I was looking for, I knew I would know it when I saw it. I remember in one of our many dinnertime discussions about college, my mother tried to tease out some definitive answers about what I was maybe looking for. The only concrete answer I could give her, was that I wanted all the buildings on campus to match. Needless to say she was not impressed with my superficial response.

Me and my amazing mom.

And so my amazing, supportive family packed up our tan suburban with Lunchables and Gatorade, and criss-crossed the nation in search of my dream school. I cannot even imagine how my mom managed to drive those incredible distances, and how my brothers sat through information session after information session. And in visiting all those schools, I eventually figured out what I didn’t want in a school – which in turn led to finding I did want.

By December 2009, my list was down to six schools and had sent in all the applications.  The list seemed a bit short, but it seemed pointless to apply someplace I knew I would never go – and those six were it.

While I was VERY tired of the application process and wanted just to be done, my mom insisted that I apply to just ONE more school. After many eye rolls and temper tantrums on my part, I agreed to send out one more application for a total of seven. But the problem was – I had nowhere else I wanted to apply.

And then my mom suggested Hopkins. Being the obstinate child I am, I immediately vetoed the idea. “It’s only for people who want to go to med school – I would never leave the library – they probably don’t even have a history department” were just a few of the reasons I felt JHU could never be the school for me.

But eventually I decided to placate her, and agreed to visit Homewood in exchange for missing a day of school and the promise of a delicious meal in Baltimore (funny I had to be bribed here, right?). And on December 23 – the day before my winter break started, we piled into the suburban for one last college road trip.

Mexico with my favorite cousins after graduation.

All it took was that one day on campus and I was sold.  I fell in love with Hopkins. The weather was cold and dreary, but it did not matter. To me, Homewood was the most beautiful campus I had seen so far. And all my previous misconceptions about the school were dispelled by the remarkable day the Admissions office provided us with. At the information session, I learned how the university really supported undergraduate research, something that was especially important to me. On the tour, I learned of all the amazing activities to participate in, and events to attend here in Baltimore. I left campus that day itching to get home to NJ to send in my application to Hopkins.

And so I worked feverishly on my application, fueled by my excitement from the visit, and sent in my application to Hopkins the very next day. All that was left to do was wait.

And then it came. I was at the corner of Lincoln and Bellair Avenues, in the passenger seat of my best friend Nina’s car, jamming out to Bedrock or whatever song was on the radio, when I got THE email. I screamed so hard it is a miracle Nina didn’t crash. That forever will be one of the happiest moments of my life.

However, as excited as I was, I was not totally set on coming to Hopkins at that point. I had narrowed it down to top two, but being the incredibly indecisive person that I am could not commit. I then received the Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship, which made me 99.9% sure I would be a Blue-Jay next year, but decided I needed to attend Admitted Students’ Day just to be sure.

With Laura at the greatest museum ever.

Admitted Students’ Day exceeded my expectations, and then some. Every piece of information I gathered convinced me more and more that I had found my dream school. I made my mom go over to the Admissions Office that very day and pay my deposit, and then raided the school store. I left Baltimore decked out in blue and black, more excited than when I heard the Spice Girls were making a reunion tour.

Now that I am here, I have never doubted my decision to come here, not even for a moment. Yes there are times I miss home, especially my cats Jane and Charlotte, but I am so happy and busy with my life here that it is hard to be nostalgic for too long.

I know you prospective freshman are in the midst of the college admissions process, and might not think that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I promise you, there is one. It might not seem this way right now, but everything happens for a reason (any LOST/John Locke fans out there?) and you will end up at the school meant for you.

And so I will condense this long-winded blog with these pieces of advice:

  1. Listen to your parents. I know you’ve had eighteen years of them telling you what to do, and you have had enough, but trust me – don’t tune them out just yet. Though it is very hard for me to admit this, my mom more often than not is right or at the very least, onto a good idea. She was the force pushing me to consider Hopkins, and I am just thankful I was not stubborn enough to ignore her. Basically, don’t immediately reject your parents’ opinions, they’re smarter than they seem.
  2. Visit the school’s campus. I realize that it is hard finding the time to visit schools, or that you might live in an area that makes that impossible, but if you can, reallllly make the effort to see the school in person. Schools I loved on paper, I hated in person, and schools I thought I would hate, I loved in person (i.e. Hopkins).
  3. Get your essays done early. This piece of advice does not really apply to you current seniors, but for other students – write your essays the summer before senior year! Senior year is stressful enough with your schoolwork and extracurriculars, do yourself a favor and lighten the burden of first semester and get those essays done with early. Trust me, they are not as bad as everyone makes them out to be. Just sit down and write what you know.
  4. Don’t believe everything you hear. If this blog has taught you nothing else, take away this. Not all rumors about schools are true – give a school the benefit of the doubt and don’t make judgments based on what you hear. This goes back to advice #2, and visit the school in person and decide for yourself.
  5. Make sure to thank your family when it’s over. I know it is hard not to have a selfish perspective and only think of yourself and how the college process effects you, but it is all over, take a step back and consider your loved ones. Think of the sacrifices they made, and happily too because they love you, but sacrifices nonetheless. Take a moment and tell them you recognize what they did for you. Whether it is your little brothers who had to listen to countless hours of SAT scores and GPAs, or your mom who took you to twenty-seven different schools, make sure they know how much you love them, and will always remember what they did for you.

But most of all, just relax. The only thing stressing does is make things worse and give you a headache. You will end up where you are supposed to be, just make sure you keep an open perspective along the way. And enjoy senior year – it’s the best!