Class of 2020 Blog

Posts from the Johns Hopkins Class of 2020

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June 26, 2017
by Lauren P.
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keep on (orgo)ing

Summer in Baltimore is in full swing. The temperature pushes 90 by 10am, and the humidity is at a consistent 80%. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, so I am no stranger to the Mid-Atlantic heat and humidity, and the oppressive heat is almost comforting as I spend my first summer outside of Virginia. I never went to summer camps as a kid, as I always tethered to my own town by a rigorous swim schedule, and as I grew older I filled my time with a series of summer jobs. This summer, however, is different. Rather than a repetitive and routine summer job, I’m spending my time at what my professor affectionately calls “Camp Organic,” and it has been both exciting and challenging to say the least.

For whatever reason, I’ve planned on taking Organic Chemistry during the summer since before I came to college. It is a pretty common thing to do, (we have somewhere around 200 students in our class!) the theory being that taking it over the summer A) gets the class out of the way and frees up semester time down the road, and B) allows you to focus all your energy on mastering the stereotypically difficult subject matter. I’ve always enjoyed chemistry, so I figured the fast pace and challenging material would be manageable and interesting. Now that I am 1 week from finishing Orgo 1, I’ve definitely developed a routine, but I’m surprised at how different summer at Hopkins is than during the semester.

One of the obvious differences is simply in the pace of the summer courses. By nature of the summer semester, a typically 14 week class is compressed into a 5 week sprint. Although this means 2.5 hour classes 5 times a week, and I’ll admit, there have been days where I’ve had a hard time staying focused for that long. But luckily, our professor really emphasizes a strong understanding of the material, and knows that lecturing for 2.5 hours straight isn’t the best way to feed us information. Instead, Dr. Falzone really emphasizes in-class problem solving, and we always have a 10-15 minute break that helps break up the monotony of the class. I really enjoy this teaching style, and the in-class questions are so helpful for really knowing what information our professor considers important. Furthermore, Dr. Falzone provides us with all the resources we need to be successful, such as practice problems and previous exams to help us prepare. I should also note that my hexagon drawing skills have improved dramatically!

Another major difference isn’t so much in the classroom environment, but rather my living situation. Hopkins offers on-campus housing options for students taking classes over the summer, but many students choose to sublet a room in a house or apartment to save some money. This is what me and many of my friends decided to do, and this has introduced a new level of independence and ~adulthood~ into our lives. Gone are the days of meal swipes and Meals in a Minute, now, we actually have to buy groceries and cook ourselves if we want to eat! This is one of the things I was most excited about coming into the summer semester. I am a terrible cook, but learning alongside my friends has made it much more enjoyable. Though many days I stick with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and dinner, our forays into broccoli chicken casseroles, chicken salad, and misadventures with our grill have been variable in success, but nevertheless exciting.

Other than taking orgo and feeding myself, I’ve been clocking some research time down at the med campus. It is a really exciting time, as I’m beginning to start my own experiments, and though I am always worried about messing something up, I’ve found this to be such an incredible learning experience. Learning science in a classroom can only teach you so much, and if you want to really understand and apply concepts learned in class, working in a research lab is the way to go.

This summer has already been rewarding, but it is far from over. Right after orgo 1 wraps up, we go straight into another semester of electron pushing and mechanism drawing – and I couldn’t be more excited.

 

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June 19, 2017
by Jenna M.
1 Comment

One Month Later…

Almost exactly one month ago, I was finishing my last question on my Introduction to Sustainability final. I quickly checked my answers, gathered my belongings, and rushed to the front of the room to turn in the last piece of paper of my freshman year. Immediately after, I walked back to my dorm and started to strip down my dorm of all the personality I spread across its walls. As colors started to drip off of the wall and bed and gather in boxes and suitcases, the room stood barren and stoic. My own room became a solemn stranger, and its foreign air took me back to when I first opened its door with anxious hesitation on August 27th, 2016. If I let my mind go blank, I could almost pretend that the year had never happened. I could pretend that none of the colors ever were splashed against the walls in photos and paintings, that none of the papers were ever scattered against the desk begging to be attended to, that none of the laughter and voices, hard times and wonderful moments had ever crossed this room and stained the air with memories.

 

When something comes to an end, I often have this overwhelming feeling that it felt so short, yet contained so much. When I thought back to the first day of freshman year, wrought with anxiety and excitement, it felt like yesterday. But when I thought of how much occurred, how many moments and memories were shoved between that first day and the last day, it felt like an eternity.

 

In this 9 month eternity, I have gained knowledge, experience, and an overall better understanding of the world I live in and my role in it. I have made friends who have shown me what true friendship is, who have taught me the difference between having friends for the sake of convenience and having friends who genuinely care about your wellbeing and happiness. I have learned how to get through tough times and still manage to hold my head up high, how to “fake it till you make it” and remember that everything works out in the end. I have learned things that simply cannot be taught, that no lecture hall could contain and no professor could explain. And I am forever grateful for this 9 month eternity.

 

One month later, I am sitting at my desk in my Bryn Mawr, PA home, texting my Hopkins friend Francesca about planning a trip on July 4th back to Baltimore, to spend a day hanging out with friends back on campus. If you had asked me 9 months ago what I saw myself doing on July 4th, I would never have guessed that I’d want to go back to my school when I could spend time celebrating at home. This summer, I’m going to be a camp counselor for 10-year-olds, and I can only imagine what they’d think if I told them that I miss a place where I learn this much. “Learning is gross!!” “School is icky!!!!” But maybe, they’d understand if I told them that my best friends are there, and everyone is so passionate and kind, and I am able to explore my world both physically and mentally every day (or maybe I should just go with the “you can eat all the candy you want!!!” route).

 

One month later, and it feels like my last day at Hopkins was yesterday, yet it also feels like it was forever ago. I can only hope that two months from now, when I’m moving into my new apartment and coating the bare room with personality and color, that today will feel like it was yesterday, yet my summer will have contained so much.

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June 18, 2017
by Jack G.
0 comments

Ode to the PUC Lab

It’s May 10th. Finals are in full swing, and there’s seemingly not a spot to be found in Brody or in the library. Enter the PUC Lab: a 6,000 sq. ft. space located in the Bloomberg Center, the headquarters of the physics department. All physics majors can sign up for access. And though the library may be packed all the way down to D-level, there are assuredly less than 30 people in the PUC Lab.

My workflow, as I’ve discussed previously, is heavily reliant on whiteboarding problems and concepts–be it a problem set, a Latin translation, or studying for a midterm, I need a whiteboard to get my thoughts down. Most of the time, I did all this in my dorm room. But by mid May, that mild exhaustion has set in, and it gets more and more difficult to concentrate when you’re sitting feet from your bed and the convincing allure of procrastination. In these times, there’s something about a classroom setting that refocuses one’s mind. And one-third of the PUC Lab is literally a classroom, so what better place to go?

Classroom Portion of the PUC Lab

Classroom Portion of the PUC Lab

Natural lighting, wall-to-wall whiteboards, ample table space, a lounge area upstairs–the PUC Lab has everything I need. And during that trying period of finals, it was a great way of staying focused on studying, whether I was by myself trying to memorize the relative clauses of Latin or with my friends trying to comprehend the nonlinear analysis methods of differential equations.

view of loft lounge area

view of loft lounge area

some chemistry left on the whiteboards by some non-physics major heretic. to a physics major, chemistry in the puc lab is akin to sacrilege.

some chemistry left on the whiteboards by some heretic. to a physics major, chemistry in the puc lab is akin to sacrilege.

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June 17, 2017
by Varun K.
1 Comment

Baltimore vs. Seattle: Baseball Edition

This weekend I got the chance to head down to Camden Yards and watch the Baltimore Orioles take on the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a great time with great company, but I couldn’t help but compare it to my experiences back home at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. Being the objective ranking oriented sort of person that I am, I decided to rank my experiences at both venues based on a series of criteria: Team spirit, price, quality of the team, transportation, ballpark interior, ballpark exterior, and finally, and arguably most importantly, the food. So, without further hesitation, let’s jump right into the rankings.

  1. Team Spirit: This one is tough. When you go to a game at Safeco Field it’s not like everyone is decked out in Mariners gear screaming go M’s at the top of their lungs (something that is very characteristic of Seattle Seahawks fans) but at the same time if you go to a Friday or Saturday night game you’ll be hard pressed to find an empty seat anywhere. It’s quite literally a sea of people and the atmosphere is just ELECTRIC. On the other side of the coin it seemed like wherever I turned at Camden Yards I saw black and orange (the Orioles colors), and by the time I left those gates I had the phrase “Welcome to Birdland” ingrained in my head. Oddly enough, however, with all that spirit the stadium was mayyyyybe half full, and when I caught a game last year it was even more empty, quite perplexing to say the least. After much deliberation I had to give the edge to Birdland here, as much as I want to give it to my hometown Mariners, seeing “Go O’s” in the window of every restaurant in downtown Baltimore pushed it over the edge.

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    Blurry pic of my friend Alex and I rocking our O’s hats…she decided to                                                         wear a Mets jersey too

Advantage: Orioles

  1. Price: $7 Student Tickets on Fridays… all I gotta say

Advantage: Orioles

  1. Quality of Team: Both team were good last year, both are playing mediocre this year, and both have historically been pretty bad. I’m a diehard Mariners fan so I’m gonna give the edge to my hometown team here

Advantage: Mariners

  1. Transportation: I think my answer would be different if I lived in a housing community in the suburbs on the outskirts of Baltimore and had to plan out how I was going to get to the stadium every time I wanted to catch a game. In reality, however, I’m on a college campus 20 minutes away from the park with free bus service that drops you off a half mile away; back at home it’s a 45 minute drive through traffic with 20 dollar parking and a half an hour waiting process to get out of the parking garage. If I want to take public transport it requires a bus change and over an hour of driving time…not fun.

Advantage: Orioles

  1. Ballpark Interior: This isn’t even close…Safeco Field is absolutely gorgeous from the inside with its massive scoreboard, perfectly cut outfield grass, giant compass fixture, retractable roof, and quintessential yellow line that borders the outfield wall…it’s truly iconic. Camden Yards is nice, don’t get me wrong, but nothing about the field really pops out to me, and it left me with no real impression.

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    The view of the skyline behind                the stadium is unreal

Advantage: Mariners

  1. Ballpark Exterior: For all that Safeco Field is once you get inside, its exterior leaves something to be desired. It’s like a gigantic metal cage with a metal glove outside of the gates being the only real defining feature. The huge warehouse wall that defines the border of much of Camden Yards is massive, mysterious, and captivating, and its charm instantaneously gives Baltimore the edge here, but in addition the rest of the stadium is on street level and you can see much of the festivities and happenings just by walking around the gates which is insanely cool

19239647_1141194729318400_788649687_nAdvantage: Orioles

  1. Food: Ah, food, the category we’ve all been waiting for, and what a category it is. In one corner we have Crab fries and Old Bay Seasoning, in the other we have garlic fries, gigantic pizza slices, and Seattle style hot dogs. The competition is fierce, and the creamy delicacy that is Chesapeake Bay crab sauce over a bed of crispy fries puts up an admirable fight, but in the end it is the tangy, familiar taste of Grounder’s Garlic Fries and Randy’s cream cheese and onion Seattle Dogs come out on top

Advantage: Mariners

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So after a final tally up it seems as though the city of Baltimore and its beloved, Avian themed baseball club take the crown in this tale of two cities. While I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the gang of sailors that man the S.S Safeco Field, I do have to admit that watching the orioles play is a pretty great experience.

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June 16, 2017
by Jonah K.
0 comments

Hey, Live a Little

“Hey, want to go to Yosemite tomorrow?”

There’s a short list of things I expect to hear when I pick up a phone call from a friend at 9:30 am on a Monday morning – an invitation to go to a national park in less than 24 hours isn’t on that list.

“Yeah sure, I’m not doing much anyways.”

It’s true, I wasn’t.

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In case you were wondering what my friends and                         I, or Yosemite, look like

Preparations began later that day. Frantic Airbnb browsing was followed by multiple trips to the market and a prolonged struggle to find a suitable portable grill (on a side note, I have since learned that I am not as good at grilling as I thought). The actual trip went off nearly without a hitch – aside from the few times we got utterly lost on the roads to and from the Park – and proved to be an awesome time. My friends and I hiked up mountains and through waterfalls, experienced beautiful nature and wildlife, and enjoyed the chance to hang out again after being apart for a year. We didn’t worry too much about planning or scheduling, we woke up each morning not knowing where the day would take us – but we always ended up finding something great to do.

And that’s the point of this post.

I feel that, as students, we often get too locked in to the daily order of our lives – class from 10 to 12, lunch, study, class again until 3, meeting at 6, study, repeat. We focus on grades and extracurricular commitments to the detriment of actually living our lives and taking advantage of the unique position we are in as college students surrounded by good friends in a new city full of possibilities. Now, it should go without saying that academics and extracurriculars take priority over aimless traipsing about, and that many students must work in order to get through college and don’t have the liberty to extricate themselves from a set daily schedule. That being said, though, the point remains that there’s a certain beauty in spontaneity that we students miss because of our tunnel vision.

Some of my fondest memories from Hopkins have come from unplanned walks to Hampden and out of the blue hangouts with friends, from ditching my planned laundry sessions or gym times. While my clothes and health might not appreciate consistently backing out of these commitments, a little flakiness has proven to only serve me well.

I think this point also applies on a larger, more imposing, scale. Even though I’m only a rising sophomore, I’ve seen a good number of my friends – at Hopkins or otherwise – worry themselves sick over internship placements, job opportunities, and career paths. While it’s certainly never a bad idea to get a head start on resumes or start mulling over potentially interesting careers, it’s important to take a step back and appreciate the present without worrying too much about where the future might find you. We should try to embrace spontaneity when considering the broader course of our lives, for the additional reason that there’s no benefit in locking on to one career or life goal so early on in our college experience. There are myriad amazing courses and educational opportunities at our fingertips, and it can only help us to keep our minds open, for the time being at least, to what we wish to pursue.

If there’s one thing that admissions pamphlets have taught me, it’s that college is a time of discovery and adventure – and I think its time we took that seriously.

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June 15, 2017
by Katie D.
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Losing someone and trying to learn from it

I always expected summer break to be different. I pictured myself running through some magical, flowery field after being set free from finals. I expected to finally have the time to reconnect with friends after the long semester that made me miss them more. I expected to go to the (actual) beach everyday and work on my tan. I expected to do all the normal summer lounging about laying in bed all day (at least once in a while). The thing I didn’t expect was the death of my grandmother. She was 82. She had a long life, filled with her passions and us, her family. But that didn’t change how it feels to know that she is gone. The fact that she had suffered for 10 years prior with Alzheimer’s Disease, made me in a way grateful for her passing, since it eases that suffering. It frees her from it in a way. At the same time, even with a ten-year warning in advance, I was shocked, inexplicably shocked, by her death. She died 13 days ago.

Part of the reason why I got into Hopkins, and why I also had such a drive to be the best I can be, is the inheritance of this strength from those who came before me. My grandma is one of these people. She was born in Colombia, and after the death of her mother, was passed around between her older sisters to be raised in a hot-potato fashion. She rose up from her difficulties growing up, and got a scholarship to go to college in America. She got her four-year degree and met my grandfather. They moved to Cuba, but then also had to leave in 1960 to escape Fidel’s reign. They moved to Miami. Eventually she had both my Tia, and later my dad. However, despite their adherence to the American dream, of finding jobs, owning a little house, and making a family, times were hard for my grandmother. She was now caught in an abusive relationship with my grandfather and two kids to take care of. But she made the brave choice to divorce him, to lead her own life as a single mother. At the time, in the 1980s, such a move was unprecedented and it did not necessarily have the best connotations, either religiously or socially. But she had the strength to see her way through it, to make it on her own.

I always find her strength to be so inspiring. Until the very end she was strong, she never gave up. And from her, I try to find that in myself. I strive to have the courage and the confidence she walked through life with. Especially now, I need it more than ever without her.

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June 14, 2017
by Kaylee Z.
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A Post-Freshmen Year Discovery That Would Have Changed Everything

Packing to go home for the summer was nearly an impossible task. I enlisted two friends to help me out and it literally took hours and hours. I found things in my room that I never knew I had even possessed. I had to have one of my friends sit on top of my suitcase to squish all the clothes down to be able to zip everything up. The aftermath of it all was this mess:

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My dad and I could barely fit our own bodies into the car, but we managed to. My dad was pretty annoyed with me. He didn’t understand how I managed to fit so much into my dorm room. Well, I didn’t really understand how I did that either. I was shocked by how many unnecessary items I had brought with me to college that I really never touched even once.

But, perhaps, what was most surprising of all was that after I had left for my home, my roommate texted me this picture, which left me in complete and utter shock for days:

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This picture was groundbreaking. This picture changed how I viewed my freshmen year entirely. This picture could have saved both me and my roommate a lot of heartache, had it happened earlier.

What the picture shows is the two desks in our room, which is the smallest on our entire floor by the way, placed next to each other INSTEAD of against each other like we had them arranged for the entire school year. Oh how much space we could have saved had we been enlightened to this earlier.

But no. We spent the entire year cramped by our desks and living in our clutter. Oh what could have been!

I still remember the first day I moved into college extremely vividly. I even remember what my roommate was wearing and what I was wearing on that day, which is weird for me because I actually have the worst memory ever.

On that first day, my parents and I entered room 602b in our Wolman suite to find the closets in the room blocking everything in the room. The desks were also in a crazy position. My parents spent an hour helping my roommate and I figure out how to rearrange the room in a way that would save the most space. WELL, turns out we did not settle on the best possible arrangement and we wasted a ton of space.

But, to be completely honest, freshmen year would not have been the spunky, spontaneous, and wild year that it was if not for how cramped and cluttered our room was. Living cluttered was crazy but authentically so.

Would I choose to go back in time and change our room arrangement to give us more space if I could? Maybe. But would I be willing to forgo all the cozy movie nights that were a result of our desks being placed the way they were and all the adventures we had in our room because of our clutter for a bit more space? No!

Freshmen year was what it was because of every aspect of it. And it was all so worth it.

 

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June 7, 2017
by Alyssa W.
Comments Off on Sun, Sand, Selfie Sticks

Sun, Sand, Selfie Sticks

Immediately after I turned in my key and officially moved out of Wolman hall, my friends and I piled into a van and drove eight hours to North Carolina, where we spent 10 days in an Airbnb beach house. I swam, got super tan, ate barbecue, and of course, took lots of pictures.

 

This is a lighthouse on Bald Head Island, which we visited one day.

This is a lighthouse on Bald Head Island, which we visited one day.

This was taken shortly before it started pouring. Luckily we got inside a cafe just in time.

This was taken shortly before it started pouring. Luckily we got inside a cafe just in time.

One of many photos taken with a selfie stick.

One of many photos taken with a selfie stick.

We went to the railroad museum in Wilmington, which had 19th century trains you could go inside.

We went to the railroad museum in Wilmington, which had 19th century trains you could go inside.

We spent hours walking the streets of Wilmington and visiting all the tourist shops.

We spent hours walking the streets of Wilmington and visiting all the tourist shops.

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We went to this huge, beautiful garden that was full of fountains, statues, benches, and even a butterfly pavilion.

We went to this huge, beautiful garden that was full of fountains, statues, benches, and even a butterfly pavilion.

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This was the view from our Airbnb. The beach was less than 10 minutes away.

This was the view from our Airbnb. The beach was less than 10 minutes away.

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May 12, 2017
by Alyssa W.
Comments Off on That’s a Wrap

That’s a Wrap

I’m leaving for the summer in exactly one week. By 12 pm next Friday, I will have packed up my things, cleaned out my drawers and cabinets, and left Wolman Hall for the last time. Never to sleep in my bed, go for a run on the treadmill in the fitness center, or make crepes in the kitchen ever again. My freshman year of college is pretty much officially over.

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These pictures dont really have anything to do with this post; theyre just pictures from previous blog posts that fit with the theme of reflection.

I remember, in the months before I left for Hopkins, I scoured the internet for college advice, both general and Hopkins-specific. What classes should I take? What should I bring? What clubs should I join? What meal plan should I get? What shouldn’t I bring? I wanted to know, before I even arrived on campus, exactly what to expect. I was beyond excited to finally be an independent adult, away from home, free from adult supervision, and I was determined to make the most of that opportunity.

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As the months went by, I realized that no amount of internet advice could have prepared me for what I actually encountered. College is weird, guys. It can be a roller-coaster ride, completely unpredictable yet absolutely exhilarating. It can also be boring and frustrating and extremely hard. Looking back, in some ways I feel utterly satisfied with my freshman year, proud of everything I’ve accomplished and excited for whatever happens next, in some ways I feel even more confused than I was at the beginning of the year. What I can say for sure is that I’ve learned a lot, both inside and outside the classroom. And as much as I believe you can’t prepare yourself for college by reading lists of advice from random internet blogs, I figured I’d share some of the things I’ve learned in the hopes of helping future college-bound people do just that. You know, just in case.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. There is no “typical college experience.” Don’t feel like you’re missing out just because you never go to lacrosse games or work in a research lab. Sure, maybe most students do these things, but your time at Hopkins won’t be any less meaningful if you don’t. At first, I felt like the fact that I wasn’t friends with my roommate was a bad thing, and that it somehow diminished the quality of my freshman year, but I don’t think I missed out on anything because of it. Not everyone is going to experience college in the exact same way, and that’s perfectly fine

img_0599Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it or force yourself to like something just because everyone else likes it. Be true to yourself no matter what and don’t be ashamed to be different. Most of my friends are engineers, and for a while I wanted nothing more than to fit in with them. I never really considered changing my major, but I tried to force myself to like math and found myself glorifying engineers and desperately wishing I was one. Once I embraced my true passions–writing, social justice, using my strengths to help others–I was a lot happier.

escape-roomTake some time for yourself. Or rather, don’t be afraid of being by yourself. In college, since everyone lives together, eats together, studies together, basically does everything together, it can feel like if you do something alone, you’re doing it wrong. In high school, I was always perfectly happy to spend Friday night in my room reading or watching Netflix, but in college I felt like since everyone else was going out every single weekend, I had to, too. I can promise you that there’s nothing wrong with staying in just because you feel like it (or because you have to study, which will probably happen more than once tbh). As an introvert, sometimes I need to take the time to decompress after a week of socializing and being around people 24/7. Once I got comfortable with that, my life became a lot less stressful.

img_0313Take risks. Be spontaneous. I know I’ve blogged about this before, but out of everything I’ve done at Hopkins, the things I’ve done pretty much on a whim–going to the women’s march, joining a sorority, becoming a news editor–have been some of the best and most rewarding experiences. If an exciting-sounding opportunity comes up, take it, even if it scares you or it’s not something you’d usually do.

IMG_0475 2Things aren’t always going to go exactly the way you want. I got rejected from a whole bunch of internships and programs I applied for. I didn’t get into the Intersession classes I wanted. I didn’t get my first choice sophomore dorm. I could go on. It’s natural to be depressed at first when things don’t work out–I definitely was–but wallowing in misery takes away from appreciating what you do have, and keeps you from going out and finding new opportunities. I ended up getting a summer internship that I’m super excited for, the Intersession classes I did take were super interesting, and Charles Commons is probably better than Homewood Apartments anyway. You can’t avoid the low points in life, you can only trust that a high point is just around the corner and get ready to enjoy it when it comes.

IMG_3121Slow down. Busier isn’t always better. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself, eating healthy, getting exercise, hanging out with friends, getting enough sleep. Sometimes, this is very hard. Sometimes, it is impossible. Try anyway.

Do what you love. Whatever you’re passionate about, find a way to do it on campus. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, try lots of things until you find it. Find other people that love it, too. College is basically a segue between childhood and adulthood, where you have more responsibilities but you’re not entirely on your own, which makes it the perfect opportunity to discover what you want to be doing for the rest of your life. You don’t have to figure it out immediately–I haven’t–but getting involved and doing things you love with people you like will certainly put you on the right track.

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I could go on, but it’s 11:42 and this blog is due by midnight. Maybe this advice was helpful, maybe you knew all these things already, maybe your college experience will be completely different from mine so none of this is relevant. Whatever the case, it definitely helped me evaluate the past year by writing it all out, and if I can make even one future college student feel a little more confident or a little less nervous, then my mission has been accomplished. I guess this concludes my last blog of the year; I can’t say I’m not relieved to take a break over the summer and recharge. But for now, it’s still finals week, so I’m not going anywhere.

–Alyssa