My first semester without my marketing buddy by my side :(

Round 8

Where did February go?! It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in 2017, and now March is merely days away. Soon spring break will be just around the corner! Do I even know where my flipflops are? These sweeping weather changes have me more scrambled than mood swings…

Anyway, with the semester nearing the halfway mark, it’s about that time for one last recap of my final four classes at Johns Hopkins University. Hold your applause.

Introduction to Social Psych

 I know what you’re thinking. Allison? In a Psych class? Her senior year? That’s gotta be a last-minute distribution requirement.

…and you’re not wrong. This girl needs one more S (social sciences) credit to graduate, so here I am, pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone in the 11th hour. And I’m enjoying myself! I’ve already taken Intro Psych and Intro Sociology, so I’m a lot more prepared than I thought I was for this material. In a few weeks, I’ll go out into the wild and conduct a social experiment of my own. Stay tuned.

Oral Presentations

 Guys. Guys. It is with no exaggeration that I say this might be the best class I’ve taken at Hopkins. And that’s because, four weeks in, I have already learned SO MUCH. Every week, we tackle a new speech or discussion, so I’m constantly practicing and improving my public speaking skills. All of our performances are recorded, and I can literally see myself getting better with every new topic. It’s certainly fast-paced, and this class dominates my workload, but it’s more than worth it to master this invaluable skill. Tomorrow, I’ll be interviewed by two of my classmates in front of everyone. And I couldn’t be more nervous—or excited.

The centerpiece of one of my slidedecks. See? Public speaking can be fun!
The centerpiece of one of my slidedecks. See? Public speaking can be fun!

Copywriting and Creative Strategy

 This is one of the Center for Leadership Education newest elective’s, and I feel so lucky to have caught it before graduating. I’ve been dying for some copywriting experience—Mad Men style—and this course is pushing me toward my goal of Creative Director with every passing week. We’re just getting started on our semester-long project, which will culminate in a full ad campaign of an industry underdog of our choosing. In a month or so, I’ll have shot my first commercial…just call me Speilberg.

My first semester without my marketing buddy by my side :(
My first semester without my marketing buddy by my side 🙁

Independent Study

 Nothing makes me feel more senior-esque than this fancy, schmancy ~independent study~. It’s with Greg Williamson, the professor I credit with helping me discover my true creative writing passion—poetic forms. I attend class with him once a week and complete weekly readings and poem assignments, while also working on some specific side projects, based on my own interests. The end goal is some good old-fashioned publication. Gulp.

And when I’m not studying? I’m living the dream at Under Armour (more on that later), knocking items off of my Hopkins bucket list, and starting the rehearsal process for one last off-campus musical—Spring Awakening! With this handsome fella right here.

The Moritz to my Wendla <3
The Moritz to my Wendla <3

These classes are so aligned with my interests that they barely feel like work! And what more could I ask from spring semester, senior year?

 

 

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One Last Love Letter

Alright, ladies and…err…more ladies. This is it. The grand finale to every post I’ve written over my long, lettered four years.

We’re going to talk about Greek life. One. Last. Time.

Here’s the quick and dirty breakdown for those unfamiliar with Hopkins’ unique sorority recruitment process. It’s done in the spring, usually during the first week of classes. There are five Panhellenic sororities on campus, and each generally shares the same recruitment protocol. Freshmen and sophomores who wish to join Greek life (called Potential New Members <3) go through three rounds of recruitment over three days, bopping around from chapter to chapter, meeting sisters and eating yummy snacks. Selection is mutual; both the PNMs and the chapters make choices after each round of recruitment. All of the PNMs get their bids the morning after the final round and are whisked away to celebrate with their new sisters. Delicious food and friendships ensue. And they all live happily ever after.

See?
See?

Compared to other universities, I think us Hopkins chicks have it made. Recruitment is on your mind for a total of four days—we skip right over potential weeks or months of stress. The logistics are ironed out by the chapters, Panhel, and your recruitment leaders; all PNMs have to do is show up. And being a New Member is the most seamless, loving process of all. No pledging period. No hazing. 100% sisterhood and good times, all day, every day.

It’s just as lovely on the other side. For the past two years, I’ve adored coming together with my sisters and preparing to usher in a new class of Alpha Phis. We put in a lot of time and a whole lot of effort, but when our New Members come bursting through the doors on big day, in their gorgeous white dresses, it all becomes so very worth it. There’s nothing like growing your family. And I’m lucky that I’ve gotten to partake in that process every single year.

But I confess, throughout the months leading up to recruitment, I struggled with a phenomenon I believe to be common amongst all college seniors.

I was feeling, dare I say it, a bit…over it.

Without an ounce of negativity, I truly believed that I’d seen all there was to see and done all there was to do when it came to formal recruitment. I knew the drill. And while I was thrilled to carry on the Alpha Phi tradition, my senioritis had me convinced that my influence and contribution didn’t really matter anymore. I’m on my way out. And I was content to let my younger sisters take the torch and run with it.

So up until January, I thought I had a good idea of what my final recruitment experience was going to look like. (Read: Sneaking mini muffins in the corner with my fellow old ladies.)

Respect your elders.
Respect your elders.

Instead, I ended up having the most emotional, invested four days of my Hopkins career. Perhaps meeting all sorts of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed underclassmen catapulted me back in time. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

But I think the true reason behind my mushiness was that I was lucky enough to be Alpha Phi’s senior speaker. I’ll go easy on the details in order to preserve the ~magic~, but, to my admittedly limited knowledge, each chapter has a few sisters speak about their srat experiences during the final and most intimate round of recruitment, Preference. This year, it was me.

Writing the speech forced me to think long and hard about how much this social, potentially superfluous organization actually meant to me. How it had pushed and changed me. And what it had given me over the past four years.

I have never felt closer to my sisters than I did delivering that speech. It will go down as one of my most treasured Hopkins memories, and I know I’ll think of it often when I’m out in the real world, far from my fellow Phis.

:(
🙁

It’s corny and cliché, but sorority life really has been a defining chapter of my time in college. Before signing off on the srat life for good, I’ll leave you with the last few paragraphs of my speech. They really say it all.

“If you’re looking for a good time, there’s no better place to get it. These are supposed to be some of the best years of our lives, and above all else, Alpha Phi is fun. But Hopkins is not always the easiest place to be. And every single one of my sisters can tell you that when life comes in like a wrecking ball—whether it’s an exam, or a jerk who breaks or heart, or something that truly upends your whole world—this is the army you want behind you. These are the hands you want lifting you up.

They’ve lifted me up more times than I can count. When you take away the parties and the Instagram model shots and even the tote bags, your sisters remain, an incredible group of girls who will dance with you to your highest highs and drop everything to meet you at your lowest lows. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s exactly what I needed when I sat where you’re sitting today. My squad, my future bridesmaids, my girl’s girls, my sisters. They’re all around you. I found them and so much more in Alpha Phi. I hope you will too.”

Always lifting me up, figuratively and literally.
Always lifting me up, figuratively and literally.

 

 

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Writer’s Block

It is the eve before my last first day of classes. I sit very comfortably in the calm before the storm, cozied up with my boyfriend watching Criminal Minds reruns, doing one last load of laundry, and trying to muster the energy to make a dinner reservation. Tomorrow, the train starts its inevitable chug down the track, and there’s really no stopping it until graduation day. This is the most peaceful Sunday I’ll have for a long, long time. And I’m suffering from paralyzing writer’s block.

As a fourth-year Writing Seminars major, I am all-too familiar with this phenomenon and have tested a bunch of block-defying strategies, all with varying degrees of success. There’s the procrastination method, where you ignore that sick feeling in your gut and occupy yourself with other assignments until the pressure becomes great enough to FORCE your brain into gear. Would not recommend. I prefer healthier, stranger methods, like making crazy-person lists of rhyming words, explaining a concept to one of my patient roommates, or reading really good writing until something’s sparked within me as well. While writer’s block is a pain in the butt, I’ve been cranking out two or three poems/short stories a week since coming to Hopkins. It’ll darken my doorway for the rest of my life, but I’m more than prepared for battle.

Blogs, however, have always nearly written themselves. This is the most effortless, painless writing I get to do. I literally just talk about myself, in my natural voice, in 500-word increments every other week. It typically doesn’t get much tougher than sticking to one topic a post.

But today, I struggled. So much so that this is the third or fourth time I’ve returned to this Word doc since dragging myself out of bed. It’s not that my life is running low on exciting things. I could write a ten-blog series on my internship at Under Armour. Within a week, I’ll be waxing poetic on my senior spring class lineup. And sorority recruitment is going down this weekend, which is sure to give me enough photos and inspiration to last all semester.

I started those posts. But by the end of the first paragraph, I could tell they were just going to turn out…well. Blah.

And I think that’s because I, too, am a little blah. I can’t seem to see past the very unavoidable reality hovering over me like the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. I’ve really, truly arrived at my last semester. After returning to campus and going through class prep, recruitment training, and all that jazz, I feel more like a senior and less than prepared for that truth than ever before. Once tomorrow hits, the clock starts. This little Blue Jay is running out of time.

In the coming weeks, I’ll return to regularly scheduled programming. Despite its finality, I’m confident that this is going to actually be the best semester to date. But for now, I’m content to have you join me in the in-between, wondering how to make the next four months last another four years.

If I could do it all over, I'd still do it all over with them.
If I could do it all over, I’d still do it all over with them.
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Resolved

All things considered, I had a pretty good year.

2016 may be widely regarded as one giant dumpster fire, but for me, at least personally, it was the year that so many things fell into place. It ran circles around 2015, its evil predecessor, and with the plunge into the post-grad world looming in 2017, I think I’m one of the few who’s a little sad to see 2016 go. Whoops, unpopular opinion alert.

Almost definitely his fault.
Almost definitely his fault.

But, as they say, the show must go on. Me. I say that. Sometimes when I royally botch a line onstage, other times when I’ve spilled crumbs in my bed but am too lazy to clean them up. Tomato, tomahto. The show must go on.

And I intend to make 2017 quite the production. With one semester left at the place I’ve called home for four years, there’s no time for false starts or do-overs. In the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda but also very probably Alexander Hamilton, “I’m not throwing away my shot.” So here are the ten New Year’s resolutions of a Hopkins senior, determined to have one unforgettable spring on her way out the door.

I, JHU_Allison, hereby resolve to:

Clean up my sleep schedule. We covered sleep patterns in Intro Psych, so yes, I know consistency is key. But here I am, treating my body like garbage with heinously haphazard bedtimes and wakeup calls. While this sleep schedule, or lack thereof, is doable in college, the real-world 9-5 grind is going to destroy me if I don’t make better habits now.

 Study at the Peabody Library. I’m pretty sure I’m the only Hopkins student who hasn’t taken advantage of this gorgeous venue. I want my Belle moment. I want my Instagram photo. I’ve earned it.

 Enjoy every dang minute of Spring Fair. I’ve spent the past two Spring Fairs rehearsing musicals instead of getting the most out of this beloved Hopkins tradition. Not this year. From sunup to sundown, my butt will be lounging on the Beach, eating a Bloomin’ Onion and sipping on a Strawberry Smoothie.

Take risks. A big item on my 2017 to-do list is to iron out the details of my post-graduation plans. I want to continue to push myself way out of my comfort zone and pursue any and all opportunities that excite me.

 But be kind to myself. At the same time, I find that a lot of graduating college students put tons of pressure on themselves to start the “perfect” job, graduate program, etc. the week after they’re handed their degree. It’s important to remind myself that this strategy is a recipe for disappointment. I resolve not to burden myself by frantically searching for my “dream job.” Instead, I’ll network. Apply to everything. And continue to take chances.

Get invested in Baltimore sportsball. One of those new and exciting chances is a winter/spring internship in the Global Communications department of Under Armour. While being a varsity athlete is hardly an application requirement, I’m determined to crank up my allegiance to the Baltimore birds. Unfortunately for this diehard Ravens fan, we’re nearing baseball season…so how bout them O’s?

Publish a poem or two. One of the classes in my final semester lineup is an independent study with my favorite poetry professor, Greg Williamson. With his guidance, I plan to polish up my portfolio and send some pieces out. Never again will I be surrounded by so many prolific writers, so I need to take advantage of their genius. Plus, it’s the only thing Mama Comotto wants for Mother’s Day.

Learn to say no. Up until this semester, I’ve regularly committed to (amazing!) off-campus opportunities that took me away from Hopkins for months on end. With only one semester left, I’m going to have to say no to these opportunities. Senior spring is all about living it up at Homewood, one last time.

 Learn to say yes. But when it comes to opportunities at Hopkins, yes is going to be my middle name. Whether it’s spontaneously going out on a weeknight, auditioning for the spring musical, or dressing up in wacky outfits with my fellow Alpha Phis, I’m going to push myself to get the most out of spring 2017.

 Never wish time away. We’re all guilty of this from time to time. No matter how much I adore being here, I can’t help but dream of summer vacation when I’m mired down in midterms. But this year, there’s no more summer vacation to dream of. Just graduation, the real world, and the great unknown. So above all else, no matter what spring 2017 has in store, I resolve to experience and enjoy every single moment. Because they’re numbered.

 

Wouldn't wish away a single second with these two.
Wouldn’t wish away a single second with these two.
Some of my fav helpers. <3 (And a penguin made of ice.)

The Secret to Surviving Hopkins

I think it was my freshman spring when I first heard the ~Hopkins myth~ that people don’t really work together on schoolwork. Like there’s some imaginary percentage of the JHU population that barricades themselves away in secluded corners of D Level (whoops, never been) to hiss at anyone who wants to tackle a problem set together.

See? I can’t even come up with a good imaginary scenario. Because if there’s one thing you’ll do every dang semester for your four years at Hopkins, it’s collaborate. Live it, love it. It’s the key to your survival.

Would also recommend celebrating the holidays in full reindeer getup.
Would also recommend celebrating the holidays in full reindeer getup.

You see evidence of collaboration everywhere. If I had a dollar for every time I walked into a Brody study room and saw the whiteboard walls covered in five different handwritings, I’d buy out CharMar. A Level of the library is a sea of study groups, with students flitting from table to table like the whole scene’s a caffeinated, finals-ready coral reef. (Pardon all the ocean imagery; I’ve spent half the day planning this year’s spring break getaway.) My roommate Lauren, an Applied Math and Statistics major, has had a semester filled with group math projects and presentations, which I didn’t even know existed. And Liz just finished up “Leading Teams,” a course with one of the coolest final projects I’ve ever heard of: a Leadership Summit, beautifully planned and executed by the entire class.

I’ve had two final group presentations just this past week alone, each the product of an entire semester of collaborative work. The first was in Social Media Marketing, where we presented a pretty darn incredible social media plan for Trader Joe’s, complete with an integrated contest, mock posts for every social platform, and three boxes of Cookie Butter Cheesecake. It was a hit. The other was for my PR & Corporate Communications class. We presented months of research and strategizing to the Office of Study Abroad, this year’s real-world client. Not only did I get to invest my time and energy in a program relevant to any and all Hopkins students, but I also got to talk this baby up in a job interview. Real marketing experience? Check.

But just because collaboration isn’t mandated by the syllabus doesn’t mean you’re left to shoulder classwork all by yourself. One of my 15-person Writing Seminars classes had a Facebook group for brainstorming and editing. In lecture classes of 100+ students, I’ve been in dozens of small group work sessions to prepare for midterms and finals. Just this semester in my Visual Rhetoric class, we’ve all gone out of our way to help each other in the photography studio, holding lights, providing feedback, and messing around with finicky cameras.

JHU isn’t just a place where people work together; I’d argue there’s a culture of collaboration. Everyone on campus comes to Hopkins knowing that the academic rigor is going to challenge, push, and (ultimately) reward them. Helping and being helped is integral to the best undergrad experience you can have. So consider that silly myth officially busted. Give me something hard next time.

Some of my fav helpers. <3 (And a penguin made of ice.)

 

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Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, Interwebz! Yeah yeah, I know 1) nobody says interwebz anymore (showing my advanced age here), and 2) I’m a little early to be sending you some Turkey Day well-wishes. But the Comotto family is a festive bunch, and we’re alllll about extending holiday cheer for as long as we can—particularly when it comes to feasting. So I’ll probably be in a food coma by Wednesday anyway. For all intents and purposes, today’s the perfect time to start giving thanks where thanks is due. And this senior citizen has a lot to be thankful for.

 

Week-long Thanksgiving break. Bless. You. Hopkins.

 

The leftover birthday Reeses cups still chilling in my freezer.

 

Boot/Sweater/Cranberry-colored lipstick weather (Oh autumn temperatures, how I’ve missed you.)

 

The Something Rotten tickets my father so incredibly purchased to celebrate the end of fall semester (CHRISTMAS IN NYC BABY).

 

Watching my dreamy boyfriend star in not one, but TWO amazing musicals over the course of the next two weeks.

He tries. <3
He tries. <3

 

Online library resources, so I can write this final Social Media Marketing paper from the comfort of my own bed.

 

Liz’s candles, which make the apartment smell like cinnamon.

 

My favorite Writing Sems professor of all time, Greg Williamson, who solved my spring semester scheduling crisis AND still made it possible for me to take his classes.

 

Mama Comotto. Because, ya know. Moms are objectively the best.

 

Alpha Phi’s upcoming holiday party, which will hopefully feature Caroline in a Santa suit.

 

Impromptu theatre family reunions.

When you're an Addams, you're an Addams for LIFE.
When you’re an Addams, you’re an Addams for LIFE.

Finishing out my marketing minor with Lauren, who makes group project dynamics way more bearable.

 

Fluffy penguin PJ pants.

 

Seeing my cousin Carly in T-minus THREE DAYS holy moly.

Slowly dying without her.
Slowly dying without her.

 

My pups.

The face of a pup who climbed on the dining room table last year.
The face of a pup who climbed on the dining room table last year.

Taking zero Writing Sems classes this semester and realizing I love poetry so much that I’m giving sonnets as Christmas presents.

 

The pounds of stuffing I’ll be consuming this week.

 

The Comotto family’s annual Pumpkin Pie contest.

 

Seeing people I love over the holidays.

 

Seeing people I love when I get back.

peopleilove

 

 

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Most Things Change

I feel the truth of that now more than ever. Last week, my roommates and I headed to late night at the freshmen dining hall (FFC, for those in the know) for the 10pm bowls of cereal and breakfast food that got us through our first year at Hopkins. For me, it was the first time I’ve even entered that building since sophomore year. It was like being hit by a tidal wave of nostalgia. When you’re a freshman, you can’t help but be entrenched in campus life—I lived in the heart of the freshman quad, surrounded by a thick blanket of classic, undergraduate life. It was awesome and totally unlike anything I’d ever experienced. And as I sat there over my third bowl of Lucky Charms, I realized I’d never experience it again.

Hopkins does this whole “transition” thing really well. It’s like that morbid metaphor about a frog calmly boiling in a pot of water that’s gradually heating up. With every passing year, you become a little less dependent on Hopkins and a little more prepared for the real world. Freshman year, there was no world outside of Hopkins. But as a senior, I can’t tell if I’m a student pretending to be an adult or an adult impersonating a student. I’m no longer in a dorm, but an apartment that feels more a part of Baltimore than campus. My days of eating at the FFC, Levering, or CharMar are far behind me; now I cook (kinda) and grocery shop (horrifying, I know). I spend just as much time at my real-person job in Fells Point as I do in class. And as a new member of the 21 club, I celebrate my weekend nights at the quirky Baltimore bars I’ve been dreaming about since I was an Old-Bay-loving teen.

Hopkins has done its job and cranked out a person who is prepared (as she’s gonna be) to face the post-grad world. And I’m grateful. But after realizing just how much things have changed since I moved all of my color-coded crap into AMR II Clark, I’m also sad. On my first night of orientation, an upperclassman told me she would kill to be in my shoes, at the very beginning of the best four years of her life. As a nervous nelly with zero friends, I figured she was just trying to make me feel better. But I get it now. There’s nothing like your first year of college. And there’s no way of knowing that until it’s already passed you by.

bloggoofyfreshmanyear

Three years ago, just two months into my freshman year, my parents took me and my new best friends to The Melting Pot for my 18th birthday. Here’s an unfortunate photo to prove it.

...we've come a long way.
…we’ve come a long way.

This past weekend, my parents brought us full circle and took us out to the same restaurant to celebrate my 21st birthday. Melted cheese and chocolate are close to my heart, so suffice it to say it was an incredible night. But what was more incredible was looking around at the friends and family surrounding me. The invite list has changed a little, but Lauren, Caroline, and Liz were present and perfect, just as they’ve been for every moment over the past three years, big and small. It was a powerful, much-need reminder that while most things change, the important things don’t.

Told you!
Told you!

Hopkins will end—it has to. College is designed to serve as the springboard to bigger and better things. But nothing can ever be bigger and better than these girls and the incredible life we’ve created together over four short years. I have Hopkins to thank for that. So even if I’m not living the same life I did when I was a freshman, that doesn’t make me any less of a Hopkins girl. I’m saving the nostalgia for another day. Today is for the now.

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A Penultimate Day in the Life

I had a hunch that this was so, but a brief foray into freshman JHU_Allison blogs confirmed: I haven’t written a day-in-the-life post since my first year at Hopkins! Blasphemy. Here you all are, thinking I’ve been eating at the FFC for the past three years. To set the record straight, I’ve laid out a typical Tuesday, complete with class, rehearsal, and an embarrassing number of coffee runs.

 

8:00 am

 

My alarm goes off. I lol at my Monday-night self for thinking I would actually get up and get a head start on work. I go back to sleep for 30 minutes.

 

8:30 am

 

Time to become a person! I have to give myself a little extra time in the mornings given that I live off-campus. But boy is this view worth it.

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10:30 am

 

First class of the day! Social Media Marketing with my dear roommate and marketing buddy, Lauren. We’re probably a little exhausted from staying up all night finishing a paper (best friends make group projects bearable), but the walk to class is infinitely better when we’re doing it together. This is an awesome class with a dynamic professor who changes my perspective on the power of social media every day. Thanks for making me a more employable member of my generation!

Forever taking selfies instead of studying.
Forever taking selfies instead of studying.

 

11:45 am

 

First coffee run of the day. Levering never fails. Knowing me, I probably grab some delicious Thai noodles while I’m at it.

 

12:00 pm

 

Next class! PR and Corporate Communications, aka my chosen career packed into a fast-paced, semester-long course. This workload is totally busting my butt, but every assignment prepares me for the world outside of Hopkins, and I’m grateful. We’re developing a marketing plan for our real-life client—the Office of Study Abroad—and the photos of Oxford are making me wish I’d gotten my Hogwarts letter more than ever.

 

1:30 pm

 

Third and final class of the day, and this one’s a doozy. Visual Rhetoric is an introductory graphic design course, and my can’t-draw-a-stick-figure self was quaking in her boots on the first day. This is definitely my most challenging course of the semester, but it’s also the most rewarding, as I’ll be graduating with a portfolio of work I can be proud of. Hopefully. If I can sweet-talk Adobe Illustrator into cooperating.

 

2:30 pm

 

Visual rhetoric goes until 4:15 (oof, I know), so time for another much-needed coffee break. Thank you, Brody, for always coming in clutch with the bagels and caffeine exactly when I need it the most.

 

4:15 pm

 

Finally free of class for the day, I head home to make dinner (I have to do that now??), do some laundry, and study the evening away with my lovely roommates. There’s probably a nap and some Mad Men in there too, but I’m trying to shield you from my not-so-studious habits. Do your homework, kids!

 

6:30 pm

 

On a normal Tuesday in October, I’d be catching the JHMI and heading to Mount Vernon for Das Barbecu rehearsal. However, we opened a couple of weeks ago, and now my weeknights are magically free! I’ll still probably head to Mount Vernon anyway for—you guessed it—more coffee and the gorgeous Peabody Library. Best place to study in the entire state of Maryland.

You've still got one more weekend to catch is crazy barbecue before it's gone!
You’ve still got one more weekend to catch is crazy barbecue before it’s gone!

11:30 pm

 

This is when I try to be in bed on Tuesday nights, seeing as 6 am comes awful fast on Wednesday mornings. For my poor mother’s sake, let’s just pretend I’m usually successful in calling it an early night.

 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from documenting my four years at Hopkins, it’s that some things change but most things don’t. I’m still loving my major, roommates, and lattes drenched in sugar and cream. With only a semester and a half to go, the routine of my daily life is becoming more and more precious. I know it’s midterm season. But I sure will miss the grind when it’s gone.

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The Comeback Kid

Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog about the bad days.

To recap, Junior fall was the roughest semester I’ve had to date. I was an exhausted, anxious, heartbroken mess of an undergrad for what seemed like an eternity, even though things were on the up and up by the time February rolled in. I leaned on my friends and family, clung to the promise of a trip to paradise, and buried myself in all of the things that make me happy. In the end, that one post (and a semester’s worth of angsty sonnets that I would never inflict on the internet) is the only evidence of any deviation from my idyllic college experience. But I can assure you, it was a fight to the finish.

I posted that blog on the closing day of a show I did last October, when I was wading through the thick of the bad days. Tonight, I open a brand new show in the same venue, a hilarious five-person musical comedy. I get to spend the next four weekends as a larger-than-life Texas sweetheart who wears her wedding dress (complete with a lily-white cowboy hat) out ~to the club~. It’s a hilarious, wonderful time.

With a hilarious, wonderful gal.
With a hilarious, wonderful gal.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for the cyclical, but I can’t revel in this new beginning without being smacked in the face by how much has changed in the past year.

Because, in a miraculous less-than 365 days, I’m so dang happy.

There are a million reasons and non-reasons why this is so. You could chalk it up to the incredible shows, classes, and opportunities (#dreaminternship) that filled those days, because they certainly helped. Stare me dead in the eye and ask who could be unhappy after a Caribbean cruise with your three best friends; I don’t have an answer for you. Heck, blame it all on the dreamy new boyfriend. He’s pretty good at the whole making me happy thing.

See?
See?

I’m the first one to say I’m a fortunate girl. But the fact of the matter is that the past year wasn’t earth-shatteringly transformative. It just was. It was bad, then better, then good, then great, with plenty of peaks and valleys in between. I didn’t snag a role on Broadway. I neither met nor married Darren Criss. I certainly didn’t win the lottery. From the outside looking in, it was a typical year in the life of a Hopkins student.

And that’s what’s so beautiful about it. Things got better for no other reason than that’s what they do. With some hard work and invaluable time, the bad days slowly and steadily faded away. That’s not to say they disappeared completely—do they ever?—but I’ve been breathing free and easy for months now. No more sinking, no more drowning. Just simple chugging along.

College has been unbelievably good to me. But a pressurized, high-achieving environment is bound to yield some bad days, maybe some bad months. More than 25% of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year, and I count myself among them. When I blew my comfort zone to smithereens and wrote that post last year, I was deep in the hole, but I was so hopeful. I wanted to share that hope and make it something to which I was accountable. And now, a year later, I’m back to tell anyone who needs to hear it that hope for better days is never unfounded. Us undergrads are a striving, scrappy breed. We’re tougher than we look.

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And we sure do clean up nice.

Tonight, with this post and in the name of new beginnings, I officially close that crap-tastic chapter of my life. And I’ll end it in the style of Queen J.K. Rowling: All was well.

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Working the Dream

I really, really love my internship.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Put “internship” and “love” too close together in a sentence and you’ve entered dangerous oxymoron territory. Internships aren’t about love, or fun, or warm and fuzzy feelings. They’re about grunt work. I’m talking coffee runs, copy jams, and the occasional **shudder** dry cleaning pickup. If you think I’ve pulled this vision straight from the scary-chic depths of The Devil Wears Prada, then clearly you haven’t come home to an exhausted, unpaid intern, fresh off the clock at 9pm on a Friday. The struggle is, as they say, quite real.

It’s worth noting that those kinds of opportunities are not without value. Feeling yourself so firmly on the bottom rung of the ladder provides a healthy dose of humility without fail. Best-case scenario, it lights a fire under your butt to help propel you up that ladder. Worst-case? You walk out of there with a hemorrhaging bank account and a fill-in-the-blank letter of recommendation.

Thankfully, I had the chance to get some real-world PR experience this summer, sans drama of Meryl Streep proportions. I snagged a dream gig in the PR sector of TB&C, a full-service ad agency nestled beautifully into waterfront Fells Point. I’ve been raving about all of the gorgeous nooks and crannies that Baltimore has to offer for years, but Fells tops them all. This is my final verdict. JHU_Allison has spoken.

So scenic it hurts.
So scenic it hurts.

I connected with a TB&C Account Exec when she gave a case presentation during my PR & Media in the Big Apple course (Aka The-Intersession-Class-That-Lowkey-Changed-My-Life). TB&C’s rep was brilliant, passionate, and in-CRED-ibly on trend. I was sold. When it came time to finish applications, sending her my resume was the first email to go out. Miracle of miracles, she passed my over-enthusiastic info into the right hands, and the deal was sealed by the end of March.

Thus began my favorite summer since coming to Hopkins. To my amazement, I was given **gasp** actual, exciting work on my first day. My co-workers were knee-deep in several projects (simultaneously planning a media day for the Hippodrome and a concert series for Smyth Jewelers, nbd) and had no trouble tossing me a few of the hundred balls they had in the air. It was so refreshing and gratifying to immediately feel invested in the tasks at hand. By the time the first Smyth concert came around, I already felt like part of the team—anxious, excited, and desperate for a Cream Cruiser ice cream sandwich (10/10 would ~cruise~ again).

Drawn to photo booths like moths to a flame.
Drawn to photo booths like moths to a flame.

If it seems like I’m bragging, it’s because I totally am. I’m very aware of how lucky I am to have ended up at an agency that not only challenged and trained me, but supported me all summer long. Snack Wednesdays weren’t half bad either. (Just imagine the sheer joy of an ice cream truck pulling up to the office, sprinkles ready, at 3pm on a Wednesday.) And don’t even get me started on Bring-Your-Dog-To-Work-Day. I maintain that having a Golden Retriever in half of the day’s meetings did wonders for my productivity. When my supervisors proposed that we extend my internship into the fall, I pretty much abandoned all professionalism in my eagerness to say yes.

Puppies and ice cream cones aside, perhaps what’s most exciting is the incredible relief I feel to be so in love with this work. Up until this point, I’ve been so adoringly entrenched in school that a small part of me was worried I wouldn’t enjoy anything else, let alone be good at it. Yet here I am, feeling ready to return to the homework-free 9-to-5 days of the summer months.

All in good time. Until then, I’ll be at the library, dreaming of Snack Wednesdays.

And perfect, sunny days.
And perfect, sunny days.