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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.
Fun now.

I Wish I’d Known

WELCOME TO HOMEWOOD, CLASS OF 2020! It warms my elderly, senior heart to see campus so alive and hopping (lol) after the ghost-town days of summer.

The start of the school year and sudden arrival of a thousand fresh faces never fails to make me nostalgic. This is quadrupled by the air of finality that shades all that’s familiar about the beginning of a semester. Your first first day is my last first day. Oof. An ever-growing part of me wishes I could be where you are now, lanyards and sweaty dorms and all.

Just look at the lanyard. LOOK AT IT.
Just look at the lanyard. LOOK AT IT.

But I’m not. I’m a seasoned Hopkins vet. And thus it is my duty—and my privilege—to pass on the bits of knowledge I’ve managed to eek out over the years. Anyone who has kept up with my blog since the beginning of my SAAB career (Hi, Mom and Dad) will know that these insights come not from stellar instincts, but from screwing up and learning my lesson. I’m not known for getting things right the first time. But maybe, with a little trial-and-error care of yours truly, you will be.

So here are some things I wish I’d known when I was in your freshman shoes, freshly unpacked on the eve of your first day of classes.

Do your homework.

Not like, homework homework. There will be plenty of time for that later. (Though do check Blackboard right now to make sure you’re not one of the lucky few who does have reading assigned for the first day. Like I am. Le sigh.) I’m talking about those little things you can do for yourself to make your first day run as smoothly as possible. Print out syllabi, plan your outfit, make breakfast plans with floormates. For me, anxiety management meant running around campus with my roommate and finding each and every one of my classrooms the day before. Overkill? Probably. But I felt so much more comfortable rushing from class to class knowing exactly where I was going. No late arrivals, no panic attacks, and no embarrassing backpack sprinting.

Ask for help.

That being said, life happens. Travel time between classes is short, the campus is big, and building floor plans are hardly intuitive. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. As a freshman, I remember being so intimidated by the overwhelming knowledge and experience of upperclassmen. And yeah, we do know where Levering Café is, but we’ve all been where you are, and we’re all a lot less put together than we might seem. So please approach. Wandering aimlessly is the worst, and it’s way too hot for that madness anyway.

Switch up your schedule.

Perhaps above all, I wish someone had told me that my schedule wasn’t set in stone. That two-week add/drop period is golden, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. The first week of class is kind of like speed-dating. I usually pop into two more classes than I end up taking, just to make sure I’ve found the right fit. It’s better to attend class and end up having to drop than to miss a week and scramble to catch up, so my philosophy is that more is always more.

Cut yourself some slack.

This applies all year long. Hopkins will never not be hard work, but I find that any challenge can be rewarding once you learn to treat yourself with kindness. At this level, with this much freedom, school should be as fun as it is stressful. And it will be. Take it from a senior who knows.

Fun then.
Fun then.
Fun now.
Fun now.
Playing with stingrays?

The Last Summer

I know what you’re thinking:

Where in the world has JHU_Allison been?!

Playing with stingrays?
Playing with stingrays?

A more appropriate question to ask is where in the world haven’t I been.

Maybe I’m exaggerating. (I’m definitely exaggerating.) But suffice it to say that I have done more with this summer than the past twenty combined. I’ve powered through my most incredible internship to date, scored an awesome role in a hilarious musical, and made some big steps in the direction of where I want to be—professionally, mentally, spiritually, whatever—in the terrifying ether of post-graduation. But more on that later.

Today is not about power plays, career goals, or job applications. There are a thousand terrifying tomorrows for that. Today, smack dab in the middle of the end of summer, is a college senior’s call-to-action. Or perhaps, more aptly, a call-to-inaction.

You see, this is my last summer. **duh duh duuuuuuuh** Really though, that revelation was just as awful as it sounds. Growing up, summer is about as unimpeachable a right as speech or, I don’t know, breathing. It is a time of popsicles and pool parties, vacation and relaxation. It’s what keeps you going all year round, the end to every mean, the sparkly, sunny light at the end of the tunnel. Even a mega-nerd like yours truly would spend my winters locked in high school daydreaming about the sweeter, simpler time to come.

And now it’s all coming to an end. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but it’s true. If there’s anything that my three summers in college have taught me, it’s that they don’t exist in the real world. Not like they used to. And that’s normal and okay and cost-effective or whatever, but it’s also a loss that everyone has to face at some point. I think it first dawned on me during the age-old internship scramble the spring of my sophomore year. Never again would my summers be free and special and isolated from the pressures of adult life. In so many ways, it’s a good thing. In so many ways, I’m itching to get out of this incubation period and start my life. In so many ways, summer comes to an end exactly when you’re ready for it to.

But also, at the same time, I want to be poolside at 2pm, eating a snowball. I want to have never filled out a tax form in my life.

Read: on the beach
Read: I want to be on the beach

I’ve managed a more feasible interpretation of that dream this summer. In an effort to salvage my last, I took the contradictory images of ~important real-world work experience~ and ~summer vacation~ and smashed them together as best as I could. Yes, I worked 40-hour weeks, but I also sailed the Caribbean with my family, made impulsive purchases on the Ocean City boardwalk, and visited my darling roommate’s “stompin’ grounds.” I ate food that was bad for me, went on swoon-worthy dates, and binge-watched reality TV shows. Maybe I wasn’t sleeping until noon. But I’ve truly had the summer of my life, and I have the memories and tan lines to prove it.

So here’s my much-delayed call-to-inaction, and it goes out to all of you prospective students who are already desperate to be the older, smarter versions of yourselves. Slow your dang roll. Stop and smell the summer. I firmly believe that any minute you spend bored is a minute wasted, but be good to yourself. Go on adventures with your friends, pull all-nighters for the fun of it (those don’t exist in college), invest time and energy into something for no reason other than it makes you happy.

Trust me, the rest can wait.

Don't forget to enjoy the view. <3
Don’t forget to enjoy the view. <3
Starstruck? Who's starstruck? I'm not starstruck.

JHU_Allison Gets Hands-On

Anyone who has survived the grueling process that is undergraduate admissions is familiar with The Information Session. This seems like a Very Big Deal at your first campus visit, chock full of vital information! Invaluable insights! But by tour 7 or 8, The Information Session is less “inside look” and more “45 minutes of white noise.” This is not to discredit the value of The Information Session—my counselor’s description of Hopkins’ distribution system was a major factor in my admissions decision. But, for the sake of being candid, let’s call a spade a spade: Information Sessions tend to all sound the same. I blame what I’ve coined “Information Session Buzzwords,” those pesky little bits of the school’s marketing lexicon streamlined across all websites, pamphlets, and overzealous tour guides. Career planning! Campus culture! Opportunities for growth! And my personal favorite: Hands-on learning.

Hands-on learning never seemed to apply to the likes of me, a Humanities major with a penchant for creative writing. When it comes to engineering and the sciences, hands-on learning is easy to visualize. Hopkins is riddled with high-tech labs just begging for an experiment or two. But a Writing Seminars major with a Marketing & Communications minor? I deal primarily in abstraction. When I pictured my four years at Hopkins, I figured I’d be holed up in Gilman with my laptop and a pile of dusty old books. And that hands-free vision suited me just fine.

Enter a marketing class I took this semester, more specifically, Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications. I’d heard of this class because of the huge presence it develops on campus every spring. The class transforms into a fully-functional, student-run ad agency, complete with a real-world client. This year, we planned and implemented an integrated marketing campaign for Full Society, a mobile payment app founded by one of our very own JHU alums. If that’s not hands-on learning, then I don’t know what is.

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As co-manager of the PR & Social Media department, I was up to my eyeballs in press releases, Snapchat contests, and Facebook metrics. A day in the life of JHU_Allison during our implementation period included early-morning interviews with press and countless hours spent assembling press kit materials, snapping photos at events, and drafting social copy. It was the most stressful, exhausting, and rewarding experience I could have imagined. Amidst all of the logistical nightmares, I also did some crazy, comfort-zone-defying things, like being interviewed by The Daily Record and Omar Jimenez from WBAL-TV. (Fear not, my grandmother has graciously emailed the clip to everyone she’s ever met.) I can safely say I have never done anything this grounded in real-world experience in my time at Hopkins.

Starstruck? Who's starstruck? I'm not starstruck.
Starstruck? Who’s starstruck? I’m not starstruck.

Needless to say, I’m warming to the idea of hands-on learning. And I’ve changed my tune when it comes to its exclusivity—there’s something experiential for every major at Hopkins, if you’re willing to look for it. This Saturday, my fellow managers and I will present the results of our campaign to the client, and I couldn’t be more excited to show off our efforts. And in three weeks, I start my summer PR internship at one of Baltimore’s biggest ad agencies. I spent both interviews chatting about the experience I’d gained during this very class. The talented (and excruciatingly well-dressed) Omar Jimenez says it best: “There are many skills students learn in school they admit they will probably never use again. But for a group of Johns Hopkins integrated marketing students, that is not the case at all.”

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The Junior Roster

This morning, I woke up, and it was spring. There have been (far too) many false starts and stops to this most glorious of seasons, but I think today was the beginning of something truly magical.

A freshman-year throwback, in honor of Spring Fair starting TOMORROW
A freshman-year throwback, in honor of Spring Fair starting TOMORROW

And also truly terrifying. The gorgeous weather had me staring at the calendar in a way I haven’t in months. Where did the semester go?! I swear I was freezing my butt off in February just a couple of minutes ago. It was then that I realized I had been truly remiss when it comes to my blogging duties: I have gone almost the entire semester without talking about my classes.

As a spring-semester junior, my schedule is pretty freaking sweet. I’m firmly planted in the upper-levels of my Writing Sems and Marketing classes and consequently loving life. These are the courses I always dreamed about taking when I was a freshman, gazing longingly at the registration descriptions. Now that I’m here, I want to give my favorites all of the airtime they deserve.

Advanced Poetry Workshop

This time around, I’ve decided to save the best for first. Advanced Workshops are the highest a Writing Sems dares to go, the end result of years and years of training. I’m lucky enough to be working with Sir Andrew Motion (Yes, you read that right. Sir.) For those of you unfamiliar, this guy was casually the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009. Aka, he’s a veritable poetry genius, and I’m so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to soak up that genius every week. He’s issued some of the most compelling and challenging prompts I’ve tackled at Hopkins, and I’m confident I’ll finish out the semester with a final portfolio that’s submission-ready.

Intermediate Poetry: Poetic Forms II

Another Writing Sems favorite, this is the continuation of a course I took in the fall, Poetic Forms I. This semester, we read a book of new poetry every week, from Richard Wilbur to James Merrill, and identify their strategies to incorporate in our own poems. Greg Williamson is not to be missed, as evidenced by the amount of times he appears in the Acknowledgments of our required reading. As a big nerdy lover of rhyme and meter, this goes down as one of my favorite Hopkins courses.

Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications

This class is so unique and incredible that it’s going to get its own post at the end of the semester. But just know that the brand-spanking-new PR internship I’m sporting this summer is all thanks to this bad boy. The entire class formed a student-run agency with a real-life client (Baltimore-based app Full Society—check it out!), and as Co-Manager of the PR & Social Media department, I got hands-on experience dealing with media contacts and essentially figured out what I wanted to do in life. No big deal.

This will allll make sense later.
This will allll make sense later.

British Literature I

Some old favorites get a new coat of analytical paint in this class. The course delves deeply into the lives and works of four famous authors, and the connections my professor draws between these seemingly unconnected pieces are nothing short of incredible. Professor Daniel peels back the layers of the classics you thought you knew back in high school, and I’ve done some of my deepest, closest reading in the class. I’ll never look at Paradise Lost the same way again.

loljk forcing them to live with me for the rest of my life

Spring Breakers

Spring break. The holy grail of college students, particularly Hopkins students, who tend to adopt that whole “work hard; play hard” mentality as early as Orientation Week. This lovely institution has placed spring break smack dab in the middle of March, aka the longest, greyest month of the year, making it the perfect time to jet off to a sunny paradise.

And that’s just what I did.

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See?

My roommates and I took off on a week-long Caribbean cruise, and, not gonna lie, it was perfection. I have a tan and five extra pounds to prove it.

Despite my blatant urge to brag, I assure you that this post is not just an excuse for me to gush about the Bahamas and assault you with cute pictures—though I will be unabashedly doing both. As I basked in my post-vacay glow, I was struck by how shocked everyone was that we managed to pull the whole thing off a) without breaking the bank and b) without wanting to kill each other by the end of the week.

Who could be homicidal with this view?
Who could be homicidal with this view?

Part A is easy to tackle. I chalk it up to my roommates’ excellent research skills and pure dumb luck. We snagged an awesome last-minute cruise deal (from a sketchy albeit totally legit website) and thus were able to splurge on jacked-up airfare. To be honest, I don’t think any of us were convinced it was actually going to happen until we were sitting in the ship’s golden dining room, looking out at the turquoise water and eating ice cream lunch. Not to be confused with ice cream dinner. Or ice cream midmorning snack.

Part B gives me pause. And it has since our return. It was the first question my father asked after I got off of the plane: “Do you all still love each other?” I laughed at him, and after I hung up the phone and shared my fears with Lauren, Caroline, and Liz, they laughed too. But now that I’m back on campus and hearing similar assumptions, I’m starting to get it. We stayed in a gorgeous but teeny interior room, packed in like bikini-clad sardines. We spent countless hours together, a foursome at every meal, by the pool, on the beach, at the shows, games, and nightclubs. I don’t think I went more than 40 minutes without seeing at least one of the three, and that was usually due to showers and naps. I mean, it only makes sense that we’d be craving some space by mid-week. Even families get sick of each other, right?

Wrong!
Wrong!

But that just wasn’t our reality. Every minute spent on those pristine beaches was made infinitely better by having these three ladies by my side. It was the shared joy of being on a ~dream vacation~ with them that made it paradise. I’ll probably forget the perfect feeling of powdery sand under my feet and the perfect temperature of Caribbean waters. But I’ll never forget trolling for aloe with a hilariously crispy Caroline, sharing the perfect chocolate soufflé with Lauren, or protecting Liz from non-threatening fish. I’ll never forget the nights spent belting karaoke, dominating at trivia, or “wobble-ing” until the wee hours of the morning. As the Eurodam pulled away from the port at Fort Lauderdale, the four of us were perched in a hot tub on the main deck, sipping daiquiris while the ship started its journey toward the Bahamas. It was a quick moment, an unassuming one, but I think that’s the luckiest I’ve ever felt.

Tomorrow morning, we register for our first round of senior classes. So begins the gentle, but terrifying, descent into our last year at Hopkins. And I’m already heartsick at the thought of leaving this place behind.

You begin college thinking that you have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to do for you—career opportunities, an impressive degree, a better idea of who you are and what you want. Hopkins has given me a thousand gifts, but these girls are the greatest of them all. The illustrious Carrie Bradshaw once suggested that perhaps our girlfriends are our true soulmates. Her judgment is notoriously questionable, but I think she was onto something there. They are my soulmates, my sisters, my future bridesmaids. They make Hopkins home. And they are the piece of Hopkins that I will take with me wherever I go, from Baltimore, to the Bahamas, and beyond.

loljk forcing them to live with me for the rest of my life
loljk forcing them to live with me for the rest of my life

 

 

 

 

I can always count on these girls to play hard.

Why Hopkins: A Crash Course

Every semester since coming to college, I’ve rolled out an emotional soliloquy in an effort to tackle the unavoidable admissions-season question: Why Hopkins? I’ve talked about the people, how for the first time in my life I’ve found myself surrounded by peers who make me feel supported and understood. I’ve tried to describe this feeling of belonging, the way I can’t help but smile walking to class on beautiful mornings because being here still hits me just as powerfully as it did on my first day.

But it’s nearly impossible. You just kind of have to be here, living the amazing life of a Hopkins student, to have that indescribable “ah-ha!” moment.

So until you step foot on Homewood soil and experience that inevitable epiphany, here are some of the more unsung—but totally indispensable—aspects of Hopkins life that come to mind whenever I hear the phrase, “Why Hopkins?” They may not capture the total picture, but they come pretty dang close.

Location. Baltimore is an East Coast powerhouse of art, food, and music. I’ve lived right next to this city my entire live and never really got a feel for it until moving here. In those short two-and-a-half years, I’ve eaten enough incredible seafood and seen enough mind-blowing theatre to last a lifetime. The city of Baltimore is a defining component of life at Hopkins—there’s never a dull moment here.

Professors. I’ve already sung the praises of Hopkins academics, and you know the stats: We have some of the best programs in the world, all supported by the best faculty. What you don’t know is that my Shakespeare professor dressed in all black during Hamlet week to embody the Dark Prince of Demark. What you don’t know is that my Poetic Forms professor is taking time out of his day to help me get published. And what you certainly don’t know is that my favorite marketing professor forwards me any theatre internship she comes across, simply because she knows that’s what I’m into. Studying with these people makes class a privilege, not an obligation.

Work hard, play hard. It’s hard to describe the general ~vibe~ of Hopkins, so I’ll let this clichéd phrase do it for me. Sure, every one of us has clocked far too many hours in the library, even on weekends. But we more than make up for it in our free time. A rough night before an exam just makes me more determined to get out there and do something fun the very next day, whether it’s checking out a new restaurant, seeing a show on-campus, or walking through the BMA. The key is balance, and it’s the first thing you master as a Hopkins student.

I can always count on these girls to play hard.
I can always count on these girls to play hard.
And these ones!
And these ones!

Spring fair. Aka what gets me through the period between spring break and finals every dang year. For one weekend in April, campus becomes a gorgeous, bustling celebration of the season. Food, rides, vendor booths, and live music take over the main quads and poof: stress and studying are rendered virtually impossible. I spend my winters dreaming of those handmade strawberry smoothies.

And gently giving my gorgeous roommate a pie in the face. <3
And gently giving my gorgeous roommate a pie in the face. <3
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For the Love of Greek Life

 

Spoiler alert: I’m in a sorority! You, dear reader, are definitely not shocked, seeing as I’ve been writing about good ol’ Alpha Phi at least once a semester since my freshman spring. Before sitting down to write this post, I took a walk down digital memory lane, sampling all of my past Greek life blogs as I went. I’ve been over the basics: reasons to go through recruitment in the first place, philanthropy, phamily, juggling sorority involvement along with everything else. If you have any questions about the wonder that is Secret Week, you have come to the right place.

I humbly offer my sorority squat as proof.
I humbly offer my sorority squat as proof.

But after happily saying goodbye (read: good riddance) to my roughest semester at Hopkins thus far, I find my past evaluations of Greek life, and Alpha Phi specifically, kind of lackluster. Like I had somehow missed the point of it all. This idea of not really “getting it” crystalized for me while we were preparing for this year’s formal recruitment. During this time, we’re often asked to think about our own unique experiences with Alpha Phi: why we decided to go through recruitment, how we’ve grown as people by getting to know such dynamic women. I listened as my sisters gushed—sometimes teary-eyed—about how Alpha Phi was the first thing about Hopkins that felt like home. It was here that they found their place on campus, their phamily, their people.

Believe me when I say there are few things more awesome than supporting your friends as they ~speak their truths~, or whatever it is the kids are saying these days. But I also felt kind of crappy about myself. Because that totally wasn’t my truth.

I joined a sorority for fun. That was really, truly the extent of it. I was excited to meet new people, dress up for wacky mixers, and fall in love with an amazing big (done, done, and done), but I wasn’t on the lookout for any kind of fulfillment, emotional or otherwise. There just wasn’t a void to fill. I already had a group of incredible friends and was hyper-involved in other organizations. Joining Alpha Phi was just the cherry on top of what was shaping up to be a near-perfect first year.

As is the case with all things, I got out of Alpha Phi what I put in. Since it was “what I did for fun,” it automatically became my lowest priority, forever taking the backburner when it came to my schoolwork and Barnstormers commitments. I have yet to see a semester where I haven’t missed a date party, mixer, and/or philanthropic event because of rehearsal. And this isn’t a bad thing! One of the best things about sorority life at Hopkins is that it can be whatever you want it to be. For my first two years, I wanted it to be the fun, social thing I did on weekends, and that’s exactly what it was.

#sosocial
#sosocial

And then junior fall hit, and the many unstable pieces of my life finally began to spiral out of control. For the first time, I felt deeply unhappy and out-of-place at Hopkins, and there were moments when I very much wasn’t sure how I was going to get to Christmas.

My best friends pulled me through, as did my family, and there aren’t enough mushy-gushy words in the dictionary to express how grateful I am to them for scooping my sorry butt off of the floor. And I did a show off-campus filled with wonderful people who reminded me that there’s a big, beautiful world right outside of the Hopkins bubble.

But, in so many lovely, unexpected ways, it was Alpha Phi that pulled me through. When I needed support, distraction, food, and fun, my sisters were there. I threw myself into as many events as possible, setting a personal record for how many mixers I attended in a single semester. No one judged me when I showed up to Red Dress Brunch looking a little rough-around-the-edges. I was given ten thousand hugs when I broke down during a recruitment workshop. And I’ve never felt closer to my fellow Phis than when I had the opportunity to express my gratitude to them, face-to-face.

Tl:dr I wouldn’t be the happier, healthier person I am today without these girls. Freshman JHU_Allison saw something in sorority life, but I never expected it to become such a lifeline, lifeboat, and lifesaver. And I figured it was high time to give this incredible organization the blog-worship is so dearly deserves. So thank you, Alpha Phi, for giving me all of the things I never knew I needed and never knew how to ask for. I finally get it.

I love you goobers.
I love you goobers.