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.”

IMG_4259

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.

blogcruisepic1
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
IMG_3901

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.
They're my fun. <3

Surviving Week One

Okay, okay, okay. Technically this past week wasn’t the first week of classes. Winter storm Jonas saw to that, ensuring that the Hopkins population had a nice and easy start to the spring semester. I could have used my snow days to get organized, maybe even get ahead on some required reading, but instead I found myself binge-watching Making a Murderer and eating too many baked goods. I’m nothing if not predictable.

Thus, this first full week of school hit my unprepared butt like a ton of bricks. After five semesters in college, you think I’d be prepared for the stress-fest that syllabus week embodies, but nope! Here I am yet again, behind before I’ve even begun. But I refuse to admit defeat! I refuse to nap away my responsibilities in the face of overwhelming deadlines! Instead, I’ll write off week one—which was, don’t forget, basically week two—as a trial period. A warm-up. Now that I’ve dusted off the cobwebs in my brain, I’m back and better than ever. And I’ve rustled up a list of five ~tried and true tips~ (holy alliteration batman) for making it through week one relatively unscathed. Take it from a girl who knows.

Buy a planner. Love a planner. Be a planner. Take thirty minutes to pencil in important deadlines as the syllabi come rolling in. Not only will you ever be surprised by a paper or exam, but you’ll also be able to spot a deadline-heavy week a mile away. Having all of your crap neatly laid out in a planner will make it all seem a lot more manageable.

Or two. Type A? Who's type A? I'm not type A.
Or two. Type A? Who’s type A? I’m not type A.

Be textbook-savvy. Buying textbooks is tricky. On the one hand, you don’t want to spend money on books you won’t end up reading. On the other, you don’t want to scramble to get your hands on a copy when you’re given a high-stakes assignment on day one. Do research on the class ahead of time to find out which books are actually must-haves.

Take care of yourself. One of the sad realities of going back to school is that you’ll be forced to be around humans again. And humans have germs. Lots and lots of germs. Start the semester off right by getting enough sleep and upping your vitamin C intake. Hopefully those healthy habits will carry you through when the semester gets rough.

Tbt to when I needed an orange juice IV
Tbt to when I needed an orange juice IV

Make time for fun. The first week of classes is the perfect time to establish a semester-long balance between work and play. Make a conscious effort to weave some time with your friends into the workweek, whether it’s going out to dinner, having a movie night, or staying in and studying together. Your stressed-out psyche will thank you for it.

They're my fun. <3
They’re my fun. <3

 

 

Newest ~celebrity crush~

Media and PR in the Big Apple

You know what’s awkward about being a junior?

Let me paint you a picture. You’re finally on winter break, basking in the glow of the coming two weeks, aflutter with the promise of food and family and presents and irritating Christmas music. After last semester’s horrifying finals schedule, you’ve gained a new appreciation for the simpler, sweeter things in life. You are prepared to finally do what you couldn’t for the past four months: nothing.

And then it happens. You’re at a Christmas party, going in for that third Santa cookie, when a relative you haven’t seen since the Fourth of July pops the question:

“So what’s the plan after you graduate?”

This is not an unfamiliar question. It’s been haunting you since you crossed the stage at high school graduation. But if you’re anything like me, with no laid-out, pre-professional track to call your own, thinking about a future outside the hallowed halls of Gilman is enough to squash your appetite. When you’re a freshman, you can answer this question in a dozen ways, staying vague while chatting about your favorite classes or the new minor you just declared. But junior year is no joke. Having too many plans is basically a euphemism for having no plan, and everyone knows it.

For me, junior year brought the terrifying-exciting revelation that going to grad school right out of undergrad is probably not in the cards. While premed students cramming for the MCAT may be jealous of my exam-free intersession, I was panicking. Up until now, there was always higher education standing in the way of me actually figuring out what I want to do with my life. Graduation is coming, and I’m hardly prepared for the decision-making and job-hunting that lead up to it.

Thankfully, the universe sent me a gift in the form of an unassuming two-week intersession class, “Media and PR in the Big Apple.” The first five days featured a Baltimore speaker series, during which a whole slew of incredible company reps spoke to us about the business of marketing. We heard from ad agencies, publications as renowned as Baltimore Magazine, and several of the quirky startups that are taking Charm City by storm. My LinkedIn connections doubled, and I’m still sorting through business cards.

The second week of class was spent in New York City, the epicenter of advertising and PR. I was star-struck as I found myself touring some of the biggest names in the industry. We heard from creative strategists at ESPN, media planners at AMC, and social media gurus at Ogilvy. I played with Legos in one of Google’s many micro-kitchens and posed with Elmo at Sesame Street Workshop. And all the while, I was gaining deeper and deeper access into a world I could actually see myself being a part of.

 

When you don't care you're being touristy because it's freaking GOOGLE
When you don’t care if you’re being touristy because it’s freaking GOOGLE

The class was equal parts practical and exciting, and that’s exactly what I want my professional life to be. In a practical sense, it opened local internship doors, which had me crying tears of relief. No matter what I end up doing this summer, I’ll at least know I applied to anything and everything in the tri-state area. But from a less defined perspective, it also gave me newfound peace of mind. I don’t know exactly what my future holds, but I know I’m headed in the right direction. For every high-flying exec who entered his or her field right out of college, there were five who had to really work to find their way. And if Hopkins has taught me anything, it’s to never fear hard work.

Newest ~celebrity crush~
Newest ~celebrity crush~
See?

The Freshman Fifteen

Christmas has come and gone, and we all have the leftovers, Instas, and gift receipts to prove it.

See?
See?

Now before we let the holiday spirit wane, I’d like to offer up a slightly belated gift to the new class of 2020 (CONGRATS, KIDDOS!!). It’s the only freshman fifteen you’ll ever want to receive: a Hopkins pre-frosh Wish List. Don’t leave home without packing these fifteen unsung essentials:

  1. Rain boots: You think you don’t need them. You are wrong. Baltimore weather is unpredictable at best, and wet socks are the actual worst. Take it from a girl who had to wring hers out in the Hodson bathroom after a surprise Thursday monsoon.
  2. An extra set of sheets: Because you will get melted chocolate on your bed, and you won’t want to do laundry at midnight on a Wednesday.
  3. A bathrobe: In the dead of winter, that short walk back from the communal showers can feel like a hike over frozen tundra. I owe my lack of freshman frostbite to some fluffy, white terrycloth.
  4. As many headphones as you can carry: Losing a pair of beloved headphones is a somber fact of life. Lessen the tragedy by having more than a few spares. Never deny yourself the simple pleasure of jamming to TSwift on the way to class.
  5. An HDMI cable: There will come a time when you and your friends will want to hook a laptop up to a TV. Save the day.
  6. Makeup wipes: Again, the bathroom is often too far to justify a late-night face wash. Keep a pack by your bed, and make your life much easier.
  7. Chapstick: If you have a Burt’s Bees addiction like yours truly, then you already know that a pair of chapped lips can greatly interfere with your studies. Plant them all over your dorm room—and in any and all pencil cases—to maximize productivity.
  8. A window fan: It takes up no space, pushes warm air literally out of the window, and protects you from the springtime threat of bees. Everybody wins!
  9. A bag that isn’t your backpack: Whether it’s for rehearsal, practice, or just walking around Spring Fair in a dress without pockets, you’ll need something more than the L.L. Bean.
  10. Space-saving hangers: Buy the velvety kind in bulk from Walmart, and get the most out of your admittedly-limited closet space.
  11. A big, microwaveable mug: You’d be surprised by all of the yummy things you can “cook” with a mug, microwave, and several Charmar ingredients.
  12. Under-the-bed bins: My go-to storage strategy since 1995.
  13. Slippers: Warm, comfy protection from whatever gross things end up on your hallway floor.
  14. A reusable water bottle: Good for you, and good for the planet. Plus, the filling-stations in all of the freshman dorms have the coldest, best-tasting water on campus. Take advantage while you can!
  15. Earplugs: For when your roommate doesn’t seem to hear her fifteen alarms.

Happy Holidays, class of 2020! You can thank me later.

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Making Friends

The first few weeks of freshman year are a rush: to unpack, to settle into classes, to cozy up to professors, to become part of all of the organizations that Hopkins has to offer. And the school itself proves a huge help to that rush. A lot of it just comes naturally. The traits that make you a good student are easily adapted and applied to the ~college experience~. You know how to take good notes, do your homework, and make a stellar first impression on a professor.

But there’s one thing that’s going to be scary and foreign, no matter what university becomes your alma mater: making friends.

“Just be yourself!” say the adults in your life, from their lofty position of well-adjusted glory. They’ve paid their dues, made their friends, and they have the vintage wedding photos to prove it. It’s also worth noting, nosy Aunt So-And-So, that I am a human bag of neuroses with sweaty hands and a tendency to nervously over-share. Being myself seems a bold move. In the days before college, you’re forced to ask yourself a lot of the tough questions. How long do I wait before I reveal that I don’t understand football? Before I start belting show-tunes in the harsh, judgmental light of day? Before I show them that Budweiser Clydesdale commercial that makes me weep every. Single. Time?!

Okay, so maybe making friends isn’t as intense and existential-crisis-inducing as I’m making it out to be. Still, everyone feels the pressure. It’s like the clock starts ticking after move-in day, and there’s this great rush to insta-connect and find your people. There’s nothing scarier than looking around and seeing everyone jumping around and hugging one another like they’ve been besties since birth.

If I just described you’re greatest pre-frosh fear, fret not. This is by no means the norm. There’s a joke at Hopkins about how you’ll never see the first people you meet at Hopkins—your “Orientation Friends”—again after that first weekend. Meaningful connections always take time to develop—even in the pressure cooker that is college living. There are thousands of opportunities, from day one until graduation, to make friends across all dorms, majors, and clubs.

Maybe this is triggering a “no duh” moment for most of you, but it’s a side of the Hopkins experience I feel obligated to share with the class of 2020 (holy moly do I feel ancient). Looking through some of my past blog posts (searching for writing samples, internship apps are rough), I realize that I paint a pretty unrealistic picture of college friend-making. I gush about meeting my three friend-soulmates on the second day of orientation, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have to put a lot of time and energy into growing our little friendship seedlings into big, beautiful trees! That was weird, but you get it.

3/4 trees--Christmas trees, that is! (Get it?)
3/4 trees–Christmas trees, that is! (Get it?)

And it doesn’t have to all go down your freshman year either. Even yours truly, a crotchety old junior, makes new friends with each semester. This feels particularly timely, because two of the lovely new friends I made this fall, Ali and Victoria, are already leaving me for the greener pastures of real life. We grew close in the face of great adversity—a monumental International Marketing project that nearly ended us all during finals period. (We actually had a fantastic time marketing Cinnamon Toast Crunch to mothers and children in Spain, but daaaang that paper was long. It had 400+ endnotes. Take a minute to let that sink in.)

By the day of the final presentation, our little dream team had clocked like fifty hours together. These girls opened their hearts, home, and refrigerator to me, and I shall be forever grateful. Ali herself came up with this blog idea specifically because of the college myth that you don’t make friends after freshman year. Spoiler alert: You do! You really do. I, along literally everyone else, am living proof. So stress about which classes to take or which shoes to leave behind (none, if you can help it). Friends just kind of…happen. Sometimes when you least expect it.

If we look exhausted, it's because we are. But still super cute, right?
If we look exhausted, it’s because we are. But still super cute, right?