After four months I am finally back home for winter break. It’s great to spend time with family, meet up with friends, go up to the mountains and snowboard, and to rest and not worry about p-sets (problem sets), looming deadlines and papers. So with all this free time on my hands I’ve had the chance to reflect on the past 120 days.
And like my first blog for SAAB, I want to share 13 Things I Learned my First Semester at Hopkins.
- Don’t spend all your dining dollars at once
Dining dollars are a part of the Hopkins freshman meal plan. There are three options for freshman living on campus. The first is Anytime Dining where you get an unlimited amount of meal swipes (to be used at the FFC) and $150 Dining Dollars (to be used at Levering, CharMar, Nolan’s and the Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company). The second is the 19 Meals Per Week, where you get 19 swipes a week and $250 Dining Dollars. The last one is the 14 Meals Per Week, where- who would’ve guessed? You get 14 swipes per week and $350 Dining Dollars. I had the Unlimited Dining plan this past semester and while it was nice knowing that I could go into the FFC as many times as I wanted to, I ended up using my Dining Dollars quickly because of CharMar’s close proximity to McCoy Hall and Wolman. Choose the best dining plan for you. You can also change plans within the first week of the semester. *Insider Tip* You can have unlimited for the first week so you don’t have to worry about meal swipes until the last day to change.
- Explore restaurants and neighborhoods outside of the Inner Harbor
The Inner Harbor is definitely a great place to go because of its lively atmosphere and choice of restaurants. However, there are plenty of other places around Baltimore that are just as amazing, unique, and delicious. Check out Hopkins Insider’s Baltimore Blog for great places to eat!
- Say yes to everything
One of the reasons I chose to come to Hopkins was the variety of resources, clubs, and activities open to students. And the Student Activities Fair did not disappoint. I literally signed up for everything although my inbox was cluttered for a while. Go to at least one meeting for each club you signed up for (this is what covered grades are for!) and see what you like and stick with it! Saying yes will open a lot of new experiences and opportunities for you. On that note, if a club requires you to fill out an application, JUST DO IT! Trust me, you won’t regret taking the extra hour to fill it out.
- If you get a suite, make sure to buy cleaning supplies for your bathroom!
One of the perks of having a suite is that you get your own bathroom. You only have to share it with three other people, as opposed to an entire floor. The only downside is that you have to clean it yourself, so I suggest you get the right cleaning supplies. I made a list of items that I thought would be helpful to have (but don’t feel in any way obligated to get any of these!):
- shower cleaner
- floor cleaner
- toilet brush
- toilet bowl cleaner
- windex for mirror
- Clorox wipes
- Rubber gloves
- Actually go talk to your professors, they’re very approachable and nice!
At Hopkins, professors are required to have office hours- usually an hour block of time where they can do nothing but wait for students to come by and say hi or ask for help. If you didn’t understand something in lecture, going to professors during their office hours is a great opportunity for you to get a more personalized experience, especially if you’re in a larger intro class.
- Take an upper-level class
While freshmen are advised to take classes meant for lower-level undergraduates because they’re targeted towards students transitioning into the college curriculum, most upper-level classes are open to freshman. I took an upper-level sociology class for my IS major called Family, Gender, and Sexuality in China. The first day of class I was quite intimidated because I was the only freshman in a class with eleven upperclassmen. However, everyone was very accepting and helpful. We had some very profound class discussions and I learned to manage my time better. It was a writing intensive class with at least 100 pages of reading per week and a two-page response on three of the readings. Therefore, I learned how to concisely and critically analyze all kinds of works. It was definitely a great experience and an even better class.
- So… what are you majoring in?
Unless you’re 100% sure about your major, use the first semester as a chance to explore every major- computer science, engineering, writing sems, neuroscience, etc. Covered grades aren’t just so that you can explore different activities but also different classes.
- You can usually save winter clothes for after winter break… with a few exceptions.
From what I remember, the first two months of school were relatively hot ranging from the high 80s and 90s (in Fahrenheit). Then in the fall it cooled down to the 60s and by Thanksgiving break it was in the 40s and 50s. However, this past month has been in the 50s-70s so I was out in flipflops and t-shirts some days. I would advise you, therefore, to bring the majority of your winter clothes with you after winter break. If you’re like my roommate who’s from Florida, however, bring some sweaters and warm jacket with you. Remember, you can always bring more clothes with you from home if you go back for Thanksgiving break. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pack winter clothes, but it might save you a lot of space for other things on move-in day.
9. If Brody’s full, you can always go to empty lecture halls!
10. Learn to prioritize, study smart
If you’re anything like me, I like to study everything. This includes reviewing power points, reading through my notes, re-doing homework problems, and taking practice tests. In college, your study habits will most likely change. You will have a lot of free time. Classes might end at 12pm and you might not have to wake up the next day until 10am. Procrastination will creep up on you. Make a list of everything that you have to do, how long it will take, and make space for some free time. Be open to change, study smart, and find a study place that works for you!
Studying smart includes knowing what to study. This might not be apparent until after the first homework assignment or midterm, but you’ll get a feel for what kind of questions your professor will ask you and what subjects to study. If something’s not on the syllabus, then it most likely will not be on the test. If you don’t understand something, try to figure it out by yourself first. If that doesn’t work you can also form study groups with people in your class. Most professors allow you to work together on problem sets as long as you list everyone who you worked with and didn’t just copy the answers. Finding a good study spot where you can focus is also a good idea.
Volunteering is a great way to get out of the “Hopkins Bubble” and to experience the different areas in Baltimore. Check out the Center for Social Concern’s website for a list of all the ways you can get involved in the community.
12. Be Proactive
In college, your parents aren’t there to remind you to do things, so it’s important that you take note of everything you have to do and actually do them. If it’s stopping by the Student Employment Office, going to Office Hours for clarification, or replying to an e-mail, it’s best to do it as soon as possible.
13. Do what you love
You’ll meet a lot of freshman who are involved in research, have a job, or know exactly what they’re doing and have all four years of their life planned out. I just want to say don’t feel pressured in any way to get involved with these- do what you love. If it’s research then Hopkins is a perfect place for you! Email professors and labs on the Med campus. If you want to get a job, go to the career fairs and career center for help with your resume and how to set up a cover letter. If you don’t know what you want to major in, take everything and decide from there! Also, I would suggest that if you know what you want to do, make a four year plan of what classes required for your major and how many credits it takes up to determine if you have space for other classes.
I hope this list was helpful and Happy Holidays!