Sweet Caroline

Neither a Kennedy nor a Princess of Monaco

Hopkins in the Rain


Spring has sprung, April showers bring May flowers, and all that.

The rain is in fine form today with showers making our hundreds of SOHOP visitors all wet. Yesterday was absolutely beautiful – 70 degrees, sunny, just the right amount of breeze, tons of people on the Beach. Today is the opposite: a little chilly and absolutely pouring down, with the water gushing down Charles Street and creating inches deep puddles.

 black and white disney vintage rain storm GIF

Here are some pro-tips for managing the rain here in Baltimore (now entering mom-mode):

  • Have an umbrella. Seems like a no-brainer, but make sure you come to campus with a big, wide umbrella. Probably be willing to spend a few bucks on a nice one – I know the bookstore has these giant Hopkins umbrellas with nice wood handles.
  • Rain boots! So so so useful especially when you’re in a rush to class. You don’t have to worry about water getting in your shoes when you splash in a puddle two minutes before your 9am class
  • A good rain slicker. Could be as easy as picking up a $2 poncho from CVS but you’ll be so much happier when you don’t have to sit in class slightly damp and very very cold
  • Stock up on a few plastic bags. Why? Protect your notes and laptop from the rain! wrap your notebooks and laptop in the bag and stick it in your backpack for an extra layer to keep everything dry
  • Find the best indoor routes to and from places. For example – to get from Commons to Gilman Hall, you can usually walk across the Beach and onto the Quad. But in the rain, you can poke through the library, go into Krieger Hall, then into Ames Hall, and then into the side door of Gilman. You’ll learn by doing it a lot. A lot.
Image result for johns hopkins university umbrella
members of the JHU community brave the rain to pay respects at the real Johns Hopkins’ grave every year

On the other hand though, the rain is my absolutely favorite weather. Hopkins is so nice because it has so many giant windows and you can see the entire campus with it coming down. I remember I was in the Brody reading room – which has amazing floor to ceiling windows – and it started just coming down in buckets. And everyone for a moment looked up outside at the rain for a few minutes. It was a weird moment of universal connection where some people even stood up by the windows for a while. The rain is calming and a nice change – and it means that spring and flowers are on the way. Just make sure you have all the resources to enjoy it!

Old Hollywood Films dance rain musicals gene kelly GIF

Why I Chose JHU


So you got into Hopkins – congratulations!


575 of you already know you’re coming to Baltimore to begin the best 4 years of your life, but for the 2,542 of you who have until May 1 to decide if you’ll call Baltimore home, I hope you’ll listen to my humble opinion and strongly consider Hopkins as the college you attend.

If you can, I’d strongly strongly recommend you attend SOHOP. If you can afford to get there, it’s the best possible way to really get a feel for campus. If you get there early enough, you can sit in on a class; I listened to a lecture about Tess of the D’Urbervilles in a class about 19th Century British Literature. Once you check in at SOHOP, there’s literally tons of programming to answer your every question about Hopkins. I took a campus tour, a tour of the surrounding neighborhood (Charles Village), and attended another mock class just for SOHOP students. I’ve talked before a little bit about my interest in archaeology and Ancient Egypt. How convenient that SOHOP offered one of these mock courses on religion in Ancient Egypt taught by one of the top archeologists at Hopkins.

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After dinner with your fellow admits and current students, there’s an amazing show with a ton of different cultural dance and a cappella groups, and then you get matched up with your host! The rest of that night is honestly nothing but fun, and I’ll leave it up to you all to find out why.

 dance party the office party hard dance moves GIF

The second day is filled with presentations by your possible future major and minor departments, a Q&A with the advising services, and a giant student activities fair! Catch me at the Pi Phi or Model UN tables this year 😎

SOHOP was wonderful and the programming was immensely helpful in answering all of my questions about life in and out of the classroom at Hopkins. However, it was my brief explorations after the official programming that really confirmed why I wanted to attend Hopkins. Whilst I was walking around Gilman Hall, I peeked around the first floor, and ran into Dr. Betsey Bryan, who ran that one-off class on Ancient Egypt the day before. She immediately remembered who I was and made sure to tell me to check out the Archeology Museum.

After that brief but pretty cool interaction, I went up to the fourth floor where the German and Romance Languages are housed. I went in with a few questions about how I could continue my Italian studies in college. As I was chatting with the administrative assistant up front, one of the professors overheard me, and invited me into her office. We ended up chatting for over half an hour about all of the opportunities at Hopkins. life water day travel city GIF

My experience at SOHOP was really why I chose Hopkins. That I was individually met to answer all my questions made me feel welcome and valued as a student. I really do believe that professors and faculty here deeply value each student’s interests and goals. Every time – and I mean every single time – I meet with my advisor for my independent study, he asks me my plans for after college, and offers me advice on it. I go out for coffee or brunch with the professors or TA with which I am particularly close. Your experience at Hopkins will be deeply personal, and all the better for it.IMG_4600

Let the Committee Reject You

I'm really good at maintaining US-Italy relations

Of all the advice I’ve been given over the years, I often think about one in particular, especially when I’m applying for something new: “Let the committee reject you.” It sounds kind of negative at first – the word “reject” is in there pretty prominently – but if you think a little more about what it means, it’s pretty encouraging.

Rejection. It’s a scary word.

Often, when I would think about applying to something – an internship, a club, grad school – one of this first things that came to mind was doubt. “There are so many more qualified people than me.” “Everyone else has an inside connection.” “Everybody else has advantage X, Y, and Z.” By doubting yourself, you basically reject your own application before the thing you’re applying to ever has a chance to read it.

The truth is, you never really know what they’re looking for. The worst possible outcome is that it may not be you, and you go on to apply for the next thing. However, you might be surprised. Now I have a personal story in which I have surprised myself, as it was because I didn’t reject myself before I sent in my application.

nervous suspicious chewing thats so raven old disney
Approximation of my face right before clicking any “submit” button

Each October, the general call for summer interns at the State Department comes out. As a student of international studies, it’s pretty much a given that you apply, because it’s the holy grail of summer internships, and who knows? You very well might get it. At first, I disagreed with this notion, because I didn’t really want to spend time writing an application for which I thought I was going to get rejected. How could some random sophomore with no inside connections to the State Department and extremely minimal experience be chosen over the thousands of other enthusiastic IS majors from around the country?

I ended up applying on the last day before the deadline. It turns out the application didn’t take that long – although the fact that they forgot our infamous “S” in JohnSSSSSS Hopkins University irked me a bit. When it came down to the essay, I just wrote about what I was interested in. I wrote about how I think Americans should be keeping an eye on Italian politics – I think there’s a lot to be seen there as Europe is growing and changing, possibly in a direction away from the European Union. As someone whose family has strong Italian roots, I also think it is massively important that the US maintain its strong friendly relations with Italy.

I'm really good at maintaining US-Italy relations
I’m really good at maintaining US-Italy relations

I sent my application out into the void and it was then radio silence. In fact, there were no emails indicating any sort of process for how they looked at applications, who saw them, or when they would respond, and following the confirmation that my application was received, I heard nothing. After a while, I sort of forgot about even sending it out. Between midterms and final papers and Thanksgiving and life, I said I would put off applying to any other internships until Intersession (which is a pretty common strategy tbh).

However, in early December – December 9th, I think – I checked my email, as one does. As I was clicking the delete button on the many emails from Sephora and Forever 21 (#InboxZeroLife), I noticed some important-looking subject lines from email addresses. They said things like “Summer Internship Opportunity” and “State Department” and “US Consulate.” Turns out I had four offers from various US offices in Italy: the US Mission to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, the Consulates in Florence and Milan, and, finally, the US Embassy in Rome.

audrey hepburn gregory peck roman holiday movie lover


I was overwhelmed, and I collapsed onto the floor. I ended up calling each of the offices and asking what each job entailed, and ultimately decided on the Embassy in Rome, where I will be working in the Public Affairs section. So, yes, I will be back in Italy this summer!!

Moral of the story, folks, is that you let the committee reject you. Don’t limit yourself based on some perceived notion of your competition or your experience or what you think they are looking for. You very well might be perfect for the job they are looking to fill. Talk about your interests and what you want to do. Often, your passion for a subject is just what they are looking for. By no means is success inevitable, but neither is rejection. Be your best enthusiastic self, and typically, people will respond well to it.

smart dj khaled compliment you smart you very smart

Trying Something New

women in the dark

After two extremely busy weekends this semester – sorority Recruitment and the JHUMUNC Conference – I am finally back with a semi-normal schedule. Good thing, too, since last weekend was a great weekend to spend time with friends and see some amazing performances by Hopkins Groups!

One of the classes I’m in this semester, called “Drama Queens” is all about women represented on the opera stage, and part of the requirements for the course is going to see several live productions. On Friday, we all went to Theatre Project in the Station North neighborhood to see the Peabody Chamber Orchestra’s production of three one-act operettas. Entitled Women in the Dark, the three pieces all concerned women – sisters, mothers, mad women, marginalized women, and everything in between.

women in the dark
From Peabody Chamber Orchestra’s Women in the Dark

The most interesting piece was the third and final performance of the night, called Anon, written and composed by Errollyn Wallen, and it was actually the American premiere of the piece. Based off of the novel Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost, it is a blending of tales about the current struggles women face today, from prostitution, abuse, online dating, honor killing, and gender politics. In my class, a question always on our minds is, “why does the woman always die at the end of the opera?” It’s a challenging question, because the stories are different, but always end the same. Anon asks that very same question, and finally sums it up: “for a lot of reasons… but always because she is a woman.”

A scene from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut – very different from what I saw last Friday

On Saturday night, I attended a very different performance, this time by JHU’s own South Asian Students at Hopkins (SASH) club. Two of my close friends are in SASH, and one in particular was the MC, and so I wanted to be Dil Se, meaning “From the Heart,” is the premiere showcase of South Asian talent held each year in Shriver Hall. SASH invites a dozen or so South Asian performance groups from other universities like UChicago, William and Mary, and Rutgers to campus to perform.

Zanir (the show’s MC!) and Neha on stage. My friends are so amazing 💙

Though I’ve seen a few short performances by some of JHU’s Indian dance and a cappella groups, I was so excited to see an entire showcase dedicated to an art form I know little about. Dil Se completely blew me away! I learned about so many different types of dance and singing style from Bhangra (check out JHU’s AMAZING Blue Jay Bhangra below) to Bollywood to Raas, and it was so amazing to see such a large community of South Asians and South Asian Americans come together to celebrate their diverse cultures.

I think what I enjoyed most about last weekend was going out to see and try something new. I had never been to Theatre Project before, and I hope to visit it again for more intimate blackbox theater. And even though I’ve watched a few Bollywood movies, it’s nothing compared watching live Bhangra dance. That’s one of the most beautiful things about college – when else would you have the time and ability to go out and watch something totally new?

Getting Involved Politically On Campus


Today is January 26, 2017, six days into an new presidency and administration in this nation. The peaceful transition of power is one of the most beautiful traditions of our democracy, but we as citizens still have a responsibility to stay politically involved in the four years between presidential elections – and, honestly, in the two years between Congressional elections.

After this election, I’ve personally been galvanized into getting more vocal about my values and beliefs, and in speaking about what I feel is right and just. In that personal resolution, I’ve done a lot of research into what organizations and opportunities exist on campus to get students talking about politics and staying informed on current events.

I and some other Hopkins friends marched in the Women’s March last Saturday afternoon.

The good news is that there are tons of clubs for just about every political interest! Here are some of the most active on campus (and a very small sample of a large community of student advocates):

College Republicans and Dems – the bread and butter of your political experience on any college campus. Affiliated with their respective national organizations, Repubs and Dems actually team up pretty often for debate and speech watch parties. They also host voter registration drives, canvass for their respective candidates, and comment on current events.

Young Americans for Liberty – This is an organization that promotes libertarian values on campus. If the mainstream two-party system doesn’t work for you, consider a third way. After Gary Johnson’s relative success in the presidential election this past year, I imagine libertarianism will continue to grow in the face of frustration with the Democratic Party and the GOP.

IDEAL – IDEAL, which stands for Inform, Discuss, Enlighten, Acknowledge, and Learn, seeks to change the way we talk and think about politics in this country. Instead of talking about the issues from one narrative, IDEAL encourages us to develop our own opinions and, more importantly in this day and age, encourage us to listen to each other. IDEAL at JHU often publishes and shares articles, holds speaker panels and events, and has often co-hosted speech and debate watch parties with Repubs and Dems.

A packed crowd at an IDEAL/College Republicans/College Democrats co-sponsored debate watch party.


Voice for Choice and Voice for Life – Both sides of the abortion debate are represented at Hopkins, and you can often find these organizations giving out buttons, chalking on campus, and holding events on the Quads, as well as participating in some advocacy and lobbying work off campus.

FAS and MSE Symposium – FAS and MSE are JHU’s two student run speaker series on campus, bringing names like Bernie Sanders, Edward Snowden (via Skype), Ava DuVernay, and Joe Lieberman. MSE runs in the fall and FAS in the spring, making the entire year full of incredible visitors to campus speaking for free to students and members of the Hopkins and Baltimore community.

Senator Bernie Sanders and JHU President Ron Daniels this November at MSE Symposium.

Students for Environmental Action – SEA members are dedicated to environmental advocacy and making campus a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly place.

Students for a Democratic Society – Hopkins SDS is a combination undergrad and graduate student organization focused on creating a more just and democratic society through demonstration and protest. They seek to make Hopkins a community of activists and make Hopkins students catalysts for social change on campus and in the outside community.

Model UN and Debate – Get behind a microphone and talk about current events with other college students from around the country and the world.

The JHU Model UN team (HopMUN). You’ll notice a young woman in a pink blazer in the front… I hear she writes blogs sometimes.


The Politik – The Politik is a weekly undergraduate political opinions magazine that publishes editorials on Hopkins, Baltimore, the US, and International current events. Permanent positions as editor and staff writer exist, but also the Politik takes guest-written articles every week to get a wide range of opinion from the Hopkins community.

This, of course, does not discuss all of the clubs at Hopkins that do political work on campus. Certainly, it is encouraging to see so many varied interests represented on campus, including other advocacy related to the Israel-Palestine conflict, North Korea, and various culture clubs that represent the massive amounts of diversity in the student body. No matter what you want to fight for, you’ll find a similarly-minded group of students here at Hopkins.

Take a Break


Hey all – some of you may have noticed it’s been a while since I last posted. Indeed, sophomore year basically hit me like a brick wall, but it’s a wall for which I am always grateful.

When I returned from Italy, I spent four days at home with my family, and returned to Baltimore on August 11th, in order to train for the Pre-Orientation program I would be co-facilitating! This program was actually the one that I attended last year, before I entered my freshman year here at JHU. We spent the week developing and refining our facilitation and leadership skills, and then decided to try something completely new: we went to West Virginia to go climbing with the incredible Outdoor Pursuits Pre-O leaders.

in front of the Center for Social Concern before we left for WV! Dorothy, Osiris, Anna, and I were student leaders on our Pre-O. In our arms is Caroline Ouwerkerk, the assistant director of the CSC, who was our coordinator and dear leader

It essentially was a little exchange of training and ideas; we got to teach them some group-building skills, while they got to practice teaching people to climb. Since we all had never done anything like this at all, OP had a great set of guinea pigs. It was of course one of the most physically difficult things I’ve ever done, and it was so worth it.

Pre-O itself was absolutely wonderful. It was so taxing of course, since as leaders we were the first ones up and the last ones to sleep, but it was so amazing to watch the participants go from strangers to close friends in one week. We did some amazing service, went to an Orioles game, played Baltimore trivia, went to an outdoor movie, and made ~some gr8 friends along the way.~

Pre-O students are wonderful

Starting classes proved that I was in for quite a lot this semester. I’m trying a lot of new things: I started Russian language courses, upper-level political science courses, and a class that requires me to read the entirety of War and Peace. It is all incredible – absolutely fascinating and I love every minute I am in class. It is just a whole lot, and in combination with my clubs, it proved to be almost too much.

I do a lot here at Hopkins, mostly because I love it so much here. Hopkins has been incredibly kind to me. Right off the bat, the Hodson Trust has given me an extremely generous scholarship, and when I visited during SOHOP, everyone was so kind and generous in taking the time to answer my millions of questions. It’s really part of why I applied to Hopkins Interactive – this very blog! – because I wanted to share my incredible experiences at Hopkins.

#tbt to baby freshman me with my dad, the morning that we left for Baltimore

Outside of class, I do a lot lot lot. I’m the Treasurer of HopMUN, our Model United Nations team, a committee chair of the International Studies Leadership Committee, the Vice President of Member Development in my sorority, a chair in JHUMUNC (our conference for high schoolers), I write for the Politik (our political newspaper), a member of the Milton S Eisenhower Symposium, an Intern at the Center for Social Concern, and this! So I was very busy right at the start of the year recruiting and interviewing for all my clubs and getting started in the year.

Model UN (including 3 freshmen!) at our first conference of the year at Columbia

Basically, I needed to take a break from Hopkins Interactive for a while. Sometimes, we all need a break, and I really do thank the HI team for letting me take one. Some advice for college: chill. It is really really important that breaks are taken every now and again because you’re going to die otherwise. Clubs and classes are fun and amazing, but sometimes, we all need to take a break.

What was great is that I took my break over our very own Fall Break last weekend, when I met my family in New York City. My roommate and I went up on Friday night and saw Aladdin, did some shopping, and I met my parents Saturday morning. We spend the weekend together and it was exactly what I needed, and I am back at school totally refreshed.

Drama @ the Met. XOXO, gossip girl

Only 3 weeks until Thanksgiving Break!

Being Selfish


It is 7pm on Friday July 29, and I am finished with my Italian classes for this summer. Time is so funny that way. At the beginning of the summer, when I arrived on June 4th, I couldn’t possibly imagine living in this incredible country, traveling to some of the most incredible (and oldest!) cities in the world, and almost finishing all of my Italian language learning (one more level to go until it’s official) in these two months. I’ve met people from countries I’ve only imagined, from all corners of the world, and all interests and backgrounds.

A few of the ladies from class! L-R, Marta from Portugal, me from the USA, Mouira from Algeria, and Lucy from Scotland.

Beyond just learning and using Italian every day, I was privileged enough to be able to travel every weekend, mostly alone. Solo travel can be a little nerve-wracking; at first, I was so insecure about eating alone at every meal, only buying one ticket to all of the sights. Would I have to explain myself to everyone I met? Would people think I got stood up on a date?

Selfie from my first solo weekend in Rome

With some practice, it’s an incredibly freeing experience. You become very introspective and selfish. But a good selfish, a well-deserved selfish. If I’m being honest, this whole summer was about me being selfish. I got to do what wanted to do. I got to eat where I liked, I got to stay at the museums for hours, scoping out every inch of the place. I know almost no one who would indulge me in visiting the ethnographic part of the Vatican Museums because no one else cares about that section except me! I know this because I was one of maybe 5 people in that part, when the Sistine Chapel was completely full.

What up, Hera? From the Vatican Museums in Rome

Take Pompeii, for example. I met a really nice recent college graduate from Belgium in line for tickets, and we chatted while we waited in line. He was perfectly nice and everything, but I had my own plans for the day (a Rick Steves podcast tour of the place) and wasn’t really interested in hanging out with him while I walked around the city because I wanted to focus on my first time in Pompeii and learning everything I could. I missed weekend trips and hanging out with my classmates because I was not going to miss visiting my grandfather’s childhood home in Istria or taking my Cinque Terre tour. This summer, one of the most important things I learned was, because this is my first real time in Italy, a country in which I still have so much to see, I can and should value my interests first.

At the church in which my grandfather received his sacraments, Labin, Istria

And I’m so happy I did. Maybe I came off as a little standoffish, but I’m just so happy with all of the things that I did and saw. In total, I visited eleven cities thus far, and still have one more to go. I went to places I’d only read about and seen in pictures, and I tried new things I thought I would never even attempt. Like my visit to Cinque Terre: I went on a hike! A real, 90 minute long hike that I would like never to do again! But doing that hike allowed me to see those views that you only get in postcards. I went it alone, but I’m actually pretty happy about that because then no one had to wait while I took frequent rests up while dragging myself up and down this mountainside. Then there were also the little things. I’ve never seen a movie in the theater by myself before, and while I was in Naples, I saw the new Star Trek. It was dubbed in Italian, so it was basically like I was studying for my final exam. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Before I got soaked with sweat on my hike, Vernazza, Cinque Terre

I even navigated disaster all by myself. While I was in Naples, someone got ahold of my debit card number, and I had to close my account with my bank. All of this while I was at Pompeii. Yes, I spent an hour on the phone with Bank of America in the middle of the most well preserved ancient Roman city. At least I had shade? And then, to top it all off, when I went to Western Union to get my money wire from my parents, I didn’t bring my passport! I had to go all the way back to my Airbnb and then all the way back to the train station to get my money I needed to, you know, buy dinner. Despite all that in Naples, it really is a magical city. There’s music everywhere, and even if it’s for the tourists’ benefits, it really does add to the joy.

The forum at Pompeii

How do I conclude describing this summer? It’s been the most incredible two months of my life, and actually, it’s not finished yet! Tomorrow, my family arrives in Siena and together we’ll go to Florence and Venice (the latter to which I haven’t yet been!). So I’m not quite done, but my solo part is. I really do value these two months I spent largely flying solo. I learned so much about myself and my values. I think I really became an adult over these two months, traveling, learning, speaking Italian, and living in the most amazing country in the world.

Bella Italia

I’m currently writing to you from Siena, Italy – yes! I am back in the country of pasta and pizza that’s absolutely dripping in culture and history. I’ve just completed my first month of classes at the Università per Stranieri (University for Foreigners) and it was truly a beautiful month here.

Siena’s Torre del Mangia in the Piazza del Campo, probably the most iconic site in the city

When they say University for Foreigners, they really do mean it – in my class of about 20 people, I was one of 4 Americans. Students from China, Japan, Nicaragua, France, Denmark, Canada, Australia, Russia, Mexico, and Burma made up my class and the only language we all share is Italian. Of course, a lot of us speak English – I’m a little embarrassed to say that the people I got closest to were the English speakers – but the fact that in class we are forced to use Italian to communicate anything is truly amazing. When we forget a word or phrase, we must circumnavigate it and find another way to say it in Italian, because switching to English just isn’t an option.

Selfie with (most) of our class!
Selfie with (some of) our class!

In class, after our grammar lessons, we have culture lessons, where we discuss current events (Brexit was discussed quite a bit) and compare our home countries in topics like work, education, and family life. The country comparison is probably one of my favorite parts of our discussions; it allows us to gently tease each other but also genuinely search for an understanding of life and culture in other countries.

An American, a Brit, a Mexican, and a Frenchman walk into a bar....
An American, a Brit, a Mexican, and a Frenchman walk into a bar….

With all respect to my professors and classmates, the real fun comes on the weekends, where I take a trip to a different city. My first weekend was Rome, the Eternal City, and currently my favorite place that I have been thus far. I arrived midday on a Saturday and headed right for the Vatican Museums, home of the Sistine Chapel and just about an endless collection of art and artifacts from every period and every corner of the world. Highlights for me included the Egyptian collection (which I knew quite a but about thanks to one of my classes last semester!), Raphael’s the School of Athens, and, of course, the Sistine Chapel itself.

The School of Athens

Sunday in Rome was the real deal, though, because I went to St. Peter’s Square that morning to catch mass with the Pope. Little did I know that HE WOULD RIDE ON BY IN THE POPEMOBILE SO CLOSE TO ME!!!!!


So that was probably one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me. He just seems like such a genuine man and I really do admire him. After the Vatican I took a literal whirlwind tour of the city and saw the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Ponte Sant’Angelo, the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and finally ended at the Spanish Steps (WHICH WERE CLOSED!). Despite the disappointment of the Spanish Steps, Rome is really an amazing (and very walkable!) city, and I feel like I saw some of the most incredible spots in Italy, if not the world.

the Trevi Fountain, site of a million Lizzie McGuire-inspired wishes.
the Trevi Fountain, site of a million Lizzie McGuire-inspired wishes.

My next weekend was not in Italy, but it was still fabulous: Nice, France and the tiny nation of Monaco! First of all, the French Riviera is probably one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and even though the beaches aren’t sandy, they do make for some incredible photos.

blue on blue on blue

I was with one of my sorority sisters, Danielle, that weekend, and we had a grand old time. We shopped in Nice at the Galleries Lafayette, often considered the original department store, and then headed over on a short train ride to Monaco. In Monaco, we visited the Prince’s Palace, which is actually still his residence! The palace is absolutely gorgeous, and the rooms are very well maintained in styles of particular periods of Monaco’s history. After dinner by the harbor, we headed toward our real destination for the night: the Monte Carlo Casino. To get to the Casino, you have to basically walk by the street of high-end shops à la Gucci, Ferragamo, and the like, just to remind you that if you win it all at the casino, you can use your new money to get a whole new wardrobe! And after passing the casual Porsche, Ferrari, and Maserati in the parking lot, we went inside the Casino. It’s not actually that big of a place in the public gaming hall (though I would love to see the private poker rooms), but it is beautifully decorated in the Belle Epoche style. It is honestly magical; you really feel like a princess or James Bond sitting at the bar or watching a game of Roulette.

On the long walk up to the Prince's Palace, there are some prime photo spots. Maybe when I get a yacht, I'll park it here.
On the long walk up to the Prince’s Palace, there are some prime photo spots. Maybe when I get a yacht, I’ll park it here.

Ironically, weekend number three was to Milan: Italy’s banking and finance capital and I was there THE DAY AFTER the Brexit vote, where I was meeting my aunt and uncle who live in London. My train was ~two hours~ late so I didn’t get into the city until after 9pm, and so I met them at a bar where we could discuss the result over a drink. On Saturday morning, we got up bright and early for a walking tour of the city that started with Milan’s most famous resident, Da Vinci’s Last Supper. I didn’t actually realize that the Last Supper was in Milan of all places, but it is painted on the wall of what was monks’ dining room at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.


After the church, we saw most of the famous sites in the city – the Milan Cathedral (Duomo), the outside of the Scala Theater, the Sforza Castle, and the Galleries Vittorio Emmanuale. It was terribly, terribly hot and humid in Milan that weekend, so we pretty much needed an hourlong breather after everything we did, and so after lunch and a rest, we went back to the Duomo to see the inside and go up to the terraces on the roof. Despite a long line outside, people can disperse very easily inside, and it is not at all as crowded as St. Peter’s Basilica. Another cool thing about the Duomo is that there are over 3500 statues on the outside, and each is unique.

On top of the Duomo feat. my photobombing uncle
On top of the Duomo feat. my photobombing uncle (also yes I am wearing the same dress as in Monaco…)

On Sunday, we decided to go to the Castello Sforzesco, the home of Milan’s ducal family, the Sforzas (less known than the Medici and Borgias, but still pretty cool!) The Castello houses a ton of artifacts from early Christianity, as well as works that would have decorated the bedrooms and offices of the Sforza family. One of my favorite things at the Castello was the parks on which it sits. There is big Arc de Triomphe-looking arch at the end of the park that was initiated by Napoleon when he conquered Italy. Well it didn’t get finished by the time he was exiled, but the Austrians that essentially cleaned up this part of Italy after his defeat did finish it, except they turned the horses that sit atop the arch the other way to face the Castello instead of France, symbolizing France’s defeat and Italy’s self-determination.


After one month in this beautiful country, I don’t know that I could call myself a real Italian yet, but I am getting there. I’ve really mastered the coffee thing (never have cappuccino in the afternoon), and I have found that I love outdoor cafes where I can people-watch. Even more important is that my Italian is improving in leaps and bounds; I’m no longer afraid to ask strangers a question, and I’ve gotten much more confident in using my Italian even in tourist-y places where their English is excellent. I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been afforded in coming here and I really do think that my experiences in this country will impact my interests and values for the rest of my life.

Practical Applications of Classwork

Such a rare and wonderful opportunity is using what you learned in class in real life. Last week, I did just that on my visit to Bologna, Italy, with the International Studies program. Our program – the International Studies Leadership Seminar – was sponsored by the Aronson Center for International Studies. We spent the week in Italy at the SAIS Bologna campus, meeting current faculty and receiving an absolutely fascinating one-off lecture from Dr. Erik Jones about European Affairs. We not only experienced the culture, but developed and refined our leadership skills.

The Leadership Delegation at the SAIS Europe campus!
The Leadership Delegation at the SAIS Europe campus!

This trip was particularly special for me because I just finished Intermediate Italian here at Hopkins, and it was my first time in Italy. My paternal grandparents immigrated from Italy in the early 1950’s and have been a point of inspiration for me for my entire life – I even wrote my Common App essay on them. Despite five full years of Italian classroom learning (all of high school and now my freshman year here at Hopkins), I was extremely apprehensive about using the language with real Italians. Shortly before I left Baltimore, I had coffee with my Italian professor and asked him about what I should see and do, since he was born and grew up near Rome. Between advice that the Colosseum is lame and that I should hit a few of his favorite restaurants, the thing he said that scared me most was that Italians will speak to me in English. Even if I respond in Italian, he said, they will still insist on using English.

We also visited the microstate of San Marino
We also visited the microstate of San Marino

I’m happy to report that he was mostly wrong. Italians were some of the most welcoming and kind people that I have ever met. They were all pleasantly surprised when I asked for still water (not sparkling, gross) and asked if they could make pasta without cheese or butter for one of the other participants who is vegan. When one of my friends and I stopped in the Gucci store – because we were in Italy, how could we not? – and I asked for a dinner recommendation, the extremely kind woman working the front brought me down two glasses of champagne to sip while we perused the850 purses.

train travel is exhausting
train travel is exhausting

I used Italian in almost every interaction with an Italian, from ordering food to asking for a certain size of shoes (I could also write a post about the societal expectations of women and small feet – I’m a US size 9.5 and I sometimes couldn’t find shoes in my size in Italy). Probably the most important use of my Italian was when we visited the Parliament in Rome. We were very graciously introduced to a member of the Chamber of Deputies and we got to ask him and his aide (the self-described equivalent of Doug Stamper) some questions about Italian politics, including a Jobs Act written by a SAIS professor and an upcoming referendum concerning the Chamber’s political power.

Literally all that needs to be said about Rome can be seen in the Lizzie McGuire Movie
Literally all that needs to be said about Rome can be seen in the Lizzie McGuire Movie

Overall, it was a wonderfully exhausting week, and I am so grateful to Dr. Van Morgan, SAIS, the Aronson Center, and the JHU IS Program for choosing me to be a part of the Leadership Delegation.

I also can’t wait to return to Italy on Friday to stay for my summer program in Siena. More to follow…

~Spring Fair~

This weekend marks one of the seminal Hopkins traditions: Spring Fair! Our annual food and fun festival is the largest student-run fair in the country and it is a weekend-long marathon of food, music, and merriment. Even though this is my first Spring Fair, I thought I’d write about my favorite events and (more importantly) foods from this weekend.

Thursday – watching all of the vendors set up on the quads was so excited and gave me a sweet preview of what I’d be eating this weekend.

Friday evening – ice cream from A&B soft serve. I got a sundae but one of their more popular items is ice cream dipped in chocolate.

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*heart eyes emoji*

Friday night – the concert!!! Marian Hill, Schwayze, and headliners the Chainsmokers performed. It was a seriously great performance and even if you didn’t get a ticket, you could basically see the entire thing on Snapchat

So dope!!! Disclaimer: I did not take this picture
So dope!!!
Disclaimer: I did not take this picture

Saturday late morning – a corndog from a giant stand I didn’t catch the name of (but had every fried food imaginable) and Wild Bill’s soda. I heard Wild Bill’s was a staple of Spring Fair and I had to grab one of their cups for free refills all day. Pro-tip: mix Wild Bill’s orange soda with a little bit of the cream soda to get an orange creamsicle drink

Everything is corndogs and nothing hurts

Saturday at noon – my shift for Pie a Pi Phi! Pie a Pi Phi is my sorority’s big philanthropy event this semester. For $2, you can pie the sister of your choice in the face all to benefit children’s literacy efforts!

Thank you for supporting children’s literacy, Zanir

Saturday early afternoon – more food, this time from B’More Greek. I had a chicken souvlaki pita wrap and it was delicious; definitely an essential stop if you want a break from fried food. I also walked around the vendors and craftspeople on the Gilman Quad and got my dad a Father’s Day gift!

Saturday evening – I had to take a break from the food and especially the sun and I worked on a paper that I had, and actually got a lot done, probably because I knew I’d be sleeping a lot today (Sunday) from going out on Saturday night.

Saturday night – grabbed another blooming onion and a crab cake sandwich because #maryland

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crab cakes are bae

Sunday morning – sleeping 💤

Sunday at noon – Pie a Pi Phi shift #2! It was quieter today because I think people were still sleeping.

Sunday afternoon – naptime 😴

REGRETS FROM THE WEEKEND: I did not get Fried Oreos or Chicken on Stick (yes, it is not Chicken on A stick) but I’ll stake out the lines early next year.

Overall, it was a really amazing weekend. I mean, I’m sunburnt ad exhausted, but now I know the ins and outs of Spring Fair, so I can make next year even better.