Sweet Caroline

Neither a Kennedy nor a Princess of Monaco

Toga, toga! Joining Greek Life

It has been officially one week since I received my bid to my sorority, Pi Beta Phi (ΠΒΦ), here at Hopkins, and what a week it has been! I’ve added probably one hundred new friends on Facebook and found dozens of newly recognizable faces on campus. It is wonderful to have someone wave you over to sit with them in a giant lecture class that you didn’t know one week before.

That’s me!

Fraternity and sorority life at Hopkins is smaller compared to most schools: we have just thirteen frats and five sororities (not counting the co-ed service, multicultural, and professional frats and sororities). Only three frats and none of the sororities have official houses on campus, yet over a quarter of undergrads here have membership in a Greek organization. It is a great balance of strong Greek participation by the students without it overbearing the social scene. In my close friend group, only my friend R and I decided to go through formal sorority recruitment, but we certainly don’t plan on leaving our other friends behind. R and I aren’t even in the same sorority (she is a ΦΜ) but we are still going to be close friends. I am most excited to simply know more people on campus. The Monday after I got my bid (formal invitation to join the sorority), one of the Vice Presidents of Pi Phi waved me over to sit with her in our giant Microeconomics lecture. Other sisters have asked me out to lunch and dinner to get to know me better (since I’ll soon be getting a Big!)

R and I on Bid Day!

A great part of Hopkins’ recruitment process is that it happens officially in January. This way, everyone has gotten their feet under them at school and can take the time to decide whether they want to go through recruitment. At my mom’s college, she had to arrive a week before everyone else in August before school even started to go through sorority recruitment. Spring recruitment is great because it allows girls that are on the fence about the process to go to informal meet-the-sister events and see if they actually would like to be a part of a Greek organization.

Pi Phi’s newest pledge class! Courtesy of Hopkins Photography Forum

I, however, knew that I wanted to be in a sorority since before I even applied to any colleges. Both of my parents were in Greek life (my mom is an ΑΓΔ and my dad is a ΤΚΕ) and they absolutely loved it, and their fraternity brothers and sorority sisters are still the people with which they correspond from their college days. Hopkins’ Greek Life may seem small to outsiders, but the flexibility one has within a Greek organization is partly what attracted me to this school. Every member goes to chapter meetings, formals, date parties (for which you can take a friend or date of any gender), and philanthropy events, but you can even get more involved in committees and the Executive Board of your chapter.


I hope to make ΠΒΦ a home for me for my entire life. I am excited to enter the professional world and have colleagues and acquaintances recognize my Greek organization. Pi Phi, and Greek organizations in general, have national recognition for their philanthropy and leadership, and I will be proud to wear my letters for the rest of my life.

The entire Pi Beta Phi chapter, courtesy of Hopkins Photo Forum

Best First Semester Ever

Today is Monday, January 4th and I have officially returned to campus for Intersession and second semester. Winter break was wonderful and much needed: in the just last week before break began, I had 3 exams and a final paper due. Needless to say, I slept on my plane home that Friday night, and then slept until noon on the Saturday after. Even though I was exhausted from almost nonstop studying, I couldn’t wait to come back to campus.

follow for more Hopkins adventures

My family took a trip to Florida over break, drove 24 hours from Chicago both ways, and I spent my week swimming, lounging about the pool, and reading for pleasure. Funnily enough, the place we stayed in Florida – Siesta Key – was the same place we came for Spring Break right after I found out I was accepted into Hopkins!

Skating in Patterson Park with Neha and Emma

Even though the beach was wonderful – in the 70’s and 80’s all week! – I couldn’t wait to come back to school, and not just because my dorm bed is more comfortable than my home bed. When I was first accepted to Hopkins, dreaming about my future life in Baltimore at the same beach on which I sat just last week, I never imagined the feeling of belonging that I do while at school. Hopkins students are really my type of people – dedicated to their work and passionate about their interests, but also the type of people who explore the (excellent) Baltimore food scene and go duckpin bowling with you on a Saturday night. For lack of a better word, Hopkins students are normal. We are all brilliant – I am studying alongside future doctors, lawyers, intellectuals, and innovators, but no one is haughty or condescending when they discuss their latest research or study abroad trip for the upcoming summer. I talk about the theories of international relations with the same people I discuss Star Wars. 



Birthday collages from R, Emma, and Neha. A pretty good summation of the amazing times I’ve had in just my first semester here.

And now I’m back on campus! I have made so many amazing memories with incredible people since I came in August, and I’m looking forward to so much more! Over Intersession – Hopkins’ optional January academic period – I am taking a class about International Relations and the Civil War and co-facilitating an alternative break through our Center for Social Concern, where I will spend the week learning, discussing, and doing service related to immigrant and refugee rights (and spend a day in DC!). My schedule for next semester is packed with fascinating classes, and I am especially excited for my class on Ancient Egypt where I will get to work with the objects in our Archeological Museum in Gilman. Outside of class, I am looking forward to Sorority Recruitment at the end of January and JHUMUNC, Hopkins’ high school Model United Nations conference, in the middle of February. Beyond that, Spring Fair and lacrosse season is still to come. All in all, if it’s supposed to get better from here, I can’t wait to see what other amazing things I will do here at Hopkins.

Gilman Girl

As finals week (and first semester!) comes to a close, I thought I would share a bit about my favorite building on campus: Gilman Hall. Gilman is home to the humanities department here at Hopkins and is named after JHU’s first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. I had my Intro to the Museum and Italian class in Gilman this semester, and my intersession class – International Relations and the American Civil War – will be in Gilman as well.

Gilman Hall viewed from the Keyser Quad, photo from Hopkins Interactive


Gilman is basically the coolest place on campus for a couple of reasons. There is hella study space, between the very modern Atrium, the Hutzler Reading Room (which I am sitting in right now), and the cozy entranceway. Gilman is home to the Archeological Museum, where there are nearly 700 objects there (including a mummy). Gilman sits on the best quad on campus, Keyser Quad (sometimes called the Upper Quad) and is directly across from the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

The Atrium, photo from the Baltimore Sun

I love Gilman because it embodies to me the epitome of university life. There is a certain hustle-and-bustle in the Atrium: professors are discussing their latest research and students are collaborating for clubs and projects. The Atrium is bright and spacious, and I can look up and see the bell tower. It’s actually a goal of mine to go up into the bell tower – even though students “aren’t allowed up there.” I can even hear the chimes from my shower in AMR II, which often tell me that I need to hurry up or I’ll be late for class. If you’re looking for a quieter area, the Hutzler Reading Room has comfortable couches and desks to work at, and has large windows to let in the light.

The Hutzler Reading Room, or "The Hut," photo from James Posey Associates
The Hutzler Reading Room, or “The Hut,” photo from James Posey Associates

Gilman is almost my home away from home. Not only am I here for class and meeting professors, I love to study and meet people here, either to work on something for class or just to chat. Gilman is this amazing synthesis of old and new: it was recently renovated in 2007, which gave us the Atrium with its glass ceiling, but the floor plan and classroom spaces are undoubtedly old-style university. This building was one of the things I fell in love with when I visited Hopkins my first time, and I think President Gilman and I are pretty tight now. You could say I am a Gilmore Gilman Girl.

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An actual photo of Daniel Coit Gilman & I.

A Busy/Rewarding Week

I feel that I am in a special place, here in Baltimore. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a city that, despite being the center of the Uprising last April, has responded with relative grace. Certainly groups and institutions within the city have put forth a legitimate effort to improve race relations in Baltimore. This week, by coincidence, Hopkins not only hosted two activist speakers, but also saw the Black Student Union speak with President Ron Daniels on race relations at our school.

Last weekend, the Black Student Union stood in solidarity with students at universities like the University of Missouri, and presented President Daniels with a list of requests for increasing diversity and cultural sensitivity on campus. President Daniels spoke directly with the BSU, and later that day sent a university-wide email in which he detailed the steps the university will take going forward to realize the university’s ideal of true equality.

I think that President Daniels responded beautifully; his respect in discussing with the BSU solidified to me that he truly holds the students’ well being at his heart, and that he is accountable to the student body. He noted that, while the land on which the Homewood campus sits was once slave-holding land, Johns Hopkins (the man for which our university was named) was a lifelong abolitionist. Daniels has committed to further discussions on race before the end of the year, and the class of 2019 – my class – is the most diverse Hopkins has ever had.

During the week, just by coincidence, Hopkins also hosted two incredible black individuals to discuss their experiences as a person of color, and I was, frankly, in awe. On Tuesday, the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium (a student-run speaker series of which I am privileged to be a part) hosted Ava DuVernay, the director of the Oscar-nominated Selma. She was moderated by D Watkins, a Baltimore writer and alumnus of the Hopkins School of Education and former speaker at MSE (I wrote an article about his speech in October here), and discussed her experiences as a director and a woman of color.

Ava DuVernay and D Watkins; photo by Sofya Freyman
Ava DuVernay and D Watkins; photo by Sofya Freyman

I also had the opportunity to ask her a question about the representation of women and people of color in films. I love going to the movies, but is it enough to be aware of the problems in certain films? DuVernay encouraged me to see problematic films and start a discussion about why they are problematic. She also complemented my skirt.

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Last Thursday, author Ta-Nehisi Coates also came to speak at Hopkins. The Class of 2019 was assigned to read his book The Beautiful Struggle over the summer before we matriculated, and it was truly incredible to hear him discuss his work, his experience with police brutality, and the lessons he would like to impart on his teenage son in his book Between the World and Me. Hearing a Baltimore native talk about Baltimore is an enriching experience and I am so happy that I attended the talk. I hope it starts a discussion campus-wide. At both Coates’ event and DuVernay’s, Shriver Hall was filled with not only students, but members of the Baltimore community that are unaffiliated with Hopkins.

Based on this past week alone, I really feel like I am living and learning in a unique school and city. Passionate students are met with respectful and responsive faculty. The school truly puts forth an effort to engage the community with speaking events, and Hopkins is not stopping there.

DuVernay; photo by Sofya Freyman

An Ode to Hopkins in Autumn

Autumn seemed to fall upon us here at Hopkins (pun absolutely intended). I’ve been noticing some changes lately, and here’s what I see at the top five biggest changes about autumn at Hopkins. All of the photos have been taken by fellow members of the Class of 2019.

1.) Iced coffee turning into hot coffee. The café in Brody Learning Commons has a truly incredible selection of drinks with and without caffeine. The Ferrero Roche mocha has me like *heart eyes emoji*. People have seemed to switch over from the clear cold cups at the Brody Café to warm ones to keep out the light Baltimore chill.

You Wang
Gilman Hall by You Wang

2.) EVENTS. EVERYWHERE. Now that the semester is at full speed, clubs and groups are organizing their shows, meet & greets, food tastings, and concerts. The Class of 2019 Facebook group is full of student’s sharing their club’s events. I have been going to a lot of sororities’ “Meet the Sisters” events, as I plan to go through the Recruitment process and join a sorority here on campus.

Alexandria Soto1
Mason Hall (the Admissions Office’s home) by Alexandria Soto

3.) Midterm cramming. Because Hopkins is, y’know, a school, midterms are a necessary part of life here on campus. The upside is that there is an environment for any type of studying, from your dorm room, to the silent D-Level in the library, to the hustle-and-bustle of the Gilman Atrium or Brody Café. There are also tons of study resources if you need help! I often use the Learning Den for my Elements of Macroeconomics class.

Alexandria Soto
AMR II (my home!) by Alexandria Soto

4.) Planning for Next Semester. Already? Already. Freshmen register for next semester’s classes on November 16th this year, and I’ve been excitedly arranging and re-arranging possible courses, picking backups and making sure that I’ll enjoy my studies while they fulfill requirements for my major, International Studies, or my minor, Italian.

Hayden Millington
Gilman Hall by Hayden Millington

5.) Campus being too beautiful for words. I’m originally from Chicago, so the seasons changing isn’t really a big surprise to me, but orange and yellow leaves against a backdrop of Gilman Hall is breathtaking. The sun is setting at about 5pm nowadays, so I can sometimes walk out of class and see a gorgeous sunset. This is quintessential Hopkins and I wouldn’t want to spend my first fall away from home anywhere else.


Hopkins was hoppin’ this weekend because it was ~FAMILY WEEKEND~

My parents came all the way from Chicago on Friday afternoon and met me after my last class. We walked a bit around campus, check in and got my mom a sweet Family Weekend tote bag, and decided to attend a one-off class taught by my Elements of Macroeconomics professor, Dr. Robert Barbera.

Turns out my father is a huge fan of Professor Barbera and we got a cool and not-at-all weird picture with him.

My father, Dr. Barbera, and me.

The class was actually very interesting, even if I was one of the only students there. Dr. Barbera discussed the Great Recession, and I actually learned a lot to supplement what I was already learning in class about government involvement in the economy.

After that, we went to one of the my favorite neighborhoods in Baltimore, Hampden. We actually went to the same restaurant that we ate at after I toured Hopkins the first time my junior year of high school, the Golden West Cafe (#fullcircle). I had an amazing quesadilla and my dad had one of their more famous dishes, Elvis pancakes.

Bananas, bacon, and peanut butter: perfect for The King.

After dinner was ice cream at the Charmery, just down the street from Golden West. I had the chocolatey goodness of Maryland Mud.

On Saturday, we hung around campus and had lunch at a lovely picnic, at which President Ronnnie D spoke and unveiled a new Blue Jay statue outside of the FFC. It’s… something. Regardless, it was a lovely day to be out and about.

I’m now realizing my mother isn’t in any of these pictures… she’s the one taking them. I love you, Mom!

Saturday evening, we went with my friends and their families to another amazing restaurant in the Federal Hill neighborhood, another amazing and fun spot in Baltimore. The restaurant was a Mediterranean place called Zaatar, and it’s in walking distance of the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards – and it’s amazingly good!

fam weekend
The Fam, although my brother isn’t here…

All in all, I had a wonderful time with my parents, and not just because they bought me a lot of food. I miss them more now than I did at the beginning of the semester. It’s alright, though, because there’s only a few weeks until I see them again at Thanksgiving!

College Admissions Info Session Bingo

While I was applying to college, I took a grand tour of the East Coast: nine schools in nine days over my junior year spring break. After I went to the fourth or fifth information session, I started hearing a lot of the same phrases over and over again. So, I decided to make a Bingo card for what I kept seeing and hearing.

mish Bingo

I’ll now decode what some of the most important phrases mean—and how they relate to Hopkins.

  • “We review your application within the context of your high school” the admissions committee will receive information about your high school: what classes are offered, how you are graded, and the general environment of your school. If your school only offers one AP class, the fact that you only took one—and not five—won’t be held against you.
  • “There are TONS of ways to get involved in research!” This is the most true at Hopkins. Hopkins is the world’s first research university, and there are several monetary grants to create your own research project, even as an incoming freshman (check out the Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship). An oft-quoted fact about Hopkins is that there are more research-assistant positions than students demand. The Hopkins network of schools and research centers stationed throughout the city is a huge advantage in this respect. I know fellow freshman already assisting at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
  • “Make sure you go to your professor’s office hours” This is crucial once you enter your freshman year. Office hours are when you can ask questions to your professor about your problem sets, the readings, ask about their research, or just chat. Especially when you are in an introductory lecture of 200 people (though the average class at Hopkins is about 25 students, there are always a few large lecture classes), this is a great time to get to know your professor on a personal level.
  • “We have a holistic approach to admissions” This is the most commonly said sentence at any college admissions information session. There is no magic combination of test scores, GPA, essay topic, and extracurriculars that will get you admitted to a certain school.

Though seemingly random, the admissions process is deliberate. I firmly believe that applicants will attend the college that best fits them. For me, I was really not expecting to be admitted to Hopkins, but I am a Blue Jay and I absolutely adore it. My high school friends at other colleges love where they are attending as well. My best advice for the admissions cycle is to trust the process. In my experience, it works out for everyone.

Tiny baby junior year Caroline on her first visit to Hopkins.

Remnants of Home

After “what’s your name?” and “what’s your major?” the most frequently asked question I get in college is “where are you from?” I get it from everyone – from other students and teachers, and also from plenty of parents and prospective students at this weekend’s Open House here on campus. My answer is always, proudly, “Chicago.” And the most common answer I get is, “I can hear it in your accent!”

I have never really thought that I have an accent. I know Chicago has an accent, just as Boston does (a few parents asked me where “Claahk” Hall was this weekend) and how more than a few friends from the South address a group as “Y’all.” But having lived in the same house about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago for 18 years, I have been around this accent my entire life. It wasn’t until I came to Hopkins, where people of all cultures and places of origin mix, that I realized how pronounced my accent is.

In particular, how I say Snapchat (SnAApchAAt, or, as my friend Emma in linguistics classes would spell out, [s n æ p t ∫ æ t]) and the Chicago itself (ChicAAAgo, or [∫ I k ã g o ℧]). During the Open House last Saturday, I was talking with some of my SAAB peers who interviewed me (so I could write for this blog!) and they said part of the reason they liked me was my accent. In particular, I was told the way I say “values” as “vAAHlues” was especially endearing.

Me and Emma, my linguistics help and fellow Chicago girl

People tell me that I am me because of my accent. Quite unlike Henry Higgins looking to improve Eliza Doolittle’s cockney accent in My Fair Lady, I hope my accent never evolves with where I live or what I learn. My accent is a part of home that I always keep with me.

On the other side of the coin, I am absolutely fascinated with the Baltimore accent. If you ever find yourself talking to a Baltimore native, listen for the way they say their “O’s;” there’s a little rounding of their lips. Think of John Travolta’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

Films used:

My Fair Lady. Dir. George Cukor. Perf. Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Warner Bros., 1964. DVD.

Hairspray. Dir. Adam Shankman. Perf. John Travolta and Nikki Blonsky. New Line Cinema Corporation, 2007. DVD.

Do Pre-O? Do Pre-O.

My Dear Caroline from last April,

DO PRE-ORIENTATION. I’m going to repeat this a few times: do Pre-O, do Pre-O, do Pre-O, do Pre-O, do Pre-O!

It will be tough to decide whether to leave home a week earlier than you are required to. You’ll go to brunch the day before you leave and regret signing up for a program you have no real idea about. You’ll get to campus, marvel at both the beauty and heat of AMR II, and grumble about only having one night in your dorm before a leaving for a week without your phone with people you have never met.

But it will be so worth it.

Before I started my freshman year, I participated in the HopkinsCORPS Pre-Orientation program, run by the JHU Center for Social Concern. This year was the inaugural program, and I genuinely hope incoming freshmen will join it forever. Without giving too much away (I promised our facilitator I wouldn’t), the program was part Baltimore exploration, part leadership development, part community service, part meeting your new best friends.


During HopkinsCORPS, we went on an Inner Harbor boat tour (and bumped to classic early-2000’s jams), attended an Orioles game, took an art tour of three Baltimore neighborhoods, and did service projects at three places around the city. Every night, we would come back to our retreat center in the absolutely gorgeous Mount Vernon neighborhood and share how the day changed our perspective on service and community involvement. And each night, without being asked, we would hang out and talk about everything from international affairs to our high schools. All twenty of us developed a philosophy of community service and we all hope to take that philosophy and apply it to Hopkins, Baltimore, and beyond.

Part of the Pre-O group on our Inner Harbor boa tour! (L-R: Jessa, Séamus, Me, Gianni, Emma, Naadiya, Amanda, Ali, and Maddie)

The second most important lesson from HopkinsCORPS is that we are all very comfortable taking public transportation. Baltimore and JHU have a number of free options; the JHMI (pronounced “Jimmy”) runs from Homewood to Penn Station and the Station North Arts District, which is home to an amazing coffee shop/bookstore, Red Emma’s. From Penn Station, you can get to the BWI airport for only a few dollars, or take the free Charm City Circulator to most of the tourist-y spots around the city. My friends and I most often take it to the Inner Harbor and the Federal Hill neighborhood, but it can also take you to Camden Yards, the Bromo Arts District, Little Italy, and Fort McHenry.


I obviously am speaking the most from the point of view of one Pre-O program in particular, but the larger ideas of Pre-O apply to all of what Hopkins offers. Probably the most important takeaway from Pre-O is that I made my current friends there. Spending 24 hours a day for an entire week with the same twenty people leads one to learn a lot about the person sleeping 3 feet from you. Even more was, without our phones, we were forced to do more social things to keep busy before bedtime. We played cards for hours each night, often not going to bed until one or two in the morning.

Things your friends from Pre-O will do for you: take a picture of you next to an Obi-wan Kenobi cutout.

I know this to be true of other Pre-O programs: my roommate, with whom I’m very friendly and co-habitate quite well, has her own separate sphere of friends that she met through her Pre-O. We both find ourselves out and about with the people we met on Pre-O. With Pre-O, I didn’t have to endure the awkwardness of Orientation week name games and small talk. Just last weekend, I went into the Inner Harbor for dinner with my Pre-O squad and it was amazing.

Pre-O squad lookin’ fly in the Inner Harbor (L-R: Zanir, Emma, Me, R, and Aidan)