Countdown (Unfortunately without Beyonce)

It’s crazy to think my winter break is over, that tonight I’ll be back in Baltimore getting ready for the start of Intersession. With an amazing first semester in the books, I’m excited, pumped to get back into the swing of things. While a winter break filled with family, friends, and a very Gatsby New Years Eve

Such Gatsby, so much love

Such Gatsby, so much love

was great, Hopkins has truly become home and I’m more than ready to take on all the new challenges Intersession and second semester will bring. Let me give you, dedicated Hopkins Interactive reader, in no particular order a brief rundown of what I’m most excited for these next five months*!

1. Intersession:
Intersession, the three week program before the start of second semester had been sold to me as the best experience in many students Hopkins careers. This year, I along with JHU_Hayley have enrolled in Foreign Gene Expression Lab. I had heard great things about the course from JHU_Noah, as a way of getting experience with often utilized research techniques. I’ve never been more excited to work with E.coli and recombinant plasmids
2. Lacrosse
You may have heard dear reader, that we here at Hopkins have a pretty darn good lacrosse team. (Nine D I championships, but who is counting?) As a huge sports fan, you can imagine how excited I am for the season to start up, and I’ve been told that the lacrosse games are a lot of fun, especially against heated rivals like Maryland, and Loyola.

About to score, obviously

About to score, obviously

3. PPCHC
Starting the second day of Intersession, I’ll be volunteering at a local clinic, the People for People Community Health Center, just a few blocks away from Homewood. Because first semester was so much about myself, getting into good study habits, figuring out where my interests lie, establishing a community at Hopkins (all of which are valuable pursuits), it will feel good to start giving back. To be doing something for others.
4. Spring Fair
Spring Fair, the largest student run fair in the country takes Hopkins by storm every spring (if you couldn’t figure that out from the name). From various food vendors taking over the campus (empowering you to make the freshman fifteen a reality), to a huge concert for students, I’ve heard Spring Fair described as one of the most memorable weekends at Hopkins. One that I’m beyond ecstatic to experience.
5. Friends
As corny as this sounds, I’m most excited to be back with all of the people I’ve gotten close with at Hopkins. You would think that after knowing most of these people only a few months, this wouldn’t be one of the things I’m most looking forward to, but you’d be wrong. Some of the people I’ve met at Hopkins, I consider now among my closest friends, and I can’t to get back and make new memories with them.

How could you not  these goons

How could you not miss these goons

I hope after reading my short list, you’re as excited as I am for these next five months!

Finals Week or: How I Learned to Stop Stressing and Love Hopkins

When I was going through the applications process, I heard a lot about Hopkins being the place where fun comes to die, a rumor JHU_Grace tackled eloquently here http://blogs.hopkins-interactive.com/grace/2013/03/is-hopkins-cutthroat. Now I’ll admit, reading period and Finals week aren’t exactly what I would call a lot of fun. While there’s something to be said for enjoying the process of learning, reviewing the Krebs cycle and doing more Hess’s Law problems than I care to admit isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Throughout all the stress, and the far too frequent runs to Brody for coffee (on cup 8 today and still going strong) I have managed to find time to unwind, in particular with what was probably my favorite afternoon of the semester; the snowball fight this past Sunday.

Snowball fight, you must be asking yourself, does the Hopkins campus outside of D-Level even exist when you’re not cramming for Orgo, or writing a term paper? Well the answer is yes, contrary to popular belief it does. We Hopkins students do work hard, it’s true. But, we know how to play even harder and a good time can be had by all, finals week or not.

Sunday was the first snow of the year here in Baltimore. Coming from New York I was pretty used to some heavy snowfall, and while campus looked especially beautiful that day, I made nothing of it. A group of enterprising sophomores made an event on Facebook inviting all of Hopkins to a Snowball fight on the Beach. Needing a study break, a group of my friends and I decided to go check it out, we expected maybe twenty people or so to show up, we’d throw a few snowballs and get right back to studying. How wrong we were…

As we got down to the beach, much to our surprise, we saw almost 100 kids engaged in the largest snowball fight any of us had ever seen. Joining in quickly, we spent over an hour dodging, dipping, ducking, diving, and dodging snowballs left and right. Caught in an ambush we ended up sprinting for our lives back to the freshman quad and tackling each other in the snow. It had been an exciting, exhausting, fun afternoon. Not what an afternoon during finals week was supposed to entail.

Mid throw

Mid throw

 

More than just the fun of the snowball fight, more than just the delicious hot chocolate we had after, that Sunday afternoon was special because it defied convention. Hopkins (like a lot of places) is what you make of it. If you want to spend your life in the library, some find happiness in that and you can do that here. If you can go out every night and make that work, more power to you, a lot of people make that happen. For me, it’s been easy to find a happy medium. I’ve spent this semester starting that path of finding what I wanted my Hopkins experience to be, socially, intellectually, even spiritually. And that’s the beauty of Hopkins, you can spend a few hours reviewing gene expression, love every second of it, and go out participate in a snowball fight with your friends without missing a beat. I think a lot of places can make it difficult to find your own path, to balance the work and the social life, to find your niche. Hopkins I think is the exception.

My best friend Alex casually modeling in the midst of the chaos

My best friend Alex casually modeling in the midst of the chaos

Almost one year ago, like many of you will this week, I heard back from Hopkins about my ED application. I was as stressed and nervous as I’m sure many of you are now. When I got in, it was the best feeling in the world, not because I was going to a school that had the “ranking” Hopkins did, not because I could name drop the university I was attending and impress my girlfriend’s parents, but because I thought it was the place I would best find myself. I encourage you all to take a step back this week, finals or not, and go out and have your own snowball fights. All those hearing back this week, accepted, deferred or whatever, I encourage you all (whether at Hopkins or not) to go out and blaze your own paths, ultimately, that’s where you’ll find happiness.

Alex and my other great friend, Alex's roommate Olivia, post snowball craziness

Alex and my other great friend, Alex’s roommate Olivia, post snowball craziness

Thanksgivukkah Thanks

Hey dedicated Hopkins Interactive readers. I’m writing to you from the comfort of my bed at home in New City, New York. This week is Thanksgiving (Thanksgivukkah?) break so I came back home to celebrate the festivities and spend some time with the family. Being home for an extended period of time is a bit odd. It’s weird to come home, to see your desk rearranged, your room clean, to feel like a guest. That being said, there’s nothing better than being with family, especially when family time includes massive amounts of turkey and stuffing, tons of presents, and my brother Jonathan’s tenth birthday!

Birthday boy rocking the Hopkins attire.

Birthday boy rocking the Hopkins attire.

It’s great to have a break because it can be really easy to get caught up in the day to day stresses of the college student life, and to lose focus. You wake up after a long night of studying, go to your 9 AM, and realize not only do you have three meetings that day but you have to do laundry (the bane of my existence) on top of having a cold that just won’t seem to go away. Days like that while luckily few and far between can discourage you, they sap the fun, the excitement out of the college experience. It’s not unique to Hopkins, my friends at other schools often complain about those kinds of days. We’ve all agreed though, that the best medicine is taking a step back and in the spirit of Thanksgivukkah* that’s what I’d like to do. Give thanks to some of the things that have made the time I’ve spent so far at Hopkins, the best few months of my life.

First and foremost, I’m thankful for my friends. I’ve been really lucky to have made an amazing group of friends early on. From JHU_Hayley and the Wilson crew, to JHU_Noah, JHU_Genevieve, JHU_Nick (I promise I have non- SAAB friends) and the trivia team, having a good group of friends has been invaluable. Aside from just having people to make Chipotle runs with, people to study with, there’s nothing like coming back to a group of people after a hard day and having a place to open up. A place to vent about the midterm that didn’t go well, the TA who ruthlessly tore your paper on Descartes apart. Having people to turn to when things are rough, and people to spend time with when the living is easy is a special thing. I’m truly thankful I’ve found that at Hopkins.

Thank God for Chipotle

Thank God for Chipotle

On a less serious note, I have to express how thankful I am to have a Chipotle nearby. Having gotten into the habit of going at least three times weekly with my friends Ben, Joe and Jake the staff there has gotten to know us which has its perks (double chicken for free from our friend Keyon). While I like the food on campus, I’m an ardent FFC supporter, there’s nothing like inhaling 800 calories worth of tasty burrito goodness 3-5 times a week. So thank you Chipotle for making the freshman 25 not some pipe dream but an everyday reality.

Finally, I am really happy to have ended up at Hopkins. I visited my high school not so long ago, and when my old teachers asked me if I liked school, I was able to answer unequivocally yes. As hard as it can be sometimes I wake up every day knowing that I have all the opportunities in the world at Hopkins. I’m learning from the very best in the world, I have every opportunity to become who I want to become, to make the changes I want to make. It’s an empowering feeling, knowing that I’ve ended up at a place that is offering me everything I need to start the path towards success, it’s just up to me to take that first step. I’m beyond thankful I ended up at Hopkins, undoubtedly the right place for me.

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy Thanksgivukkah!

One day my Thanskgiving meals will be this idyllic

One day my Thanskgiving meals will be this idyllic

*Definitely the best holiday mashup, close second would have to be my (improbable) dream of  Memorween (Memorial Day and Halloween) so much candy, so much grilling, what’s not to love?

Being The Change

When faced with the gargantuan institution that is Johns Hopkins University, an entity with a $2.6 billion endowment, conducting research from Near Eastern Studies to Mollecular/Cellular Biology it’s understandable if you feel a bit small. After all as a Hopkins student (or a future Hopkins student) you’re just one person, if you see something you don’t like on campus, if there’s something you think needs to be changed, providing the impetus for that change can be quite an intimidating prospect. Luckily, over the past three months the student body has proven time and time again that Hopkins is a place that listens to input. That Hopkins is a place not only where we can come to learn how to make change in the larger world, but where we can help mold the university into a better place for all.

Trust me, it doesn't get better than a waffle at late night

Trust me, it doesn’t get better than a waffle at late night

This year Hopkins brought in a new dining company Bon Appetit to serve the student body. The general consensus on campus is that the food this year is much better. With healthy, sustainable options most of my friends are generally happy with the food here. There are of course things people wanted changed over the course of the semester. In the FFC (the Fresh Food Café, where most freshman eat) a lot of students wanted basic things changed, what sort of food was being offered at various stations, what kinds of food would be available when, the hours of operation of the FFC etc. Students reached out to the Student Government, participated in town hall meetings with Bon Appetit and changes were made. Now you can get waffles at late night, which is up there with the wheel and sliced bread in terms of great human ideas. You can now get a quesadilla every day for two weeks if that’s what you want (I did and couldn’t recommend it more highly). And now there’s no shortage of siracha to put on your burgers.

Along those lines was the University’s decision to remove the $250 fee they planned on instituting for Intersession. In the past, Intersession, the three week period between semesters during which students can take interesting, funky courses was free of charge for classes offered here at Hopkins. This year, because of the large number of students expected to enroll for Intersession programs, a registration fee was instituted. The decision was met with a lot of protest. Students organized a petition that had over 900 signatures. After submitting the petitions, e-mailing administrators we got an e-mail this past week that the fee was not going to be instituted.

The goal of Hopkins students, albeit with less neon

The goal of Hopkins students, albeit with less neon

While these two examples may seem relatively minor there are countless others of student voices bringing about change on campus: student involvment in bringing change to the Kosher section of the FFC, having a say in the ongoing development on Charles Street, it’s clear that we have a voice here at Hopkins. As a student it’s empowering to know that despite the size of Hopkins, despite the infrastructure and inevitable bureaucracy that comes with the running a $2.6 billion entity, we have a say in what goes on. I was attracted to Hopkins initially because I knew it would be a place I could come and start the path towards making meaningful changes in the world. I could come here, learn in various fields and put forth that knowledge to affect the world. I have no doubts that my classmates are going to be the ones to cure cancer, to develop alternative energy sources, to become the next Garcia Marquez, the next Feynman. But I guess I took for granted how we would also be able to shape the environment around us. Hopkins is my home, the home of my peers for the next few years, and I’m glad we can help shape it into the kind of home in which all of us are happy living.

Bio Lab Adventures

When I speak to family and friends from home, I get the standard retinue of questions. “What are you majoring in?” “When do you have to apply to medical school?” “Are you eating enough?” “When can I expect grandchildren?” (Maybe the last question is more common amongst Jewish mothers.) Sometimes however, I’ll be asked about my favorite class this semester. My answer always seems to surprise people. I’m lucky because I genuinely am interested in all my classes this semester, but there’s something really special for me about Bio Lab

Nothing like a good ole Polymerase Chain Reaction

Nothing like a good ole Polymerase Chain Reaction

It’s weird to think that when I’m learning about topics ranging from Cartesian dualism to the fundamental processes behind how vision, a class with no lecture component is my favorite. When I registered for Bio lab, I wasn’t too excited. I figured it’d be a boring lab course dealing with biological minutiae that held no real interest to me, this all on top of the class being 3 hours long. As you’d expect, much of the course does focus on basic scientific techniques. Completing polymerase chain reactions, doing some gel electrophoresis, a good amount of the class is composed of lab procedures.

 

 

However, what I really like about the class are the aspects less commonly associated with laboratory work. To start with, I have an amazing group of lab partners. Shante, Bob, and Tim are all students enrolled in the post-bac program here at Hopkins, and with their age and wisdom comes a lot of fun. I think it’s safe to say that the amount of Beyoncé that can be heard from the lab station I share with Shante rivals that of the top cellular/molecular bio labs in the world. Bob is always ready to make the long lines for the spectrophotometers more entertaining with biology themed raps, and no one is better at lighting a Bunsen burner than Tim.

My Bacteria, oddly cute.. right?

My Bacteria, oddly cute.. right?

 

Aside from the group of friends I’ve made, the trips I’ve been forced to take outside of the UTL for the course have been incredible. As part of our semester long project on culturing, sequencing, and identifying bacterial DNA, we visited various biomes on Homewood. It wasn’t until Bio Lab that I knew the President’s Garden existed (let alone where it was). I’ve learned to differentiate between the Beech Trees and the Red Oaks on campus. If pressed, I could even describe to you in detail the history of the squirrel population here at Hopkins. We were also required to take a trip to the Maryland Zoo which gave me a nice opportunity to explore Baltimore outside of the Hopkins bubble with my friends.

Way less scary when its behind glass

Way less scary when its behind glass

There’s no better way to spend a Sunday than by taking pictures of snakes and chimps. Except for sleeping maybe… But the zoo is a close second! We explored the gift shop, became friends with the taxi driver, and even learned about otters holding hands while they sleep. Going to the zoo, something I wouldn’t have done of my own volition was an experience that turned out to be one of my best days I’ve had here at Hopkins. Without Bio lab, I’d have three less friends, no zoo experiences, and I’d have significantly less Beyoncé in my day… I think now it’s pretty clear why it’s my favorite class. Sorry Descartes.

Don't hate me

Don’t hate me

SparkNotes Chapter 1: Hopkins Edition

Benefits of being home, going to your little brother's soccer games!

Benefits of being home, going to your little brother’s soccer games!

If I were writing a book on JHU_Dan’s four year experience here at Hopkins, I’d be comfortable saying that my first chapter was done. Last weekend was fall break which served as the perfect opportunity to journey back to my hometown of New City, NY to see my family for the first time since move-in. The period of time from move-in to fall break was the longest I’ll go this semester without seeing my family. To be perfectly honest it’s been really hard at times without them, while I’m loving life at Hopkins more than I could have ever imagined, there’s something to be missed about tucking my brothers in at night, and not having to do my own laundry. So on my train ride up to New York as I waited eagerly to see the Friedman family, I reflected a bit on the past seven weeks I had spent here at Hopkins. I wasn’t going home the same JHU_Dan that had left New City, I’d like to think even in seven weeks I had learned something at Hopkins, but the question was what had I learned? So to spare you lovely readers the long and winding, detailed story of JHU_Dan’s college experience, I broke down five of the larger lessons, the important stuff, a la Sparknotes.

Lesson 1: Challenge yourself
It can certainly be easy to become complacent, I guess in any aspect of life, but also in college. You can easily fall into the routine of wake up, eat, go to class, eat, study, eat, go to bed, repeat. One of the most valuable things I’ve done here is push myself, to try and take on new challenges, whether it’s taking part in the philosophy club discussions or agreeing to help run a Hillel event, I think I’ve grown the most from not allowing myself to fall into a simple routine.

Lesson 2: Coffee Coffee Coffee
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent on coffee these past seven weeks. I certainly don’t want to tell my parents either… It doesn’t help that the coffee in the Brody Learning Commons is delicious (ask for an iced Harry P. Winston, you won’t regret it), or that sometimes procrastination can lead to homework being done during the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes the only thing that can get you through studying for a midterm is a large, warm, cup of coffee. If you are already a coffee connoisseur you’ll love all the options here on Homewood, and if you’re not yet an addict, fret not, on campus cafes have great tea selections as well.

Lesson 3: Branch Out
I’ve been lucky enough to have a solid group of friends from day one (obligatory shout-out to Wilson House), and to have found friends in classes and from various organizations. It’s been incredible getting to know people from all ranges of diverse backgrounds, some are Kenyan immigrants, others have years of equestrian experience at the Junior Olympic level, but everyone here has something interesting to share, some unique story. It’s been incredibly valuable just to make new friends and get to know people, to hear about their backgrounds and take advantage of the diversity here at Hopkins.

Lesson 4: The importance of going to class
After a late night spent out with friends, or finishing up that Philosophy paper, waking up for that 9 AM class doesn’t seem so alluring. I’ll admit I’ve turned off my alarm more than once so that I could get an extra hour of rest. My thought process usually operating along the lines of “It’s too early to wake up, let me skip class, I’ll just read the textbook”. While that logic seems to work with a blaring alarm at 8:30 AM, in my experience it doesn’t hold up most of the time. So when you’re in that situation, go to class, you won’t regret it… Or at least, your midterm grades will thank you for it.

Lesson 5: Have fun
Hopkins is a school known well for the incredible intellectual opportunities it offers, rare is the place where you can listen to a lecture on the philosophy of science from a Nobel Laureate in physics, and then have an opportunity to chat with him about his work. But equally as important are all the fun things going on here. Not to say academics isn’t fun, it can be, but it’s always important to have an outlet. These past seven weeks I’ve been challenged academically in ways I never have been before. I knew that was what I wanted when I applied, and I love every second of it, nevertheless there are times when you just need to blow off a little steam. So whether it’s participating in a scavenger hunt around campus, carving a pumpkin, dancing, singing, working out, playing Super Smash Bros with your friends, or just eating (nothing wrong with using eating as a form of stress relief) there are an incredible amount of opportunities that can be taken advantage of here to have some fun. It’s up to us to take advantage of them, I know I have been so far, and will continue to do so, albeit perhaps with less eating.

There’s still much of the JHU_Dan Hopkins story to be written, many chapters to read through, (or if you’re like me, skim through) but I know that Hopkins is the place for me because I’m not at all apprehensive about what these chapters will look like, rather, I’m excited to be living them.

Searching For Community

The word “community” has always been one of those buzzwords I was supposed to be thankful I could understand.

I was supposed to have various communities at home: clubs, sports teams,friends. I had a group of friends at my synagogue, a brotherhood at camp… I never had to worry about a shortage of support.

In all honesty, community didn’t have that much meaning to me at home. Not because I didn’t care about the various groups of which I was a part, but because I was never truly outside my comfort zone, I never really needed a group of people to fall back on.
Well transitioning to college has changed all that. This past month has forced me outside of my comfort zone in ways I never thought possible. Here at Hopkins I’ve been exposed to so many new things, from grilling for over fifty people at a Hillel event, to discussing the merits of Cartesian dualism over a cup of ramen in my dorm room at 5 AM. From playing badminton against the club team to doing my own laundry (making mom proud), I’ve certainly stepped outside my comfort zone. And now that I’m outside my comfort zone, I’ve come to realize how meaningful it is that I am a part of so many communities. During my short time here at Hopkins, I’ve also added a few communities to my collection (normal people collect communities right… Right?)

Wilson:
First and foremost I have my Wilson community. I’m living in AMR I Wilson House this year, and since move-in day, we’ve really been like a family. We study together, we eat together, and we go out together. We’ve baked cakes, killed bugs, and had more than one mishap with the bathrooms. We’ve shared far too many meals at Late Night at the FFC (hello freshman 15), and spent far too many hours in the Brody Learning Commons studying together, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having people to spend my time with, people to turn to with any problem, people to call my friends, has really made my transition to college life so much easier. I have no idea what I would do without my Wilson family.

Thanks to Julia (J-Money) for helping make this beautiful collage

Thanks to Julia (J-Money) for helping make this beautiful collage. And yes, that is Craig Robinson… I know…

Jewish life at the Hop:
Coming from a Jewish background, being part of a Jewish community has always been second nature to me. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came to Hopkins in terms of Jewish life I had heard various things about the level of involvement here, but the community here has been everything I’ve wanted and more. I’ve been so privileged to be welcomed with open arms by the Hillel and Chabad here. Both organizations have treated me like family, taking me in for Shabbat dinners, for various community service events, and providing me opportunities to become more involved.

Sukkah Building!

Sukkah Building!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp boys:
Even though now we’re spread across three states, my close friends from camp make sure I’m staying grounded. The first few weeks of college have been overwhelming, in a great positive exciting way, but a way that still carries a great deal of stress. Having a community at camp, and more specifically, a group of friends from camp to make me laugh over our group text, to keep me level-headed when I’m stressing out about Chem midterms, and to keep me positive has been invaluable

Never a bad time for a photoshoot

Never a bad time for a photoshoot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family:

The most important community of all, having my family to always turn to has been best kind of safety net. Leaving home/saying goodbye to my parents and brothers was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. It was practically impossible to try to explain to my five year old brother Aaron why I wouldn’t be able to tuck him in and read him bedtimes stories anymore. Or I why I wouldn’t be there to pick up nine year old Jony from the bus and take him for ice cream. But nothing has made me realize how amazing my family is more than not having them around. As much as I miss them, the community I’ve built for 18 years at home has been incredibly supportive and with my family as my go to support group I know I can try new things here at Hopkins, because I’ll always have my family to fall back on.

Classic Disney Pic

Classic Disney Pic

As scary (at times) as starting college life can be, finding and appreciating each of these incredible communities has helped my transition immensely. Hopefully we can all find the communities that help make up who we are, and take the time out of each day to appreciate them. I can’t wait to see what other communities I’ll find here at Hopkins!