Name: Anna Johnston
Year: Class of 2010
Hometown: Dublin, Ohio
Major: Public Health Major, Social Sciences Concentration
I went on a trip this past summer that was probably one of the most unique experiences of my life. For all intensive purposes, I went abroad for 9 weeks. I spent 63 days cycling across the country with a group of 25 students I did not really know until the first day of the trip (including Mohammad Modarres, who talked about the 4K in a previous entry). It was a philanthropic bike ride across the country to unite communities in the fight against cancer through raising funds, spreading awareness, and fostering hope. This was the seventh annual ride for the 4K for cancer (formerly known as the Hopkins 4K for Cancer), which was a student group I was a Co-Director for this past academic year. I was on a bike for about six hours every day, except every 9 days or so when we would get a day off to relax and explore the cities. Due to poor phone coverage and the fact I was in a new place every night, I really did feel like I was in another country in this country. As wearing as that experience came to be by the end of trip, it was totally and completely worth it. I met so many incredible people and shared an incredible experience with my peers, on top of the fact that I know we made a difference; as an organization we will donate $95,000 to various cancer institutions across the country this fall.
People always ask, “Which place was your favorite?” As expected, this is the most impossible question to answer. Climbing the Appalachian Mountains the first few days of the trip was hard, but was motivational for the rest of the trip. The views of the Great Lakes from the borders of Ohio and Illinois were beautiful and familiar to me as an Ohio resident. The rolling, forest covered hills in Missouri were simply spectacular. Climbing into Lake Tahoe was the one of the most challenging rides, but was a fair exchange for being able to see the beauty of the lake surrounded by the mountains at sunset when we finally arrived. And in my opinion, nothing can really beat that desert sunrise riding out of Austin, Nevada. As beautiful as the landscapes were, they are not the things I remember the most. It is the people I remember most fondly.
Although I had meaningful interactions with various host cities across the country, it is the state of Nebraska that stands out the most in my mind. Franklin, Arapahoe, and Benkelman were three consecutive days that really meant a lot to me. In Franklin, I met a man named Gary that I think of any time I think about the 4K. His wife is a third generation colon cancer victim who has survived three recurrences, and just finished her last bought of chemotherapy a few weeks before the 4K came to town (and despite this, was still busy in the church kitchen cooking both dinner and breakfast for us!). In Arapahoe I had the most welcoming home-stay with a young couple, Karmeca and Anthony Fisher. The have a newborn, but still took eight 4K riders into their home that night and gave us warm showers, beds, clean sheets, and even did our laundry! In Benkelman, a family planned a whole carnival fundraiser for us which raised about $2,000 for our cause. And of course, the plains of Nebraska, which are not normally as green as they were this summer, were breathtaking.
The 4K was certainly an adventure of a lifetime. My Hopkins experience is not what I thought it would be as Freshman, back when I wanted to attend Medical School after I graduated. Hopkins has provided me with opportunities I never planned on, but for which I am all the more grateful. The 4K means more to me than any truely ‘abroad’ experience could have, and my Public Health major has opened my eyes to the opportunities to help communities through policy and legislation, something that can have a greater impact than individual-oriented medicine.
At any other school, I doubt I would have become involved in Greek life either. Being a sister of Alpha Phi another incredibly meaningful activity in which I have been involved. I graduated from Columbus School for Girls, which I attended for seven years. Having a group of sisters to support me and keep me involved with community service and other activities on and around campus has been indispensable to my experience here at Hopkins. A smaller group of sisters, known as my Alpha Phi family, has really been a surrogate family for me while I am so far from home. Furthermore, I am running for a leadership position in my sorority in our upcoming election, and I am thankful for the chance to further my leadership experience and sharpen my skills I gained from being a Director for the 4K for Cancer.
I do not know what new experience Hopkins will bring me in the next year; just in the last month I have started teaching sexual education to at-risk youth in Baltimore with CRASH (Creating Responsibility in Adolescent Sexual Health), another student group here on campus! We are in the midst of a five week session with a group of young men at a transition house from the Maryland juvenile system in Druid Hill as a result of mostly drug related crimes, and in January I plan on helping to teach more classes to a group of young men in the CHOICE program, a probation and monitoring alternative for youth implicated in smaller crimes. One thing is certain, Hopkins is a busy campus, and I am positive my last year and a half will be just as busy and eventful as my first two and a half.