Category Archives: Beyond Baltimore

Arrivals and Departures (But Mostly Arrivals)

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Trying to be a work of art

I’m excited and I’m exhausted. For those who don’t know, this summer I took Organic Chemistry lab during Session I of summer classes, held a paying lab job in the Chemical Engineering department where I worked between 25 and 40 hours a week, and got a taste of what it’s like to be an RA by working on summer staff. Needless to say, it was quite a busy summer. I split my time between living where I work and working close to where I live, and for that reason, I’m just the tiniest bit tired, but still far from drained.

Because . . .

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Thumb, muffin, and potato ft. reflection of feet in a work of art at the BMA (left to right)

At this time three days from now, I’ll be on a train back home to New York, and I couldn’t be more excited. This summer was so much more fun that I could have possibly anticipated. Organic Chemistry lab wound up being my favorite Hopkins course to date, and all of the graduate students in my lab treated me like an intelligent human being, not a pipetting machine (although there was a lot of pipetting to be done too). I made bubble tea for more than sixty people at least six times this summer, and I spent two weekends at home. I even got to take a trip up to Rochester to wrap up work on the Octopodes album, coordinate a weekend when both of my sisters could come to Baltimore, and spare just enough time to watch all six seasons of Game of Thrones.

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Horrified by Snapchat filters

It was a busy, productive, exciting, and fun summer, but even with everything going on, there was only one thing that fazed me, and it was that I got homesick last week. With friends from all over the country and the world, I almost felt a little guilty. I live three and a half hours away by bus and I went home twice this summer. When I took a step back to think about it, I stopped feeling guilty, because I realized that I haven’t been home for more than three days since December. I’ve never been away from home this long, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting the hours until I get on the train. The role that home has played has shifted pretty drastically in the two years I’ve been at Hopkins. It feels like vacation now, and I can’t wait to vacation at home.

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Looks a million times better than it tastes

I’m longing to put on my semi-angry “I-don’t-care-about-your-problems-I’m-going-somewhere-important-so-get-out-of-my-way” face and swipe my MetroCard to get on the subway. I want to visit my friends on the Upper West Side, the Village, Midwood, and Forest Hills. I want to eat in cafés that exclusively serve things covered in matcha. I want to pester my mom to let me drive short distances, and yell things to one another from across our apartment.

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Come back now so we can lay on the floor during finals.

Still, the most exciting things in life have also been arrivals. I’m excited to arrive home, but I’m also excited to arrive back in Baltimore on August 15th. RA training for the school year (with all 70+ staff members) is rapidly approaching. I’ll only be home for a week and a half, but for me, that will be enough. I’m looking forward to spending a few weeks with a big, new part of my Hopkins family before classes start because I’m hoping (praying) that I can find a floor theme that I love. I want to deck out the 3rd floor of Homewood. If you’ve read this far, make a suggestion! (Please send help.)

On Summer and Independence

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Kicking off the summer with excessive Charmery scoops (Thai tea and mint chip)

I’m closing in on upperclassmen territory and I don’t know how I feel about it. My friends a year older than me are now rising seniors and my friends two years older have left campus altogether. I don’t know how the past two years have gone by so quickly, but they most certainly have; now, even the summer is close to half over and I’m just kind of dumbfounded. Inevitably, time is going by, but at least I’m running out the clock on this summer in the best ways I can think of.

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So many bubbles

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At the vigil for Orlando in Station North

This summer has primarily been spent in the basement of Krieger working in the Schulman lab, which is in the ChemBE department. I’ve spent 25+ hours there each week working with a graduate student in addition to taking Organic Chemistry Lab, which I know sounds horrible, but it’s actually been one of my favorite classes at Hopkins to date. I forged an alliance with a group of people at my lab table and made new friends where I didn’t expect to. We even have a GroupMe, so if that doesn’t scream friendship, I don’t know what does. I might even miss capping off my day in the UTL now that the class is over, but I definitely won’t miss the lab reports.

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My sister even came to visit, and we went to Woodberry Kitchen for the first time! (Not pictured: fabulous breakfast potatoes)

During the weekends, you can find me at my friends’ house, delightfully nicknamed “The Alamo” because three of its five residents are Texans, walking around Hampden, at the Waverly Farmers Market, goading my friends into eating off campus with me, or watching the newest season of Orange Is The New Black. I’ve said goodbye to the remaining Octopodes graduates and learned how to successfully finish a round of Mario Kart without coming in last. I’ve also finally learned how some of organic chemistry works (I use “some” very loosely, because I’m about to take Orgo II), and best of all, my Grignard didn’t explode.

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The acclaimed pizza of Johnny Rad’s

I’m still working my way down a list of restaurants and events, but spending summer in Baltimore has definitely not been disappointing. I’ve gone to concerts, found pizza almost as good as New York pizza, and successfully learned how to make bubble tea en masse.

Best of all, I’ve gotten to live almost like an adult (despite the free housing and meal plan), and even though I miss my mom, my sisters, and my cat, I’m loving my summer in Baltimore. I even have a Spotify playlist to prove it.

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The Tallest Man on Earth (@ Rams Head Live) is in fact only 5’7”.

A Charmed Summer

Even though my last final was under a week ago, it feels as though it’s been an eternity. Half of my suite’s doors are locked and closed for the summer, and there are only a handful of people on campus right now. Over the summer, there’s a variety of things that students can do; among them are going home, staying at Hopkins, going to other universities to take classes or do research, and studying abroad. It’s going to be pretty sleepy in Charles Village until next week when the first session of summer classes begins, because a lot of people are taking the opportunity to be home for a week or two before it gets busy again. Still, despite what you might think, the summer is a great time to be on campus and there’s a lot to do!

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We survived.

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Date nights with Kate (and Izzy and Jasmine)

During my freshman spring, I remember someone said, “Take this summer to recuperate and rejuvenate, because it’s the last summer you’ll have to yourself.” In retrospect, I took this way too seriously, and I don’t think I should have taken their advice to heart quite in the way that I did, because it’s totally not true. Last year, I went home, put my head down, and worked a 9-to-5 job. I had some time to myself; I figured out what progress I had made my freshman year and made goals for my sophomore year because I had so much free time — but it was boring! My freshman year, I figured out how to study, where the coolest places on campus were, and I learned how to say no (although I’ve learned this year, that I still don’t take advantage of that all too much, because I still don’t want to). Sophomore year was undoubtedly more rewarding: harder lessons to learn but bigger payoff.

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Octopodes music geniuses ft. Drake.

Most importantly, I solidified my love for this school, and I learned that taking a break smart though it was, didn’t necessarily have to happen in New York. I came back earlier than most of my friends to help coordinate freshman move-in, and was thrilled to be living in my fancy new dorm, which is bigger than my family’s New York apartment. At this realization, I decided about half way through sophomore year that I was going to stay in Baltimore for the summer preceding my junior year, and I made that decision for a few reasons.

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Im going to miss this room so much though.

I started doing research in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department this spring and was offered a position to stay over the summer and work on an extension of the project I began this year. Since I really enjoyed the freedom of going into the lab by myself and figuring out the best way to run experiments, I was really excited at the prospect of staying to further my knowledge. I also figured that while I was here, I could get ahead on some schoolwork. I’m still currently on a pre-med track and felt that it might be smart to take a load off of my junior spring by taking Organic Chemistry Lab and Organic Chemistry II during each session of the summer. On top of all of it, I’m going to be an RA during my junior year, so I applied and was offered a position as a summer RA in the same building where I’ll be working in the fall.

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Hey, Georgetown.

Not only do I get to experience a small bit of what my future job will entail, but I get to move in without any of the chaos of move-in during August. I’ll also get to be really fully immersed in my research, and I’ll have the luxury of only focusing on one class at a time. That means more trips to Washington DC to visit my sister, more time to explore Baltimore, and more free time to spend with my friends, a lot of whom also decided that staying here for the summer would be productive, rewarding, and fun. None of these things are in full swing yet, so until Monday, I’ll just be moving into my new room a little bit at a time, and sneaking in a few episodes of Lost while I track down my lab goggles and decide on my floor theme for next year.

Putting on the Brakes for Spring Break

Somehow, it’s already Thursday and my much awaited Spring Break is more than half over. I don’t know who thought through school schedules and decided when breaks should be, but I think whoever those people were deserve a pat on the back. It feels as though every time break comes around, I am beyond ready for it, but whenever the end is in sight, I’m eager to get back to the grind (and also the Daily Grind).

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Rainy library ft. somber Drake

Last week, which now feels like an eternity ago, was one of my most exam-heavy weeks of the semester. With a Transport exam on Monday, Cell Biology on Wednesday, and Thermodynamics on Thursday, there was no easy way through it, but I’m sitting here typing this, so I did in fact make it out alive — sick, but alive.

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Basically how last week made me feel

For the first time since I’ve been at Hopkins this year, I got sick and it was not fun. I take for granted my ability to wake up at 8:30AM without complaint, but when I’m sick it feels like the entire world is coming to a grinding halt. For the greater majority of my week before spring break, I was running to rehearsal, completing Theta Tau pledge tasks, all while trying my best to get out of the library before 2AM. Most weeks aren’t like this; they’re always busy, but the stress isn’t usually quite as imminent as it was last week. Every day last week, I would wake up and take everything I needed with me for the day, only returning to the comfort of my room when I was ready to collapse and go to sleep. It was just one of those weeks.

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Ignore that there is Orgo on the board and that this was taken last semester. The sentiment still stands.

On Friday afternoon after my classes ended for the day, I stretched out in the sun and laid on the Beach until 4:30PM, when I packed my bags and got on a bus headed for New York. Armed with two books and Netflix in tow, I headed home. I managed to read a book, finish both Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, and complete my Linear Algebra homework all while getting at least ten hours of sleep each night. Even though I’m supposed to be relaxing and taking the week off, I’m still on the go, so yesterday I boarded a plane to Nashville, TN to visit a friend from high school who is studying at Vanderbilt.

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When you get home to Chinese food and you feel #blessed

I’ve only been here for about 18 hours, but having been here once before, it is very obviously different from Hopkins. You get the same feeling that you’re surrounded by smart, motivated people, but the feeling on campus is much more summery. As a Hopkins student, I always feel like I’m going. I don’t know if I have an off switch, but I don’t know if the general student body here has a switch. Vanderbilt feels laid back while Hopkins feels charged. Even studying here feels different (I still have problem sets due when I get back), but it’s been really interesting to see how students at similar universities live. I’m loving my time here — the campus is unarguably beautiful, located in a really cool city, and has one of my favorite people on it.

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Vanderbilt being casually beautiful

Still, I’m looking forward to my room, familiar pathways, and familiar faces. It’s been nice to put on the brakes for a little bit, but a little bit was all I needed and now I’m ready to get back into it.

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Kan Jam on the Beach

Israeli Hot

For me, being Jewish has always come with an inherent sense of community and pride, but I learned only a few years ago that it also comes with a ten day round trip to Israel. With over 500,000 Birthright participants in the past fifteen years, all wearing brightly colored lanyards and name tags, doing loud count-offs in English, and blocking crowded alleyways in the old city of Jerusalem, passing Israelis would see our group, smile, and ask “Taglit?”

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Glasses, headphones, and sweatshirts. Are we related yet? (30,000 ft, Somewhere in the sky)

It’s practically an institution, with universities from across the United States and other organizations around the world sending out dozens of students at a time to experience Israel. My family has no connection to the country; nobody from my family had ever even been there before and we are not of Israeli descent, but I was still quite determined to understand the Israeli piece of this Jewish puzzle that I have come to define as my identity.

So on Thursday, May 28th, we flew from New York to Tel Aviv. We got off the plane, where our Israeli tour guide greeted us. We walked outside into the beautiful, Friday afternoon sun, we said the Shehecheyanu (a prayer that’s supposed to bless new experiences) and there was challah. It was Shabbat, after all, and in a country where the majority observes, there’s even a siren to bring it in at sundown every week.

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First step out of the airport required a photo (Ben-Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel)

I was already sold, I could get used to fantastic bread on every special occasion.

We got to visit the Western Wall, the room of the last supper, and King David’s tomb in Jerusalem. Fast forward two thousand years, and we got to see the square where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and Independence Hall, where David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence in 1948. We visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Mt. Herzl, its national cemetery for leaders and fallen soldiers. We swam in the Mediterranean, went to Jerusalem’s biggest open air market, and saw Israeli short films at the Maale film school.

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Spices in Jerusalem’s open air market (Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem, Israel)

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Western Wall (Jerusalem, Israel)

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The last thing you see when you leave the Holocaust Memorial Museum. It shows what was awaiting the Jews at the end of WWII. (Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel)

We drove south toward the desert where we learned about the lifestyle of Arab Bedouins living in the Negev. We got to ride camels, walk through the desert at 11:00PM and look at the stars, hike Ein Avdat and Masada, swim in the Dead Sea, and kayak in the Jordan River.

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The very angry camel behind us was not having it. (Bedouin Tents, Negev Desert, Israel)

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4AM wakeup call: $0. 5AM hike up Masada: $0. Seeing the sun rise over the Jordan River: Priceless (Masada, Negev Desert, Israel)

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This part of the desert is considered “wet” because it gets 10 mm of rain each year. Not exactly what I’d call a tropical oasis. (Ein Avdat, Negev Desert, Israel)

We ended our trip in the north with a brief visit to Tzfat, where Kabbalah has its roots, and then finished close to where we started, back in Tel Aviv for Taglit Tel Aviv Day. 1,000 participants spent the day enjoying free falafel and learning about modern day life and arts culture in Tel Aviv. Finally, the perfect ending to a perfect trip was a Hadag Nachash concert in Tel Aviv Port. They’re an Israeli hip hop group that performs mostly in Hebrew — I could die, their music was perfectly obscure so obviously right up my alley.

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Another incredible city with another incredible view (Tzfat, Israel)

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Thirty minutes from Syria (Golan Heights, Israel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hadag Nachash Concert (Tel Aviv Port, Tel Aviv, Israel)

All of this was incredible, but you would never know just from an itinerary what the experience was like. You would never know that on our trip north from the Dead Sea, the air conditioning on our bus broke in the middle of the desert, and a handful of kids got out only to find that we were in the middle of the West Bank. You would never know that even on the Jordan River, rafts full of Israelis were still asking “Taglit? Taglit?” as we tried not to row directly into the brush. You would never know that they made us close our eyes on the walk to the Haas Promenade so that the view would be a surprise, but I think I tripped on the person in front of me maybe four times. You would also never know that one of the Israeli soldiers who joined us on our trip made it to the top 100 on Israeli Idol.

I’m not a small town girl, but I had been living on this microcosm of the east coast for my whole life up until this point. The world is huge, and spending about fifteen minutes in the Negev desert will show you that. For me, that was a huge part of finding my Jewish identity on the trip, and as corny as that sounds, I do think I understand more where I fit in as far as my Judaism goes. I’m one small person on a massive planet, in a massive solar system, in a massive galaxy, of which there are at least one hundred billion. At the end of the day, my being religious or secular will not impact anybody but myself. I choose not to be religious because I’m not sure if I believe in God, but that doesn’t make me any less Jewish.

The president of Birthright spoke to us on our first day and yelled at us, “Judaism is NOT a religion!” A lot of people seemed puzzled by this, but I understood it before he explained it. I identify culturally as Jewish. People ask me my nationality, and I respond that I’m Jewish. I don’t know yet if I want to be more in touch with my religion, but I did learn that I want to be more in touch with my culture. I’ll probably be at Hillel more, and I might go to some of the Shabbat services because I like the singing. I would love to join an activist group focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I’m looking in to taking Hebrew or Yiddish during my time at Hopkins. My religious view didn’t fundamentally change, but I think I know a little bit more about myself as a Jew.

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I want to live here. (Jaffa, Israel)

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A view of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean from Jaffa. Spent the entire trip stumbling on views like this (Jaffa, Israel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tour guide said to us on the first day, “A tour guide that I know once said to a group of Americans, most of them like you who had never been to Israel, ‘Welcome home,’ and I couldn’t understand why he was saying that to people who had never been here. But on your next trip to Israel, I would like to be able to say to you, ‘Welcome home’”.

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One of the only meals that did not involve hummus, but I love my shakshuka (Jaffa, Israel)

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The first of many falafels in Israel. Home is where the hummus is, no? (Jerusalem, Israel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And he mostly certainly will, because I’ll be back soon.

Plus I get to say that I had my Bat Mitzvah in Israel. How cool is that?

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This picture is worth way more than 1,000 words. (Haas Promenade, Jerusalem, Israel)

Summer in the City

Summer in New York City is infamous.

It is notorious, famous, fabled, storied, and legen—wait for it—dary.

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I felt that this was appropriate.

To be honest, the main reason for that is the heat. By August, you can crack an egg on any street and fry it from the steam emanating from the sidewalks. Still, summer in New York is something to be savored. A population of 8.5 million people finally retire their black on black on black clothing (I am guilty and proud) and anyone who can afford to go on vacation in a place that is less humid does. The New Yorkers that are left brave the humidity and find solace under the shade of the trees in Central Park or heavily air conditioned museums and movie theaters.

So here I am. Along with another 8.5 million people (just replace the vacationers with tourists who decide August is a good idea to visit Times Square), I am spending my summer in the city. Unfortunately for me, there will be no afternoon naps in the shade and my museum trips will probably be limited. My original plan was to spend about a month at the beginning of the summer working on Johns Hopkins’s med campus down in Baltimore. A kind of inconvenient series of events and a less than ideal financial situation forced me to turn down the opportunity, and I found myself largely without a plan. As I pulled my last garbage bag out of my dorm room and returned my room key, I was frightened by the vastness of this three month summer that I had to fill with something.

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I had time for one quick adventure — even in New York, finding a store that literally specializes in skulls and strange animal knick-knacks is just weird though. (Evolution, SoHo, New York)

That was when I got an e-mail from my old boss asking if I could come back to work for the summer. At the end of May, that kind of opportunity is almost unheard of, so I snagged it. The job is mostly data entry, but it’s super convenient for my mom because we work in the same building. It’s nowhere close to my major or what I want to be doing in summers to come, but I get guaranteed work five days a week in an air conditioned office building, so I only complain sometimes — it’s in my nature.

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Plus my job keeps me out of nature, where the killer bees are lurking. (I was sincerely confounded by this store.)

Since my days are pretty much set and I’m generally too tired to go on any great adventures after work, my summer will be largely uneventful, but not entirely! Exactly one week from tomorrow, I will be taking a ten day trip to Israel as a part of Birthright, thanks to some awesome people at Hopkins Hillel and the Taglit Birthright program. It will be the first time I’ve been out of the country (unless you count Canada or the Caribbean) and all I’ve bought for the trip is a hat. Needless to say, this week will probably be a little hectic, but it’s definitely giving me something to look forward to, and soon!

I’ll also finally be learning how to drive (fingers crossed I pass my road test the first time) and hopefully volunteering with various critters at my local pet store. All in all, it’ll be a pretty low key summer. After this spring semester, it is much needed, but I’m sure I’ll already be packing up on August 1 because it’s only been five full days since I left campus and I miss it. College is fun, and I definitely know why people say it will be the best four years of your life.

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Tried to be inconspicuous while taking this, but actually just took a horrible picture.

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True fact: The flamingo was therapeutic during finals.

Getaway for a Day

“There’s something about springtime in D.C. that makes me want to eat meat on a stick!” I laughed, as we passed about a dozen grills preparing various meat skewers, lo mein, fried rice, and pad thai. I’ve been a vegetarian for about seven years now, but who’s counting anyway?

After one of my fullest weeks at Hopkins this year, I decided to head in to Washington D.C. for one of the final weekends of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. With two exams, an essay, the first week of SOHOP, and registration for the fall semester finally over, I packed my polaroid camera with my sunglasses and made the trip into D.C. with my friends Ben and Cynthia.

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Photo of a photo

 

After a short trip on the MARC train and a few stops on the red line of Washington D.C.’s Metro, we made our way to the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, which stretches six blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue. We got to play Japanese games, survey tents with various knick knacks, and find out more about Japanese history. I had the chance to meet up with my sister who goes to school in D.C., we sat in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue just eating lo mein and catching up.

 

 

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Two young bugs in sunglasses

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Street food is the best food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At around 6PM when the festival closed, we made our way to the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin. It was in this location that 2,000 cherry trees were donated by the Japanese Embassy to President Taft over a hundred years ago. This weekend marked the anniversary of the agreement, and it was the height of the cherry blossom season, so the National Mall was busier than ever. People from around the world come to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms. Even though I tend to see the beauty in concrete and skyscrapers, the cherry blossoms really were breathtaking.

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Cute stuffed animals or organs?

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The only one who understood this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Escaping the fortress that my mind has been for the past week was just what I needed. The weather is improving and I think spring is finally here to stay. Having Washington D.C. so close made a much needed getaway possible and exploring off campus is never a bad idea when you have good people to do it with.

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A lot has happened in these past few weeks. I thought that first semester would have all the twists and turns, and things would settle down in the spring. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I think I’m a stronger person because of it. I’ve met people who have changed me and I hope I’ve done the same, but there’s no use wondering about the past or guessing what the future will hold. The cherry blossoms don’t last forever, and neither will this year. Pretty soon, the flowers will have fallen off the trees and a month from today, I’ll be on my way home.

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Words of Wisdom

The week before spring break marked ten straight weeks that I spent at Hopkins without going home. That’s almost three months, and I couldn’t imagine spending that much time anywhere else and genuinely enjoying it. Still, there is a time and place for everything, and much like I was ready for fall break last semester, I needed this break now more than anything. I realize that my blogs haven’t been extremely cheerful recently. I’ll be the first to admit that things haven’t been fantastic, but the best lessons are often learned through difficult times and I’m looking forward to taking this week to reorganize and reevaluate.

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It’s finally getting warm enough for me to sit in my favorite place again! 🙂

 

Spring break is strange. Most schools aren’t on the same schedule, and spring break doesn’t coincide with a holiday to center the break around. Every school has a different break; some of my friends have been back at school for two weeks already, some of them were returning as I was leaving, and some of them won’t be on break until a week after I’ve been back. Friday night was the only night that I got to spend with my whole family, and I knew it might be my only opportunity for an adventure this week, so my sister Felicia and I picked a place on our list of food places to try and made our way to midtown for cereal-milk at Momofuku Milk Bar. As if that wasn’t enough, a few hours later, my entire family was reunited and we went to dinner at an amazing French restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called Marseille. This kind of functioned as a last supper; I knew I wouldn’t be going on vacation or visiting any friends this week, so I let my mom schedule my wisdom teeth removal for the day after I got home, Saturday, March 14.

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One of the most delicious things I have ever eaten

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I also bought these. No shame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On paper, it made sense. I don’t really have that many people to see or things to do this week, and the last few weeks at school have been exhausting, with several of my classes giving another round of midterms and tying up some loose ends before break. Getting my wisdom teeth removed forced me to take down time, which I generally avoid pretty vehemently. When I have time to myself, I usually like to fill it with activities because I get bored extremely easily. However, both anesthesia and pain medication were entirely new experiences for me and I haven’t been able to get bored because I’ve been so tired. I don’t think that there was a period longer than three hours that I spent awake this weekend, so I definitely caught up on sleep whether I wanted to or not.

Despite the intense pain and the haziness, getting my prehistoric, pointless, wisdom teeth removed has allowed me to sit down and organize the rest of my week. The rest of it will likely be spent doing homework and studying (just to make my life easier and give myself a head start for the second half of the semester), making a tentative four year plan (yikes) for my advising meeting the week I get back, and drinking my meals until my face no longer looks like its own planet.

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Some much needed family time with my favorite ladies

 

As the weather gets warmer and March draws to a close, I’m looking forward to what April has in store. This spring is a time for second chances and a more positive perspective. With the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. and Spring Fair at Hopkins right around the corner, there are so many things to look forward to. Even though it is cloudy and cold right now, it won’t be forever, and I’m looking forward to a little less stress and a lot more fun.

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Up until now, my only spring break accomplishment (I know I’m late with this)

 

A Few Of My Favorite Things

New York is an acquired taste. It’s kind of like coffee; you either love it or you hate it, but once you try it, it’s addictive. For a large part of the world, New York is this giant, ugly, intriguing, hectic, magical city, but for me it’s home, and I get immense pride from telling people I’m born and raised. I love everything about New York, from the fountain at Lincoln Center to the musicians in Washington Square Park. I love the 2.2 million people of Queens representing almost every ethnic group on the planet, and the alphabetical avenues of Brooklyn. New York is perfect, and anybody who doesn’t think so should take a tour from me. Coming home reminds me exactly why I love this city. While some of these reasons are predictable, I love New York for all of its quirks, so I’ve concocted a list of what exactly makes New York so special to me.

The transit system: Rats, hobos, and all. I think it’s just a part of the aesthetic. As a resident of eastern Queens (literally as east as you can go without being Nassau county), public transportation saves me. Whether it be the Q30, the LIRR, or the good old subway, the New York City transit system is one of the oldest public transportation systems in the country, but also one of the most effective. How else could you get from 34th and 7th to 65th and Amsterdam in fewer than ten minutes? Not by car, that’s for sure.

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My local LIRR station, where I spent a significant chunk of my life during high school at 6:30AM. (Douglaston, New York)

Cuisine: Since Queens was named one of the top travel destinations for 2015, I thought it would only be fit to recognize the availability of incredible cuisine here. My family has been living in Queens for over fourteen years, and we didn’t realize that we had one of the most heavily trafficked Indian sweet shops just down the block from our local supermarket. This place sells gulab jamun for $7.00 a pound and bread chat by the piece. (Google those things and then find a place that sells them, you won’t regret it.) I’ve been trekking to Jackson Heights and Manhattan to eat this stuff when my favorite things have been just under my nose all of this time. There are always new things to discover here, no matter how much of a resident New Yorker you may think you are.

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I’ll admit, I don’t know what most of this is, but how beautiful is it? (Usha Foods, Floral Park, New York)

Concrete and Skyscrapers: I love concrete. It’s flat, it’s serious, and it gets the job done. You can walk two miles and feel like it’s nothing, because it feels so natural. The entire island of Manhattan is accessible because it’s literally at your feet. Anything you could possibly want or need is within walking distance because everything is built up, not out. Manhattan is condensed into twenty three square miles of skyscrapers on skyscrapers, and you can get a world class view from any one of them.

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Madison Square Garden (34th Street and 7th Avenue, Midtown, New York)

People: My people. My wacky, rude, fast-paced, eccentric, lovable friends and family. Almost everybody I’ve ever known is from New York. There is no textbook New Yorker — somebody who fits the stereotype perfectly — because New York is this giant conglomeration of people, stories, and experiences. Above that, my family is here, so I suppose I’m a little biased.

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Tree decorating featuring the high school crew. (Upper West Side, New York)

The wonderful thing about going to a school where people come from across the country and the world is that everyone has this instinctual pride for the place where they grew up. I went in to Hopkins telling myself not to be the kid who was always talking up their hometown, but here I am, publishing it for the whole Internet to see. Still, I don’t hesitate about my choice of college for half a second. If not for Hopkins, I would probably never meet people from California, Virginia, Vermont, Alabama, Taiwan, and Abu Dhabi. We all come together at Hopkins but we go back to our respective homes when the dorms close for the holidays, bringing shared experiences back to our own places. I’ve gone back home with a strong love and respect for my “rough and tumble” city, but an even stronger confidence in having left for college. It’s strange to have two homes, but when I go back to school, I’m going home, and when I leave for break, I’m going home too. Isn’t that a nice thought?

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Washington Monument (Mount Vernon, Baltimore, Maryland)

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New York necklace (Home, Queens, New York)