Category Archives: Perspectives

3,636 Miles, 10 Weeks, 2 Homes, and 1 Great City

As I venture through my last summer as a Hopkins student, I am beginning to realize that writing about my highly anticipated abroad adventures is much harder than I originally thought it would be. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I’ve jealously read so many others, hoping to feel and portray the same magic that they have over the last few years on this website. I’ve sat down to write this blog several times, and I’ve deleted what I’ve written every time, because none of it seems to entirely encompass everything I’ve seen, felt, and experienced in my first few weeks across the pond.


A quaint row of homes just behind my residence hall

This Friday will mark exactly one month since my arrival in London. I’ve seen so much and crossed so many things off the “London Bucket List” note that remains open on my computer, but I’ve also found time to make a “London Bucket List” and spend a few days binge-watching Mad Men. Yesterday, I got on a tour bus to take a solo day trip to Stonehenge and Bath, and the woman sitting next to me on the bus asked how long I had been in London. When I told her I had been here for a little over three weeks, she looked at me and said “Wow, that’s a long time.”


The infamous Big Ben. I love him.

I think that what she said is true. Being on that bus was weird yesterday, because I felt out of place. My visa says short-term student, but my lab schedule is variable. The people in the residence hall I live in see me as new (and lucky — a lot of them are still taking exams and I’ve been done for over a month now), and I don’t necessarily feel like a tourist anymore either. I still stop in the middle of the street to take a picture when I see something I don’t want to forget, but I don’t need to use Citymapper to navigate campus or South Kensington anymore. Being on that bus made me realize that I’m not on vacation, but I’m not a long-term resident either. I don’t really know where I fit in this city with a population of 8.6 million people, but I do know that I’ve appreciated every minute, even when I’ve been homesick or lonely. And that has happened.


The Queen was in the day I took this. It made me feel very properly English.

My journey to this point cannot be spoken about without a brief discussion of the Vredenburg Scholarship. I’ve written about the Vredenburg Scholarship before, but it’s worth mentioning in this blog that it is one of many opportunities Hopkins gives to its students to study abroad. For people like me who can’t swing a semester for any number of reasons, this couldn’t have been more perfect. The Vredenburg Scholarship funds students with a major in the Whiting School of Engineering to participate in research, internships, or service projects related to engineering anywhere in the world. The scholarship covers up to $8,000 for 8 to 10 weeks, including funds for airfare, housing, food, any program fees, books, supplies, and a flat amount to go to any cultural sights of interest.


The V&A, around the corner from my current dorm


Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in the National Portrait Gallery

My top destinations for about as long as I can remember were London and Paris — simply put, I like cities and I’m a travel newbie, although I don’t think I’ll still be able to say that after this trip. Since I haven’t dusted off my French in about three years, that eliminated 10 weeks in Paris (though it didn’t eliminate a weekend trip, I’ll be there in July) and left me with London. It became such an obvious choice. Imperial College London is ranked #2 for Chemical Engineering in the U.K. and #6 in the world. In the last three weeks, I’ve started training in basic cell culture techniques, cell counting and viability assays, and I’ve developed a (very) rudimentary protocol for preparation of cell extracts. My project for the summer is a small part of a larger project to develop a cell-free protein synthesis system to optimize production of therapeutic glycoproteins. My “job” is to help with optimization of the cell extracts, but I’m still in the early stages, so I have yet to determine exactly what that entails.


The Queen’s Tower, the only original building remaining of the original Imperial Institute at Imperial College London

The best part about this summer is how much I have been able to do. For my entire life, I’ve lived in New York, but since I live in the far reaches of Queens, the city that never sleeps is largely unavailable to me unless I carve out a chunk of a day. Here, I live in central London, and the entire city is right outside my doorstep. Until July 1, I will be living in South Kensington, less than a 5 minute walk to Imperial’s main campus, and after that I will be about 35 minutes away in Waterloo — a touristy, but trendy and central location nonetheless. I imagine that living in central London is something like living in Manhattan. There are endless opportunities and places to explore at a stone’s throw away (sometimes even spitting distance).


My first afternoon “tea” where I got iced coffee instead

Thanks to my location, traveling couldn’t be easier. I’ve been to many of London’s museums, including the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern, the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Science Museum. I’ve also seen plenty of iconic sights, like Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, the Tower of London, Millennium and Tower bridges, the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Carnaby Street and Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, and Sky Garden. I’ve also seen a concert at the O2 Arena, had afternoon tea, traveled to see Stonehenge, drank cider in Somerset County, and eaten a Bath bun.


The Roman Baths in Bath, UK


Stonehenge, which was both confusing and surreal in Salisbury Plain, UK

Perhaps the best part about being abroad are all of the things you couldn’t possibly learn unless you experience them yourself. People don’t tell you that the tube is tiny and generally not air conditioned. The only exceptions to that are the Circle and District lines, but they are a bit slower than the Piccadilly line, which is the alternative in Zone 1. Each tube line has a fun but uninformative name, like Jubilee or Bakerloo, and the tube cannot be called “the train”, because there is also a train system separate from the tube. None of the streets are numbered, and everything in London is “walking distance,” even though that means that an hour walk is completely normal. I still don’t know what the proper response to “Cheers!” is and I still can’t define “cheeky.” Apparently, I have an accent (who knew?) and the way that I say “weird” is weird.


Telephone booth carcasses near Leicester Square, so sad


Lopsided but important photo of Westminster Abbey

Even stranger, the cars drive on the wrong side of the street, but the city of London knows that. At your feet at every crosswalk, it tells you which direction to look before crossing. There is a 5p charge for a plastic bag at most stores to encourage people to reuse their own bags. Primark sells everything from carry-on suitcases to clothes to home goods, and all at incredible prices. The average cocktail here costs £10, or $13, and student unions often feature bars because most people are of drinking age when they go to college (which they call uni here). Iced coffee is scarce and air conditioning is even scarcer.


Cider from Somerset County at The Old Green Tree in Bath, UK

There are so many things about this city that I’ve learned in just a few weeks. I thought that going to college made me an independent adult when I left home for Hopkins three years ago, but for those of you who fancy yourselves independent people, I challenge you to travel 3,636 miles away from everyone you care about and explore a new place entirely on your own. It’s made me realize that I love my friends, but it’s also made me realize that not having familiarity doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do. I have gone to each of the places I mentioned earlier completely alone. I took my phone and a portable charger, and I went, and for that, I’m pretty damn proud of myself.


Millennium Bridge, for my fellow Harry Potter fans!


Alt-J at the O2, I feel like I paid for a concert but I also got a lights show. Truly an incredible experience.

But here’s the real kicker in all of this: I didn’t think it was possible, but I think I’ve found a better place than New York City. I love you, London, and I can’t wait to see what the next 6.5 weeks hold for us.


View south of the Thames from Sky Garden, cheers to more like this one!


When I was ten years old, I broke my pinky finger. I was sitting at the bottom of a slide with my arm out behind me trying to hoist myself out when my sister came careening down. Crack. That was it; I screamed out in pain, ate a piece of pizza, and went to sleep. When I woke up, my finger was black and blue, and without a doubt, broken. I had never contemplated breaking a bone up until that point, and after the cast was removed from my hand six weeks later, I never thought about it again.

It was not until this past Friday that I had any need to recall the feeling of breaking a bone, because I broke another. Breaking bones feels like a childhood pastime; you fall out of a tree and break your arm, or you break a leg playing soccer or roughhousing. By no means do you break an ankle tripping over a chair, but that is exactly what I did on Friday evening, much to my dismay.

Immediately after my lab class, I hustled over to Bloomberg — a building in the farthest corner of campus — for my a cappella show. I got there just in time to help unloading sound equipment and then quickly went back to the room where the group was hanging out. The door was propped open with a chair and I went to step over it (in platform shoes) to no avail. My ankle twisted and buckled, and with a singular but very crunchy pop, I went down.


Trying to laugh in a very unfortunate situation

You may be wondering what this unfortunate event could have anything to do with Hopkins and the experience of going here, and that’s where this part comes in. From the moment I went down, right up until now, I have received nothing but support.

My friend Mellissa, who was with me at the time, quickly ran out of the room to get anyone who could be remotely helpful. She arrived back with our friend and fellow group member, Isabel, who also happens to be a wilderness first responder (WFR). She assessed my foot, told me that she thought it was sprained, and helped me to keep it elevated and iced. Mellissa let me borrow her significantly lower-heeled shoes for the concert, and my friend Ben let me hold on to him when I couldn’t support myself on my own ankles during the show.


Post-standing on my broken ankle for over an hour in our concert

When we all met up afterward, my friend Ramya made sure not to forget an ankle brace, and I thought my ankle was sitting pretty until the next morning when I woke up and couldn’t move. Past just my friends, Hopkins’ resources have been extremely supportive. I took an Uber to the hospital (in my frenzy, forgetting that security could have gotten me there for free) and the hospital took me right away. After two surveys of my x-rays, my doctors told me that I had suffered an avulsion fracture, meaning that a ligament in my ankle pulled a piece of bone from my ankle, causing a fracture.

Security drove me back to my room, and has been extremely accommodating whenever I’m in a little bit of extra pain and feel like I need a ride. I’ve had lots of friends offer to carry my stuff for me, my friend Paige rides the elevator with me whenever I’m feeling lonely, and the AD I work with in Residential Life has offered to come up with some alternatives to my rounds when I’m on call for the night. I’ve even been contacted my Case Management, which means that I am not only being supported by my friends, but I also have backing from the school administration if I need help.

A broken ankle may seem run-of-the-mill, but in the middle of my last round of midterms as a junior, right before Homecoming and Spring Fair, and on a campus where the ramps are surprisingly out of the way, all of these things combined go a long way. No matter where I turn, I am supported, and that’s pretty stellar, even though the boot I’m wearing on my foot is not.



Bunnies of Hopkins

If you ask any one of my friends right now what my favorite thing is, there will be no need for any further specification. This vague question has a very pointed answer: my favorite thing right now is the bunny filter on Snapchat. I don’t know why, but it gives me a lot of joy.


The photo that started it all.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life. It’s taking a picture of your friend while they do work in the library and watching their studious face become a cute little bunny face. It’s a friend sending a picture of themselves to you as a bunny to cheer you up when you’ve had a long day day. Sometimes it’s even a miniature war to see who can send the most inconspicuous bunny snaps.


When an FFC lunch and work session becomes a competition to see how many people you can turn in to bunnies in one fell swoop

The thing about the bunny filter is that I’m very serious about it. I’ve lost “important” snap-streaks with people because my phone couldn’t recognize my face for a day, and then voilà: no bunny, no Snapchat. You, as a prospective student or current student may be asking yourself, why does this matter, and what does this have anything to do with being a Hopkins student?


When your friends acknowledge that your choices are good ones

A lot of the time, as I write these blogs, I ask myself how I can still be relevant to prospective students. I often feel that I’m so far in to my experience as Hopkins that the stories I have and the experiences I’m living through might not yet be relevant to a junior or senior in high school. To those students, I say this: even though college life may seem confusing, choosing classes may seem like a distant future, and summer plans may seem like a simple return trip home, the college experience is built by more than these things.


A level homework night gets a little bit more fun

Hopkins is the only place where all of my friends let me be all of the versions of myself that I want to be around them. Sometimes, that means I’m silly and unable to focus. Other times, it means that I’m frustrated with an assignment and angry at the world. I can be worried about my future and sleep until 12PM so I don’t have to worry about it, or I can wake up at 8AM on a Saturday to go to a city cleanup because I want to make a difference. I can be awake-until 3AM-Joanna, or Octopodes-rehearsal Joanna. Sometimes I’m bad-at-coding Joanna, and others, I’m laboratory-wizard Joanna.


Rehearsing hard or hardly rehearsing?

For now, being myself means only wanting to send photos of people as bunnies, and I wanted to dedicate this blog to all of those who have been victims of my desire to see them as a bunny, but have still continued to love me regardless.




More Firsts

Now that I have been firmly planted in my apartment in New York for a week and a half, it feels like a good time to reflect on all of this semester’s happenings. As my junior spring rapidly approaches, I’ve been forced to face the reality that I’m more than half way done, and I need to start coming up with a game plan for my life, or at least post-graduation plans. Each month of this semester was exciting, scary, stressful, and wonderful in different ways. Even two years later, Hopkins can still throw a curveball, and this was still a semester of firsts for me. Without further ado, here’s my list of junior fall firsts:

  1. Octopodes auditions: I was accepted into the JHU Octopodes my sophomore year, so this fall I got to experience my first round of auditions from the other side of the table. It’s all fun and games until you’ve been sitting in Hodson 216 for more than 12 hours, you haven’t eaten a meal that you didn’t purchase at Brody in 3 days, and you’ve got 4 problem sets due at the beginning of the week following the grueling 3 days audition process. I thought auditioning was hard, but evaluating 80+ auditions is much harder. Going into delirium with your friends takes the friendship to a whole new level.
  2. All-nighter: As a direct result of auditions, I also pulled my very first college all-nighter. I’m sure this might come as a shock to my Hopkins peers, but I’ve never had to watch the sun rise in Brody. My first all night homework session was this September, for a paper written with a partner. We gravely mistook the amount of time it would take us, and our original estimate was doubled in real time.
  3. Semester as an RA: I closed out my first semester as an RA and I absolutely loved it. While most of my friends live off-campus, and it’s nice to walk in to a house and feel independent sometimes, I wouldn’t change my experience as an RA in Homewood for the world. It’s been an incredible semester, and I’ve been really lucky to have such fabulous residents with strong, smart opinions and tons of motivation to make an impact on campus.
  4. Independent research project: Some time during the middle of the semester, I realized that the project I’m working on in lab is my own! I consult with a PhD student about a lot of what I’m doing and I always get tons of great advice and direction, but the project is my own, and it’s been really thrilling to be trusted with that kind of responsibility.
  5. Voting in person: I changed my voter registration to the state of Maryland so I could go and physically vote in the presidential election. It was truly an incredible experience. Even though I waited in line for two hours and it was crowded and loud and hot, I got to exercise my right to vote, and I actually got to hand in my ballot instead of mailing it out.
  6. School trip: Several of my friends and I “skipped class” to go to a pharmaceutical facility tour at Bristol Myers Squibb in New Jersey. We spent our Tuesday learning about the responsibilities of different engineers at the company, and it was a great introduction to a career in industry.
  7. Intersession Abroad application: After spending two Intersessions in Baltimore, I decided to change it up and apply for an Intersession Abroad program. I applied to a course called Collective Memory and Memorial Sites which will be held in Germany, and I got accepted to the program. We leave January 9th, and there have been a few pre-departure meetings that have made me really excited for the trip.
  8. Executive board election: In November, Theta Tau had elections for executive board for the calendar year of 2017 and I got elected Treasurer, which was super exciting. Now I get to work with four other awesome members of executive board to make 2017 a great year for Theta Tau.
  9. Sleepover: Since everyone lives within walking distance of one another, it seems silly, but my friend Paige and I had two sleepovers this semester. One of them was the day I left for winter break, so it made me really happy that I got to say goodbye to one of my best friends at 4:30 in the morning.
  10. Being away: This is the first time I won’t be in Baltimore for Intersession, so it’s the first time I really won’t see my friends for over a month. I already miss them, and it hasn’t even been two weeks, but I know that I’m going to have an incredible adventure in just ten days, and all of my friends will be where I left them when I get back.

My Campus Playlist

Over the past few years, I’ve compiled various genres of music into one glorious and cohesive Spotify account. Each significant part of my college experience is well documented in its own playlist, each reflecting a different phase in my Hopkins career. For each study space, class type, exam type, mood, and season, I listen to different kinds of music. The albums and songs featured below are my current top ten favorite songs, which accommodate my various campus activities, from early morning trips into my research lab, afternoon study sessions, and late walks home from the library.

Disclaimer: If Spotify is constantly trying to convince you to listen to playlists with descriptors like “Alternative” or “Indie”, these will probably be songs that you like. Most of the music I listen to is more mellow, so if you’re looking for bangers, they will probably not be on this list.


The Weatherman (Gregory Alan Isakov)

10. She Always Takes It Black: Gregory Alan Isakov

I found this song the summer after my freshman year while I was working at home.

My favorite location to listen to this song is anywhere outside during the fall.

I listen to this song when I want to listen to something a little bit repetitive and quiet if I need a little bit more zen in my life. This song helps me to calm down if I’m a little bit on edge.

I like this song because some of the lyrics are about a girl who drinks her coffee black. I like that, because I like to drink coffee black like my soul.


An Awesome Wave (alt-J)

9. Ms: alt-J

I found this song when one of my friends showed it to me my freshman year.

My favorite location to listen to this song is on a late night when I’m walking home from the library or my friends’ houses.

I listen to this song when I actually feel like a college student and not an adult.

I like this song because of the lyric “The nights of all my youth pressed into one glass of water” reminds me to seize the day and be spontaneous every once in a while.


Lazaretto (Jack White)

8. That Black Bat Licorice: Jack White

I found this song when one of my friends from high school showed it to me when I went to go visit him at Vanderbilt during spring break my sophomore year.

My favorite location to listen to this song is on A-level, when I’ve gone there even though I knew I needed a quieter space.

I listen to this song when I’m angry at the world or I want to feel angsty.

I like this song because it’s the perfect song to turn up to full volume and be the adversarial teenager I’ve always wanted to be.


Moon Pix (Cat Power)

7. Sea of Love: Cat Power

I found this song eight days ago on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist.

My favorite location to listen to this song is when I’m walking somewhere by myself on a cloudy day.

I listen to this song when I’m feeling pensive.

I like this song because it’s almost enchanting. This song sounds like a lullaby.


Weird Little Birthday (Happyness)

6. Montreal Rock Band Somewhere: Happyness

I found this song this summer while I was putting some of my lab data together.

My favorite location to listen to this song is in lab because phone service is spotty in the Krieger basement and I have this song downloaded.

I listen to this song any time because most of it is instrumental, but it’s mellow enough that I can pay attention to my experiments and still listen to it.

I like this song because it’s calming and it always makes me feel like things are going to be okay. I can be productive and listen to this song at the same time.


Cleopatra (The Lumineers)

5. Ophelia: The Lumineers

I found this song the day it came out, on April 8, 2016, during my sophomore spring.

My favorite location to listen to this song is on my walk to class, specifically when I’m walking through the BMA Sculpture Garden.

I listen to this song during my six-minute “morning commute” — also known as my walk — to class.

I like this song because it’s fun, my friends actually know this one, and I love everything by the Lumineers.


For Emma, Forever Ago (Bon Iver)

4. Re: Stacks: Bon Iver

I found this song during the winter of my freshman year.

My favorite location to listen to this song is in Brody café.

I listen to this song when I want to listen to something soothing with an acoustic guitar.

I like this song because Bon Iver is a musical genius and his lyrics make me want to sob.


Dark Bird Is Home (The Tallest Man on Earth)

3. Little Nowhere Towns: The Tallest Man on Earth

I found this song this past summer while I was preparing to go to The Tallest Man on Earth concert at Rams Head Live.

My favorite location to listen to this song is live in downtown Baltimore, performed by The Tallest Man on Earth himself.

I listen to this song on my record player in my room.

I like this song because The Tallest Man on Earth said that he plays piano badly. If this is badly, I really, really want to be bad at playing the piano.


Georgia Dust (Sunseeker)

2. Georgia Dust: Sunseeker

I found this song during early March of my sophomore year.

My favorite location to listen to this song is outside when it’s warm and sunny.

I listen to this song because the guys in the band are college students and the song mix is incredible. I’m baffled by the talent of people my own age.

I like this song because it’s so happy, but it isn’t over the top. It’s about looking fr what makes you happy and not being upset if you haven’t found it.


Before the World Was Big (Girlpool)

1. Chinatown: Girlpool

I found this song during spring break my sophomore year.

My favorite location to listen to this song is anywhere and everywhere.

I listen to this song because it makes me feel okay to have doubts and insecurities.

I like this song because it has helped me to learn that it’s okay to listen to sad music in order to make yourself happy.

Happy Hump Day!

I think I’m long overdue for “a day in the life”-themed blog. Since my day to post this semester is every other Wednesday, I figured I’d outline what a typical Wednesday looks like for me. Wednesdays also tend to be my busiest days because they’re in the middle of the week.

This one’s for you mom, because I know you’re always telling me that I need to take a break because I’m doing too much.

8:25 AM: Wake up and get ready for my 9AM organic chemistry class. I only need about 20 minutes to get ready. I can’t express enough how much joy I get out of my ten-minute walk to class after an hour commute to high school. Half way through sophomore year and it still hasn’t gotten old.


All ready to go but still trying to nap before I leave for class

8:50AM: Walk over to Mudd Hall for Organic Chemistry with the rest of my books in tow. It’s at this point that I usually realize that bringing a jacket would have been a good idea. I almost always forget to check the weather before I leave, so sometimes I get a pleasant (or not-so-pleasant) surprise.


I can roll with this. I actually put on a jacket today, so it’s not bad.

9:00 AM: Organic chemistry lecture. I won’t lie, this isn’t my favorite class, but a group of my friends and I usually claim an entire row and mull over the content together. We also study in groups and work through problems together, because that really is the only way to understand orgo.


Jose and Atlas: happy to be out of orgo or trying to bother me by dancing across the grass? The world may never know.

9:50 AM: Head to the Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company in Levering Hall for breakfast and coffee (they take dining dollars and even though I love the cappuccino chip muffins in Brody café, my wallet does not enjoy them). I usually answer e-mails or do some quick studying before heading over to work.


Breakfast and a game of catch up because the e-mail game is strong

11:00 AM: My work study job is in Mason Hall and I spend about three hours there on Wednesdays. It’s split up a bit because of class, but it’s probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I get to work with my friends (shoutout to JHU_Genevieve and JHU_Jackie) and this is usually when I check the blogging deadlines spreadsheet (hint hint SAAB friends).


Hi Mason Hall!

12:00PM: My second class of the day is Biochemistry in Hodson. I sit with my friend Katrina from my a cappella group and we usually nerd out about hemoglobin or ATP synthase. We work through the clicker questions together and sometimes get confused, but I’m pretty sure both of us have said it’s our favorite class, so I love heading over there every day.


I wasn’t kidding when I said we love hemoglobin.

1:30PM: My last class of the day is Differential Equations with my favorite professor, Dr. Brown. He makes math philosophical and poetic. Different teaching styles work for different people, but I took Calc III with him last fall and waited to take Differential Equations with him this fall because I loved his class so much. He may have also encouraged me to do the math minor.


This does not prevent doodles though.

2:30PM: My strange late lunch usually happens at this time. I run to CharMar and then go to my room to get my work. Sometimes I’m in and out the door and sometimes I get distracted by a potential nap or half an episode of Sherlock.


Love my spicy vegetable roll

3:00PM: I go back to Mason Hall for another two hours of work. More of the same as in the morning, but JHU_Gen and I get to gossip about our lives and plans for the weekend. We have a pretty good time.


Waiting for friends in the student space

5:00PM: I run to the library to get an hour and a half of work done before I run back to Commons for dinner.


Today I went to a meeting instead.

6:30PM: Dinner at Nolan’s with my friend Sarah and then back to my room to pick up my binder for rehearsal.


Thanks for being cooperative, friend.

7:00PM: Octopodes rehearsal! This is usually my favorite part of the day. I love that I can be a complete goofball with these people, plus it’s a two hour block when I forget about any and all stress and I can just sing and have a good time.


Just a couple of goons.

9:00PM: Back to the library with some of my fellow podes for a little bit of work and hanging out.


Late night also tends to happen (ft. JHU_JoMo).

11:30PM: I finally go back to my room and talk to my suite mates about their day. Sometimes we get Insomnia cookies and sometimes we microwave pizza bagels, which my suite mate Jenn fondly calls “beagles”. Then it’s Netflix until I fall asleep at around 12:30AM.

On Thursday, I wake up at 8:25AM and start all over again!

Only At Hopkins

It is a rarity to find a large group of people in the same place who are all dedicated to the same cause. I’ve often told people that my favorite thing about Hopkins is the collaborative nature of the student body. The willingness of my peers to help one another when problem sets are tough and when classes don’t make sense always brings a sense of comfort, so when something much more urgent came up a few weeks ago, I called upon my friends to help me.

This pressing issue was the Rubik’s cube.

Way back in August during orientation week, a group of my friends was sitting in a Commons living room trying to pass the time. We had all arrived on campus well before classes started, and we were beginning to realize that we had little to do in the days leading up to the beginning of the semester. It was then that somebody brought out the six-colored cube and one by one, I watched the majority of my friends solve it, most of them in two minutes or less.

My friend Katie was immediately intrigued, and she spent one of the final days of orientation holed up in her room mastering the cube. Within a day or so, she had added herself to my list of people that knows how to solve the Rubik’s cube.

I tried not to let it bother me; it was just a silly set of algorithms that my friends and sisters tried (and for the most part, failed) to learn in middle school. But now here I was, sitting in a room full of people who would toss each other the cube.

“So Hopkins,” I thought to myself.

But it taunted me. With exams, problem sets, and other extracurriculars, I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t important.

“Cube me,” they would say.

I pushed down my feelings of jealousy and inadequacy for weeks, until finally in mid-October, I decided to surrender to the cube. Without one of my own, my friend Jose handed me his first Rubik’s cube and said “Don’t give it back until you can solve it.”

I enlisted Jose, Katie, and my friend Izzy to teach me how to solve it. I probably could have learned how to solve it by myself, but why do things the hard way when there are people at every avenue to help you figure it out?

For three days, during study breaks and between classes, at meals and before I went to bed, I practiced. I mastered the first layer and the second, and then one day, on a bus to Towson, I completed the cube. All by myself. Now on lazy Friday nights when my friends are tossing around the cube, I can join in the chorus of “Cube me”.

It’s a simple thing to do, and unimportant as it may be in the scheme of life skills, this is one of many things that I probably wouldn’t have wanted to do without my friends. Hopkins is special in the collaborative nature of its student body; I’ve never cherished this sense of collaboration quite the way I do here. So if anybody needs help solving the Rubik’s cube, I’m glad to help.


Cube in my bag, always ready to be solved wherever I go

Sophomore Surge

The cluelessness, uncertainty, and confusion of freshman year are over, so it seems to be time to get ready for the sophomore…slump? I don’t think so. It’s commonly said that sophomore year is more difficult than freshman year; the adjustment is mostly over and most of us have found our niches, know our way around campus, and have gotten involved in a few new activities, but we still manage to get worried and overwhelmed. As I sit here in Brody café with my chai latte and a stack of biochemistry practice exams, I am saying no more! Being overwhelmed is reasonable. Classes are harder, and more is expected of us because the freshman excuse doesn’t stick anymore. Still, I’m trying to coin a new motto, and I’m calling it the sophomore surge.

I’ve never been more active on campus, attended more club meetings, spent more time in the library, or spent more time with my friends than I have in the past month. I’m ushering in a new era and being the optimistic, productive person I found myself finding and losing over and over last year. I’m trying not to overload myself with my classes. Yes, I’m taking Organic Chemistry with Biochemistry and Differential Equations, but I’m trying to get my brain working in a different way with Introduction to Digital Photography and hopefully find a new artistic outlet. I’m a happy camper in two chemistry classes, and if that isn’t enough to smile about, I live in Charles Commons, which has more bathrooms than my home in New York.


Seen at the Mt. Vernon Flower Mart. Added one of these babies to my collection of succulent babies in Commons!

As far as new activities are concerned, I decided to pledge Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed community service fraternity. I’m earning two research credits for my work in the Hanes Lab at the Center for Nanomedicine, continuing to blog with SAAB, giving interviews as an Admissions Representative, and starting my job as a student worker in undergraduate admissions this month. I love all of these things; joining a community of people with greater goals to better the Baltimore community is exciting and the pledge process is fun! I love promoting my love for Hopkins, and going in to the lab every week constantly validates what I want to do with my life.


I love Engineering Quad.

All of these things are great, but I have to say that the single most exciting thing that has happened to me this year has been joining Johns Hopkins’s oldest a cappella group, the Octopodes (founded in 1989, by the way). Transferring out of the double degree program last fall caused me to lose the chunk of freshman year that people usually use to find activities and clubs. I seized the opportunity at the beginning of this month to re-audition for the Octopodes, hoping to reclaim some lost time, and there are no words to describe how happy I am that I did. I have sixteen new best friends from all grades and majors, and I have a place to sing every week for the rest of my time here at Hopkins. I get to do what I love with people I already love, and I get goosebumps all over again every time I get to sing with the group. If there was a stronger word than love, I’d be using it.












When I left here last spring, I was a little disappointed. I still found myself saying that Hopkins could potentially become my home, and I was frustrated that I hadn’t allowed that potential to become something tangible. I am ecstatic to say that no matter how difficult things may become in the future, that potential has manifested itself into something beautiful, and I can’t wait to see it in full bloom, because I’m finally home.


In Limbo

Four plane rides, eight forty-hour work weeks, three sunburns, two tans, and fifty mosquito bites later, I am seventy-two hours away from my car ride back to Baltimore. I’ve started putting together my things for the trip back, and I’m hoping to have all of my things in a neat little pile by the end of the day tomorrow. I’m anxious and excited, both mourning the end of my summer and willing the fall semester to come sooner.

Floating in the pool for hours, drinking smoothies, and being touristy in the Florida Keys was the perfect way to give the summer the respect it deserves and grant it a proper goodbye, but with my final hours of being in New York quickly approaching, it’s time to take care of business.



I’ve got laundry that needs doing, shoes that need packing, and textbooks that need renting. Naturally, here I am on this lazy summer morning, blogging in my room and accomplishing none of these things. The reason for my lack of productivity is simple: I’m a perfectionist, which means that once I start putting my things together to load into the car (the worst part of packing, in my opinion), it’s going to take me hours. It will be systematic, tedious, and stressful because I make it that way. There will be checklists, and there will be hard-earned money spent in boring, uncreative ways (like detergent and disinfecting wipes). There will be rushes of panic where I realize that there are things I need to dig up in the garage or pray that they are somewhere in the depths of the trash bags that I left in my cousins’ house in Silver Spring.


Organization at its finest

Packing is stressful. What if I forget my contacts? 

Before I let the landslide of what-ifs take over, I remind myself that going back to school lets me see my friends, get back into a routine, start creating new memories, and seek new adventures. Another wave of “fall-come-sooner” hits me. I look at my laundry, the date, and my mess of things waiting to be packed, and it’s a wave of “summer-don’t-go” that swiftly follows.

Being a sophomore comes with its advantages though. I know now that if I’m not going to wear that shirt at home, taking it to school with me will not magically make me want to wear it. If I don’t read my high school year book at home, it can stay in storage. Lastly, and the most painful to admit, taking forty photos from high school to hang on the walls is just expensive — developing photos and buying the Command adhesive — you’re at college to make new friends and memories, so why bog down my room with photos from what was practically a different life? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed high school, so it’s important for me to save some of those memories. I’ll still be bringing the Polaroids I’ve taken over the past two years, but anything more just isn’t worth it.

So cheers to a roomier car and a slightly shorter unpacking period! Another year older, another unpacking experience wiser.

I Remember

The last week of classes is upon us, and everyone is feeling it. The end of Spring Fair marks the final days that we spend together as freshmen, and pretty soon, we’ll have year one under our belts. In two and a half weeks, classes will be over, finals will be over, and we’ll all be headed our separate ways for the summer. Some will stay in Baltimore for classes, research, or work, and others will seek the same opportunities closer to home. Some will be headed to exotic locations for study abroad and others will head to the same places for vacation. As for me, I’m not quite sure what the summer holds.


The infamous fried Oreos


Unlimited soda + Jasmine










I do know that I’ll be spending ten days in Israel just a few weeks after classes end, but past that, things are pretty open ended. I might be coming back to Baltimore for a month somewhere in between Israel and the fall semester to continue working on the med campus, and I might return to the real estate internship that I held last summer. I may take a trip to Florida, but nothing is guaranteed right now. Things are still pretty up in the air, and I only have a few weeks to figure it out, but for some reason I’m not worried.


Selfie on the 6th floor of the Wilmer Eye Institute


For now, I’m just wrapping up my final projects and homework assignments, but I can’t help but think about how much has happened this year.


Shriver Hall during Intersession


I remember when I got to this school, I was enrolled as a double degree student. I went through orientation and the first month of classes trying to figure out exactly what it was that I wanted.


George Peabody Library at the Peabody Institute


I remember struggling to tell myself that I wasn’t a quitter and I remember all of the support my double degree friends gave me. As the weather cooled down and things started becoming more routine, I started really feeling like I belonged here. By fall break, I had made up my mind to leave the program and pursue my dreams on a slightly different path.


Last 8AM commute for a physics exam


I remember sitting outside of Mudd Hall and calling my mom with the decision. It was a huge weight off my shoulders, and a relief that I could admit to myself what I truly wanted.


Very close to the location where I made my decision


I remember celebrating Halloween with all of my Homewood friends at Peabody, and loving that everyone got along, whether they were studying French horn or mechanical engineering.


Halloween at Peabody


I remember leaving for Thanksgiving and finally getting to see both of my sisters for the first time in what felt like eternities, but I also remember being ecstatic to see my friends when I got back.


Brunch with my sisters


I remember my last voice lesson the day after my last final, and excitedly packing my bags to go home for a few weeks, but I also remember willing winter break to pass faster so I could see my friends again.


Reunited and all making the exact same face


I remember having my friends from home visit during Intersession, and I remember taking weekend trips to see them too.


Two of my best friends at the University of Delaware


I remember the stress of trying to make new friends after moving in to my new dorm on Homewood campus, and I remember the amazing friends that continued to be amazing from first semester, and the new friends that I found during the second.


The hall, no explanation required.


I remember the month of February, where every weekend seemed to be an adventure, and I remember March, where the semester really seemed to take off.


When someone added this to the bulletin board . . .


I remember getting my wisdom teeth out over spring break, and I remember sitting in Brody the day I came back, grateful to return to Baltimore on a sunny day.


Spring Break with Gloriana when the wisdom tooth swelling finally went down


I remember, even more recently, getting terribly sunburnt on an unseasonably hot day during the homecoming lacrosse game.




I remember eating all of the Spring Fair food, finding a hidden gem in a pile of records being sold on Keyser Quad, and I remember laying on the Beach listening to music all weekend.


A beautiful day to end Spring Fair


Right now, I remember all of these things, but if there’s one thing I’ll remember as this year gets further and further away, it’ll be the ups and downs. Sometimes you have to go through a difficult time to get to a good one. Behind a bad grade, there’s more motivation. Behind confusion, there’s clarity. Behind heartbreak, there’s love. Behind a stumble, there’s a chance to pick yourself up. This year has been almost every adjective I can think of. As it draws to a close, not only am I shocked about how fast it’s gone, but I’m shocked by how much I’ve changed. I’m not the same person I was when I got here. I’ve learned what it means to seize an opportunity, but I’ve also learned that it’s okay to say your plate is full for the time being.

Over the next three years, I’m looking forward to new adventures, new friends, and new stories to tell, but even with finals right around the corner, I’m going to savor my last few weeks, because as eager as I am to go home, I know I’ll be eager to come back to this home too.