Category Archives: Student Activities

A Pode’s Journey to Hopkins

Auditioning for an a cappella group was without a doubt one of the best choices I made at Hopkins. I love my graph paper and pencils, understand the necessity of my Transport II homework, and study weekly for my Probability and Statistics quizzes, but there’s nothing quite like singing in a group. What makes it particularly special is that I get to sing with my best friends. I often think, how did I get so lucky to meet such phenomenal people? The answer to that question now seems obvious. We all chose Hopkins and we all chose it for a reason.

The a cappella group I’m fortunate enough to be a part of is called Octopodes. No matter how many times we go over the story, I can’t really say exactly how the group got its name, but I love the people and I love the quality of music we produce, so I’ve never bothered to remember the group’s origins.

Octopodes allows me to spend time away from academics and the work grind to sing with incredible, fun, kooky people who I undoubtedly would never have met if not for Octopodes. So now here’s the question: how did all of these true Podes arrive at Hopkins? Below are five brief introductions to some of my Pode friends, and the reasons we all wound up together are somewhere between the lines.

P.S. We just released a really dope album called Oceanborn, and it’s available on Loudr and iTunes.

14570343_1334881809858047_4181239453766914349_n

Katrina Estep is a senior Molecular and Cellular Biology major with a minor in Spanish for the Professions from Boise, Idaho

Campus activities: Octopodes

How did you get to Hopkins? I worked very hard in high school and knew I wanted to pursue a major in biology, so Hopkins made a lot of sense! Most people from my high school went to college in-state but I knew I wanted to branch out and go somewhere on the east coast for a change of scenery. I visited Hopkins and fell in love with the campus and the people, and the rest is history!

What’s your favorite Hopkins memory? My favorite hopkins memory is winning ICCA Quarterfinals with my best friends! My other favorite memory would have to be the epic snowball fight showdown of  Snowpocalypse 2015.

What are your post graduation plans? I will be pursuing a PhD in Molecular Biology, but I’m not sure where yet!

What’s your favorite thing to do on campus or around Baltimore? I love exploring all the cool street festivals Baltimore has to offer and checking out all the restaurants in Hampden.

14612571_1404338489594707_2204652121051298647_o

Sophia Porter is a sophomore Physics and Applied Mathematics & Statistics double major from Leawood, Kansas

Campus activities: Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, JHU Octopodes, Research at Space Telescope Science Institute

How did you get to Hopkins? A car ride, a 2.5-hour flight, and an Uber.

What’s your favorite Hopkins memory? Early in my freshman year, when I was still getting to know my fellow physics majors, our Classical Mechanics teacher dropped a whopper of an assignment on us. Several of us went straight from Bloomberg to the FFC, grabbed to-go boxes, and discussed homework questions over a picnic on the Freshman Quad. It was one of those unbelievably gorgeous fall days, with a bit of a breeze and dappled sunlight. We couldn’t stop laughing. I felt like I was living the college dream.

What are your post graduation plans? I’m planning to either stick around for a master’s in Applied Math, or hunt for a job in the aerospace field.

What’s your favorite thing to do on campus or around Baltimore? I can’t get enough of Hampden! Whether I need ice cream at The Charmery, a new quirky antique centerpiece, or am just experiencing a sudden pang of puppy withdrawal, Hampden always provides a wonderful break from the homework hamster wheel.

14681079_1404338319594724_9181437201266206821_o

Isabel Evans is a senior Public Health and East Asian Studies double major from Lexington, Massachusetts

Campus activities: Octopodes, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Outdoor Pursuits (Sea Kayaking), Public Health in Asia Symposium, Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship

How did you get to Hopkins? I toured a bunch of schools that were in urban areas that had good Chinese programs, and then ended up applying to a handful of them. I got into Hopkins, but still didn’t know much about it. I came to SOHOP and fell in love. I knew immediately, from the people that I met, to the activities fair, to the arts showcase, to the class I took on public health (my first intro to what would become my primary major!), to my SOHOP host, that this was the school for me.

What’s your favorite Hopkins memory? All of the memories I can think of that I could say are my “favorite” are about the incredible people I’ve met here. Whether it’s lying on the beach or spontaneous jaunts into Baltimore or C-level study sessions filled with coffee and chocolate, this place is important because of the people.

What are your post graduation plans? Finding a job in public health!

What’s your favorite thing to do on campus or around Baltimore? Outdoors trips! Eating at various places! Lounging on the beach! Being a total nerd in the Gilman Hut or a C-level table! Food trucks at Spring Fair! Drinking an obscene amount of coffee from Brody Cafe! Performing with Octopodes!

kahler

Kahler Suzuki is a sophomore Cello Performance major at the Peabody Institute from Aiea, Hawaii

Campus activities: Octopodes

How did you get to Hopkins? I was admitted to the Peabody Conservatory of Music after auditioning in Manhattan in the Spring of 2015. It’s a terribly inconvenient (and expensive) chore to fly from Hawaii to New York with a large instrument — I buy a seat for my cello!

What’s your favorite Hopkins memory? I cherish the memory of trying my first deep fried Oreo at Spring Fair last year. It’s probably one of my favorite things in the world.

What are your post graduation plans? I plan to attend graduate school as an orchestral conducting major.

What’s your favorite thing to do on campus or around Baltimore? I love hanging out with my Homewood buddies! Somehow I feel the need to relieve them from the intensity of the Hopkins study environment, and if I can do that over lunch or on a trip to the mall, I’m more than excited to do my part in helping them smile or laugh a little more.

14707945_1404338326261390_8118938774810861878_o

Mellissa Picker is a freshman Molecular and Cellular Biology major from Brookline, Massachusetts

Campus activities: Octopodes, ECCO, Thread

How did you get to Hopkins? Car, train and plane.

What’s your favorite Hopkins memory? Gathering with friends in the TV room of AMR I and watching shows or football.

What are your post graduation plans? Travel? Medical school?

What’s your favorite thing to do on campus or around Baltimore? Try new foods!

The Journey to Bernie

Just two days ago, the student-run Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium (MSE) and Foreign Affairs Symposium (FAS) brought one of the biggest names in recent news to Shriver Hall to talk students at Hopkins about the current state of the American government and economy. This person was Bernie Sanders, and it was truly a life-changing experience. The journey to Bernie all started about two months ago, when MSE and FAS announced that they would be collaborating to bring this final guest to Hopkins to speak. When I heard that this esteemed guest was Bernie Sanders, I knew that I needed to do everything in my power to try and land a seat in Shriver somewhere near Bernie.

After the initial announcement, the excitement died down for a while. Then, the day that (free) tickets were to go on sale was announced, and campus was abuzz once more. It was decided that tickets would be made available on Sunday, November 6th at 5PM. I immediately made a calendar event and set an alarm for it. The day couldn’t come soon enough, and I opened my laptop at 4:56PM to log in to my Hopkins account and try to claim a ticket. At 5:00PM, the server — for lack of a better word — exploded. I clicked to add that ticket to my cart and after a series of failed attempts, empty cart notifications, and a whirlwind of emotions, the ticket was in my possession. I had made it, and it had only been about six of the most stressful minutes of my life.

With the tumultuous election night on November 8th and all of the spotlight on the Oval Office in the week leading up to Bernie’s talk, I was eager to hear what he had to say about all that had happened. I moved my research schedule around, made sure that I didn’t have any meetings on Thursday after my class ended at 10:15AM, and I tried to prepare myself to hear my idol talk. I sat in front of Shriver at 1:15PM and waited until the doors opened 4 hours later, and it was worth every second of the wait.

Below is a walk-through of my day on the journey to Bernie:

img_1196

Sitting in the library before preparing to brave the cold

img_1208

Arrival at Shriver

 

img_1209

Happy as a clam but getting cold after about an hour

img_1221

The line grows marginally, this is at about 3:00PM

img_1212

This kid became my idol when I saw he had brought a life-size Bernie cutout with him.

img_1225

3:30PM — the end draws nearer

img_1226

One of my best friends, Atlas, and I with only 20 more minutes outside. Who looks cold?

img_1230

After getting inside and falling asleep in our (4th row!) seats for about 30 minutes. 6:30PM and 30 minutes to Bernie!

img_1243

The man himself. Truly inspirational.

img_1244

I love you Bernie!

It’s Been A While

IMG_0106 5

Soft serve at Spring Fair to remind myself I can still run after the ice cream truck

To say that I’ve been here for a while might be an overstatement, but as the first half of my time here at Hopkins draws to a close, I’m beginning to feel that way more and more frequently. Two years may be short in the span of a life, but in the span of my college lifetime, I’m approaching the upperclassmen portion of it.

IMG_0123 5

Real life adulthood ft. my absentee ballot.

And I’m terrified.

Gone are the days of living across the hall from my friends, taking classes aimlessly and involving myself in activities just for the fun of it. The home stretch is just a year ahead of me, and I’m not sure that I like it. Next year, my friends will be scattered across off-campus housing on Charles Street, St. Paul Street, and University Parkway while I take on an RA position in Homewood (a sophomore housing option).

IMG_0121 5

I’ll miss sharing a wall with you Jazzy J.

IMG_0111 5

With Megha and Jasmine at the Chainsmokers concert. Megha will be an RA in Wolman!

It’s bittersweet, because I’ve wanted this job for a really long time and I’m over the moon about taking on the role, but it also signifies growing up even more than just going to college does. I’m being entrusted with the responsibility of caring for underclassmen and being a friend to them when they need it. I’m being put in charge of creating a smaller community within the larger one that is Hopkins while all of my friends learn how to pay rent and sublet their apartments and houses.

IMG_0108 5

Katrina is a junior, so she survived the transition.

I’ve always been the type who enjoys direction and purpose. I like understanding why and how things happen, and I like having specific goals — or at least I thought I did. Going to Hopkins has changed me (certainly for the better) but I’m not sure what I want anymore. You don’t know this when you go to college because you make this decision cognitively; you don’t process it much, but trust me, two years down the road, you’ll realize that you’re signed up for the four year track to learn how to function as an adult in the real world.

IMG_0104 5

Shirking responsibility to pet baby pigs at Spring Fair

I can remember high school and even middle school like it was yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, college is infinitely more amazing than all of those experiences put together, but the underlying tone of preparation that I’ve experienced over the past two years is now getting very real. When I think really hard about my time here, I suppose I came in with a specific intention. I’m here for my degree, yes, but I think more importantly, I’m here to find out what I’m trying to be. As the first half of this experience draws to a close, I’m not sure that I’ve made any progress.

IMG_0098 5

More Spring Fair silliness. A million reasons to smile if you have a Joe backPaek Joe

IMG_0119 5

Things that inevitably happen when you’ve been studying for Thermo for too long and you have insanely talented friends

I’ve learned a few things, sure, but I don’t think I know who I want to be when I leave here. I’ve learned that there is no best place to study, but there is a good mindset to be in to do so effectively. I’ve learned never to work on Thermo homework alone. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as too many temporary tattoos. I’ve learned that I only like large crowds when I know the majority of the people in it. I’ve also learned to accept that I will spend at least $60 at Spring Fair because I am incapable of ignoring henna and fried Oreos. But most importantly, I’ve learned that I love it here and I don’t want to leave.

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.

IMG_4031

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.

IMG_4032

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.

IMG_4034

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.

IMG_4036

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).

IMG_4037

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.

IMG_4029

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.

IMG_4033

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.

IMG_4039

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.

IMG_4038

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.

IMG_4040

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.

IMG_4041

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.

IMG_4020

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.

IMG_4045

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!

Introduction to Digital Photography: A Scientist’s Approach to Art

Underneath piles of graph paper covered with alkene reaction mechanisms, non-homogenous differential equations, and the irreversible steps of glycolysis lies my Nikon D3100, rented from the Digital Media Center for my chosen elective this semester: Introduction to Digital Photography. Don’t get me wrong, I love my graph paper and pencils, along with the derivations and arrow pushing scrawled across it, but my photography class has taught so much more than I ever could have imagined this semester.

_DSC0509

A lesson in abstraction

Having gone to an arts high school where everybody had a major in visual or performing arts means that spending all of my time strictly in academic classes leaves me wanting more. I’ve joined an a cappella group because singing has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, but I still felt like there were other avenues to explore. I can’t dance, act, paint, draw, or play an instrument sufficiently well, so I’ve exhausted quite a few of my options. For the past few years, a little voice in the back of my mind has been whispering “Try out photography!”  To me, there was no better time than now — a time when all of my other classes seemed daunting and I needed a reprieve. Plus, the lack of a core curriculum aside from my major requirements meant that I could choose any elective I could think of. It was a win from all fronts.

_DSC0468

Finding the beauty in small things (potentially a leftover from last year’s Hoptoberfest?)

Past getting my own camera for a semester, I’ve learned how to properly expose my photos, experiment with lighting, and edit them in Lightroom and Photoshop. This weekly class has brought me to Fells Point and the Peabody Library, and even though I might not be the next Brandon Stanton, I’m finding another form of art that I really enjoy.

_DSC0464

Plus I can take cliché photos of campus and say “It’s my homework!”

Another thing that drew me to this class was my intense dislike of having my own photo taken. I figured that if I could take a good picture, people wouldn’t constantly be asking me to be in photos with them anymore. Rather, I would become the person that they asked to take the photo for them. I thought it would be the perfect cover, but I was so wrong.

_DSC0515

Last week, I was plagued with a selfie assignment, which sounds exactly like what it is. We were told to use tripods and take photos of ourselves to edit and critique the following week. I tried to put it off for as long as possible, but not willing to risk taking a hit for not completing the assignment, I begrudgingly took some photos to put on our class website.

Selfie Project-1

Looking at them objectively, I realized a few things. I don’t have the best skin, sometimes my face looks way rounder than I want it to, and my hair is actually wicked cool even though it attacks my face on occasion (by which I mean every day). I also realized that I get to choose how I portray myself to the world. I can edit these photos however I want. It’s entirely up to me what I put out into the world every day. Whether that means sweatpants or a dress, a positive attitude or a negative one, it’s my choice and nobody else’s.

Selfie Project-2

So I enjoy solving math problems. The satisfaction of getting an answer that’s either right or wrong without any gray areas is one of the most gratifying feelings in the world, but what’s college if we don’t learn about ourselves along the way, and why not occasionally do that learning in the classroom?

Selfie Project-6

I know I look angry here, but I’m actually very proud of this photo. Yay for personal growth!

ChemBE and Me

When people ask me what my major is, I’ve begun to hesitate when I answer the question. It’s not because I’m doubting my choice in the midst of a busy semester — far from it — but it’s because I’m beginning to wonder how to tackle the response I get when I reveal what I’m studying.

“I’m ChemBE.”

“Oh my goodness, why would you do that to yourself?” A quick shudder tends to run through the asker’s body and I smile politely, replying with a slightly defensive tone.

“I like it!”

I’ve written countless blogs on my attitude toward exams, how I’ve gotten through stressful times, and the countless activities with which I supplement my education here. After this week’s SAAB meeting, it dawned on me that I don’t think I’ve ever put in to words exactly why I’ve chosen one of Johns Hopkins’s most notoriously difficult majors. I’m not certain of what I want to do when I leave undergrad as far as careers go. I know that I’m going to an MD/PhD information session tonight, but I’m still not even sure that I’m pre-med, much less sure that I want to be a doctor somewhere down the line.

IMG_3778

Working hard or hardly working in Brody cafe?

In any case, one thing I do know is that the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department here can prepare me for anything that I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I’ve always been a chemistry nerd. I took two years of high school chemistry because I loved it so much, as did many of my ChemBE peers. Still, loving chemistry doesn’t justify my choice. Why not just be a chemistry major?

_DSC0010

Wyman Quad AKA Engineering Quad AKA Home Base

I want to make things. I want to take part in creating active, tangible things that can revolutionize medicine. I’m not planning on singlehandedly transforming the pharmaceutical industry, but I do plan on making my mark. The major I’ve chosen is arming me with the ability to answer the tough questions at every turn in the engineering process. There are classes to teach me how to bring materials from point A to point B, as well as classes teaching me how to separate the wanted materials from the unwanted ones, and all the while there are chemistry courses and labs encouraging me to think about these abstract ideas in a concrete setting.

IMG_2873

Even though homework isn’t actually bae, doing work toward my major makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

At Hopkins, chemical engineering is special because it puts “and biomolecular” into the title of its major. That means that there are different tracks to follow, and I’ve chosen one that will hopefully prepare me for a future in drug delivery, pharmaceutical development, or the like. Others may be looking for careers in industry, oil, or marketing. ChemBE is a diverse major with countless avenues to choose.

The classes are more than just interesting; they’re dynamic and exciting, and no matter how difficult they are, I love every moment equally. Whether they’re filled with confusion, relief, or understanding, each day brings me closer to a clear decision on what I want to do with my life. I’m challenged here daily in ways that I could not possibly have imagined before I got here, but at this stage in my college career, I couldn’t fathom doing anything different.

So I might not have a crystal clear path yet, but I know I’m heading generally in the right direction. Simply put, I’m ChemBE because it feels right.

_DSC0002

I love you, Maryland Hall.

The L Word

Everyone is looking for it, everybody knows that everyone else is looking for it, and everybody wants to know how they can experience it too. I’m not talking about love here (but I bet I could have fooled you), I’m talking about labs.

A majority of Hopkins students come to this school fully intending to find a lab to work in. Lab opportunities are everywhere, but landing a research job can sometimes be a more convoluted process than it seems. Some labs require you to take safety courses before you can be permitted inside of them, while others require prior experience, or even outside skills that you never expected you would need to have.

When I got here, a vicious cycle of questions seemed to constantly be running through my mind. When I finally sorted it out, I realized that the first question I needed to answer was “How am I supposed to work in a lab that wants me to have prior experience when everyone wants me to have prior experience?”

It’s a tricky question to tackle, but what I learned about half way through February is that not everyone is looking for someone who knows everything before they get there. Of course you need to educate yourself about the lab you’re applying for a position in and it’s good to know the work of the advisor you’ll be working under, but the wonderful thing about Hopkins being a research institution is that freshmen are expected to look for labs to work in; they are expected to find research opportunities, and more often than not, if you can find the right lab and make a longterm commitment, you can learn the tricks of the trade after you’ve gotten the job.

The best way to find a research position is to ask. Look up projects you’re interested in, or fields you want to explore, and see what your professors are working on. Dr. Gray, my professor for Introduction to Chemical and Biological Process Analysis (we call it Process by the way, because nobody has time to say the entire title) gave us a super helpful push at the beginning of the semester by giving a presentation on all of the research happening in the ChemBE department. It was great — I wrote down whose projects interested me most and prepared to write a few e-mails to see if any positions were open.

After reading up on the labs and their supervisors, I opened my e-mail to start writing some drafts, but in true procrastination fashion, I decided to open Facebook along with it. While mindlessly scrolling through the Hopkins Class of 2018 page, I happened upon a post recruiting MatSci, ChemBE, and BME freshmen interested in nanomedicine and drug delivery to send in their résumés.

For me, it was done and done. After some pretty hard hitting personal experiences with cancer and a desire to understand the genetics of the disease, I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about the potential for nanomedicine to be utilized in cancer treatments. I sent in my résumé and held off on my other e-mails.

I was extremely lucky; within three days, I had scheduled an interview, and within a week I had a job. I am now currently working in the Hanes Lab at the Wilmer Eye Institute (a part of the Hopkins medical campus) in a sector that is studying different emulsion methods to make drug loaded nanoparticles for pancreatic cancer and ophthalmology. I’m fewer than two weeks in and I even got to spend a day making some of my own particles. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is. I was fortunate enough that the opportunity practically fell into my lap, and perhaps it wasn’t the most conventional way to go about it, but I think I’m living the true Hopkins experience now.

IMG_2897

My first real lab notebook

 

Second Semester Surprises

Most normal people would look at my schedule and pity me. Most of them do, but if I do say so myself, my schedule is pretty awesome. It’s about as good as it gets for a second semester ChemBE freshman, anyway. I have 9AM classes every day, and I know a large part of the student body is highly opposed to 9AMs (it seems almost like an allergy), but it’s pretty great. It means that I’m virtually finished with classes for the day at 11AM or 11:45AM, with the exception of lab and the occasional section. On multiple days of the week I have giant gaps to do work and relax, and it makes it extraordinarily easy to pace myself.

This semester, I’m taking General Physics II, Applied Chemical Equilibrium and Reactivity, Introduction to Chemical and Biological Process Analysis, Expository Writing, and Chemical Laboratory Safety. Of course, physics and chemistry also come with labs, but I think the classes I’m most excited about are Introduction to Chemical and Biological Process Analysis and Expository Writing.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 4.22.14 PM

A schedule that looks far more intimidating than it feels

 

Introduction to Chemical and Biological Process Analysis: This class is the first in the sequence of classes in the school of engineering for a Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering major. It’s only been one week, but for the first time, we’re really learning about what a chemical engineer can do and what we can make of this degree. It has already started to combine the skills we’ve learned in introductory chemistry and calculus to determine what processes work, how we develop efficient mechanisms, and why some work better than others. We’re learning how to work in groups to achieve a common goal, and for the first time, I’m starting to see a tangible future in one of my classes. It’s no longer prerequisite work; this is the real deal.

Expository Writing: A Strange New Place: Having a schedule with three science classes means problem sets — lots of problem sets. So I decided it might be cool to take a writing class this semester to get my brain working in a different way. We’re focusing on surrealism, with the main assignments being targeted at our reading of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. We get to workshop our writing with our classmates, and it makes the writing process very hands-on. Even though I’m an engineer, I find writing pretty therapeutic (also one of the reasons I enjoy blogging so much) and I’m looking forward to reading a few good books during the semester.

So now for the surprises, of which there are two.

  1. I’m participating in sorority recruitment. I never thought that I would want to join a sorority, much less go through recruitment, but I’m already so happy that I made the decision to do so. If you had asked me last semester, I would have said no without a second thought, but living at Homewood has given me a different perspective. I want to get involved with a group of friends with whom I can do community service, study, do homework, and have fun. The groups at Hopkins aren’t stereotypical, they’re all-inclusive, and every group seems to be filled with intelligent girls with goals. Yesterday was the first day, so I still don’t know what’s in store, but I’m looking forward to the rest of this week and hopefully ending up in the right sorority for me!
  2. I might be pre-med. When you go to Hopkins, the first thing people ask is “Are you pre-med?” And for the longest time, my answer has been no, but now I’m not so sure. I still don’t have a pre-professional advisor, and I’m still not declared, but with so much overlap between ChemBE and pre-med requirements, I figured I might try to stay on a rough track of my own to see where I want to take it. Maybe I’ll go for an MD-PhD program, or maybe I’ll decide to go in to research without the MD (my original plan), but for now I’m trying to keep my options open.

Since I’ve moved to this campus, I’m saying yes a lot more, so you might say that I’m “embracing the yes”, but I’m excited for all of the opportunities that this semester has to offer, and I’m looking forward to getting more involved now that I’m really settling in to the Hopkins community.

A New Leaf

I was born and raised in Queens, New York, and I couldn’t be prouder (ask anyone — seriously). Naturally, the second that Bolt Bus schedules went up for the weekend of Fall Break, I purchased my ticket and anxiously awaited my trip home. One of the great things about being a New Yorker at Hopkins is that home is just far enough away that leaving is usually a planned event, but it’s a reasonable one day excursion if need be.

As a freshman nearing the two month mark, taking a trip home for Fall Break was a necessity. I missed my city, my block, my mom, my friends, my cats, and my bed, not to mention New York bagels. I spent the weeks leading to my trip in a frenzy of midterms, so when Thursday, October 16th rolled around, I didn’t even see it coming. After my last class of the day, I picked up my suitcase and hopped on the bus. At 8PM on Thursday night, I was back in the city that never sleeps.

IMG_2277

Never thought I’d miss skyscrapers so much.

My mom began to drive through the city, and I was home. I couldn’t stop my excited chatter as we made our way to my favorite Halloween-themed coffeehouse.

IMG_2245

If you think you’ve had coffee, you haven’t seen anything yet. This place makes flavors like hazelnut maple and brown butter.

Here’s what I wasn’t expecting: after getting a good night’s rest in my own bed (more glorious than you could imagine), I was already starting to miss Hopkins. It had taken me almost two months to start feeling homesick, but I was Baltimore-sick by Friday afternoon, fewer than 24 hours after I had left.

My hopes for going home were mostly simple: see my cats, see my friends, see my mom. I almost suffocated my cats in hugs and treats when I walked in to my house on Thursday night, and a successful falafel and frozen yogurt adventure was a quick fix that allowed me to catch up with one of my best friends in the world. The last part was trickier though.

IMG_2326

Done.

IMG_2283

Done.

IMG_2253

And done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All double degree students enter Hopkins and Peabody knowing that what they’re about to take on is colossal. For a while, I’ve been grappling with not knowing if this program is truly right for me. I love to sing, I’ve been singing classical music for ten years, and music is not something I could live without. But recently I’ve been asking myself: do I need a degree for what I want to do and is it worth it to potentially sacrifice study abroad, intersession, and involvement in all of the clubs Hopkins has to offer? As a student in the double degree program, it is absolutely possible to take advantage of some of these things, but definitely not all of them.

When I got back to Hopkins on Saturday night, I still wasn’t sure. On Sunday, I think I knew. So without further delay, I decided to leave my place in the double degree program. In the spring, I will no longer have dual enrollment. I am sad, happy, and relieved all at the same time. I’m not leaving because the work is too hard (though that’s not to say it isn’t challenging), but I have had a change of heart. It boils down to where I see myself in the future, and as cool as it sounds, I just can’t see myself belting out an aria from Wagner’s Ring Cycle when I’m forty years old.

Beethoven will always be my savior, I will still fangirl over Eric Whitacre, and Ravel’s Sonatine will continue to be my favorite piece ever composed. So this Fall Break wasn’t all pumpkin spice frappucinos and changing leaves for me, but I definitely turned over a new one and I’m eager to see where it will take me.

IMG_2290

I did get my bagel though!

The JHMI Saga

Over the past month, I’ve developed a new catch phrase. I’m not talking about my recent adoption of “hella” or “wicked” as adverbs (thank you, friends from California) and I’m not talking about the abbreviated names for the Charles and University Markets (CharMar and UniMini, if you’re curious). I’m talking about a new defining statement: “I have to catch the bus!”

For the most part, Hopkins is not a commuter school. Most freshmen and sophomores live on campus, and all of the dorms are within a ten minute walk of the furthest buildings from them. No matter where you are at Homewood, you can make it to the opposite side of campus in a reasonably short amount of time. So you may be wondering why there’s a shuttle bus at all, but there’s good reason for it. The JHMI shuttle, affectionately pronounced “Jimmy”, connects the medical campus with Homewood, Peabody, and Penn Station. It runs between these locations 7 days a week: four times an hour Monday through Friday, and once an hour Saturday and Sunday.

IMG_2200

Outside the Peabody JHMI bus stop on a Friday morning featuring the majestic sunrise

Anybody who takes music lessons at Peabody or works at the hospital has to take the JHMI. It’s a really convenient way to get to Penn Station, it’s completely free and easily accessible to anybody traveling up North Charles or down St. Paul but above all, it is a defining experience for me as a double degree student.

Double degree students at Hopkins are rare; there are four in my freshman class, which is the largest number of double degree students that has been admitted for any single year in quite some time. We all intend to receive one degree from the Peabody Institute and another from Arts and Sciences or Engineering at Homewood.

I am currently taking thirteen credits at Homewood as well as thirteen at Peabody. For each individual campus, it’s a fairly low number of credits but when you combine them, it’s a whole different story. It creates a schedule that some people consider to be nightmarish. To me, it is a schedule dictated by three online calendars and a planner. It’s both insane and incredible, and I’ve only been living this hectic life for a month. Sometimes I question my ability to pursue two equally challenging degrees, and I cannot say with complete certainty that I’ll come out with both when I make it to the end of these four (or five) years, but I do know that I’ll be taking the JHMI until I can make that decision with certainty.

IMG_2204

For those of you who thought that the textbook struggle was real, add music theory and keyboard skills to the equation!

One constant over these past four weeks has been the JHMI. It allows me to keep one foot solidly on each campus and reminds me that help in either direction is just a short bus ride away, which is definitely comforting. I take half of my classes here and half of my classes there. I have half of my meals here and half of my meals there. I practice here and I study there. I sleep here and I go to the gym there. I have learned to plan more diligently and more precisely, and I’ve developed a sense of direction in Baltimore that took me four years to develop in New York City during high school.

Living at Peabody has given me the experience of living with a tightly knit family but I am also fortunate enough to walk Homewood campus during class changes and see that I am part of a community that is so much greater than myself. I have never experienced such a perfectly chaotic split between any two things as I have in the past month. I don’t know if I will be confident enough to pursue two equally demanding degrees tomorrow or next week, or if it will last straight through the next four years, but until I decide, I’ll be catching the JHMI from Peabody to Homewood and back at least twice a day. It’s definitely a shorter (and cleaner) ride than the New York City MTA, so no complaints over here.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 5.11.21 PM

Another shameless photo taken at Homewood on the Breezeway, which is my favorite place on campus