Category Archives: The “Real” World

On Planning Your Summer

When the snow is falling and temperatures dip below freezing, my friends are dreaming of white sand beaches and tanned skin. I revel in putting on my winter coat and the stillness of a cold, gray day. Maybe I’m a freak, but I prefer winter to summer. I’d rather be bundled up and wrapped in a blanket drinking hot cocoa than feel sticky sweat on the back of my neck on a humid August day. Still, while I’m living in bliss every winter, I am forced to think about the summer months looming ahead because whether I like it or not (I don’t), my last summer as a college student is approaching.

What this meant for me was that I had to plan my sweaty days well ahead of time. Every field of interest has relevant research and job opportunities, each with different deadlines. In my experience, engineering research and jobs often have deadlines as early as mid-December, and most are closed by the end of January. After an initial survey of the opportunities available to me in December, I decided that my first choice would be to pursue biology-oriented research abroad by applying for the Vredenburg scholarship, which Hopkins engineering students can apply for.

The decision almost made itself. I’ve dedicated this year to finding travel opportunities within my means, which translates to seeking out scholarships for educational reasons. There is a wide variety of majors at Hopkins that lend themselves to semesters abroad or even a year abroad, but mine led me to a search for a summer abroad because a semester just didn’t seem feasible. An opportunity to spend a few months in a different country and gain some academic perspective into a new research topic provided the appropriate academic component of a study abroad experience, while also allowing me to continue doing research, and (best of all), live in a foreign country.

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Hyde Park, London (I will be living across the street.)

After an extensive search and an even more lengthy application, I decided that I wanted to study at Imperial College in London, England this summer. Because I’m planning to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in chemical engineering or a similar field, a research position felt like the right fit. I get to attend a fabulous university for ten weeks and conduct research on the synthesis of therapeutic glycoproteins, all while living in central London on my own.

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From one library to another, Imperial College library

I never thought I’d say it, but I can’t wait for the sticky summer days to get here, because that means I get to embark on my study abroad adventure.

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Majestic London skyline, I’m ready for you.

Confessions of a College Summer

With July heat reaching record highs in New York and the air conditioner in my house reaching maximum usage along with it, summer is in full swing. We’re a little bit more than half way through, and I’ll be back in Baltimore in less than a month (but not before my first trip to the Florida Keys — I miss you, Izzy!). I’ve been spending my summer in the city, but working a full-time desk job has given me a lot of time to think, and one thing is for certain: the first summer after freshman year of college is a shock. You go from complete independence to living with your family, where time seems as though it has been standing still. For the first time in your life, it seems like time travel is possible; all of the people that you know and love from home are back, and despite a week or two of adjustment, you initially feel like nothing has really changed. Then you realize you’re a whole lot different. Even though you might be living the way you did before you left, you’re leaps and bounds smarter, and you’ve picked up more than a few new habits.

I may be speaking in third person here, but I’m totally talking about myself.

I’ve done some things this summer that I never would have dreamed of last year, but I’ve also done some things that remind me how short one year is. Freshman year is weird like that, but I’m learning that the summer following it is just as much a part of the experience as the fall and spring semesters.

So there are a few things that have helped me come to this realization.

  1. Different: I’ve gone out of the country. Before this year, I never would have been able to travel internationally, simply for financial reasons. Now, based on the sole fact that I turned eighteen, I was able to travel 6,000 miles to Israel for free. I can thank my new “adulthood” and my first year of college for that.

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    Coffee in a foreign country

  2. Same: I’ve held a full-time 9-to-5 desk job. Since this is my second year at this job, there’s no change in my daily routine, but my Excel skills now allow me to blast through spreadsheet assignments, so I get things done much more quickly. All of the credit goes to Physics I/II Lab and Professor Gray on that one. I’m even getting fancy with those ab$olute reference$.

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    Coffee in a not-so-foreign country

  3. Same: I’ve bought three pairs of shoes. I swear I’m trying to save the money I’m making, but sometimes a girl needs shoes. Sometimes it’s three pairs in one month. Shoes always have been and always will be my favorite thing to shop for. No apologies — after all, the rest will certainly be going toward textbooks, the lunch buffet at Akbar, and Brody coffee throughout the school year.

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    I have no shame.

  4. Different: I read a four hundred page novel in a day and have finished four books in the past two weeks. I started high school a bookworm, and left not having read a book of my choosing for at least two years. Having so little time to read in the past few years, especially this last one, has made me realize how great it is when you find one of those books that you can’t even put down long after you’ve finished it. Two weeks ago, I read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, and I’ve been picking up one book after the other ever since. I hope that I can bring that habit back to school with me, because it’s a much more rewarding procrastination technique than Netflix. Speaking of which…

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    Read this from cover to cover in 12 hours

  5. Different: I’m addicted to Netflix. My sisters have been telling me for years how amazing Netflix is, but with the exception of Criminal Minds, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a television series all the way through. When I got my wisdom teeth out over spring break, I discovered Netflix, and my life has been changed forever. Since then, I’ve finished House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and I’m spending the summer working my way through Bones. I spent all of Saturday watching it and finished the first season. I’m ignoring the warning signs here, obviously.

Finally here’s the real kicker, and probably the most productive part of my summer.

Different: I learned how to drive, passed my road test, and am waiting to get my official driver’s license in the mail. Last June, I sat in the Jamaica DMV for six hours to get my permit, but as a city kid, I wasn’t really taking it too seriously, and I just wanted state ID. I figured while I was at it, I might as well take the permit test instead of getting a non-driver’s ID. After making countless friends with licensed drivers at Hopkins, I decided it might be helpful to learn how to drive. It would be an easy way to extend the independence I found at school back in New York, especially if I needed frozen yogurt and my mother refused to take me. I’ve been in that situation before, and now it will never happen again. My first licensed drive was with my sisters to the nearest Red Mango.

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Licensed and dangerous. PSA: If you live in the tri-state area, stay off the roads.

My love for frozen yogurt is another thing that hasn’t changed, but it’s one of few.