Category Archives: Why Hopkins

Here’s lookin’ at you, 2021

In the spirit of Early Decision release being just under a week ago, I wanted to share a few things that Hopkins has for the Class of 2021 to look forward to. Here is a list of amazing things that you’ll definitely find, learn, or experience when you arrive this fall, from people and events to places, and just general Hopkins things.

  1. Neighborhoods of Baltimore

View from the roof of The Academy on Charles (located on N. Charles St and E. University Pkwy, Charles Village)

Before you venture to Federal Hill, Fell’s Point, Mt. Vernon, and a variety of other neighborhoods that Baltimore has to offer, you have to experience the basics. The two easiest neighborhoods to see when you arrive on campus are Charles Village, which is where Homewood campus is located, and Hampden, just north of campus and within walking distance. Charles Village is popular with students for its accessibility, food, and upperclassmen housing — after all, you’re already there. Hampden isn’t much further and is popular for Hon Fest, Miracle on 34th Street, all of the fantastic food options, window shopping, and most importantly, its love of flamingoes.


Photo of Miracle on 34th Street courtesy of the fabulous photography skills of my friend RJ (located on 34th St, Hampden)

If you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous (or it’s already October and Parents’ Weekend is around the corner), get your parents to take you to lunch or dinner in the Inner Harbor. Seafood is
fabulous, there’s tons of shopping, in addition to the National Aquarium, and attractions like the dragon boats.


Dark view of the Inner Harbor, photo taken from the dragon boats (located somewhere in the Harbor)

2. People Excited to Get Involved with the City


My friend Greg pulled this tire out of the sand it was embedded in while we were cleaning up this beach

There are endless opportunities to get more acquainted with Baltimore. If getting acquainted with a city means experiencing its food, museums, or concert venues, Baltimore has plenty of those, but I think that the best thing to do is to get to know a city’s people, and the best way to do that is by giving back. There are tons of community service groups on campus, and the university itself has plenty of goals for student involvement within the city. There are opportunities to clean up the city and surrounding areas, tutor students of any age, and so much more. On top of that, there are people who will want to take part in all of that with you, which has been truly motivational.


At Hopkins, we like to commend our friends for awesome things and also embarrass them with bad pictures.

3. Friends Who Get You


We capitalized on the hot chocolate (and the free foliage?)

You’ll find friends who are willing to ask adults why there’s free hot chocolate sitting in Levering courtyard and capitalize on the free things, because the 10:30AM struggle is real and when you need to sit through a class that’s an hour long, you might want a warm beverage to keep you company. You’ll find friends who also want to do the bare minimum when it requires getting dressed up for a picture on a hot August day, and they’ll even stay friends with you when you show up in Birkenstocks and just ask for the picture to be waist-up. Even when you have a bad day, you’ll find friends to wallow with you, or to do everything they can to cheer you up, if that’s what you’re in to.


Hunter’s proposal ft. my Birkenstocks.


Me and Ramya being very, very sad. We were just having a bad day — it happens.

4. Favorite Places on Campus


The ever majestic Gilman Hall

Everyone’s favorite place on campus is different, but the aesthetic of Gilman Hall is unparalleled at sunrise, sunset, and anywhere in between. As an engineer, I hardly find myself in Gilman (sadly) but I can still revel at its beauty and roam its halls searching for empty classrooms to use as group study rooms on the weekends. Beauty can be found everywhere and anywhere on campus during all seasons. I never get tired of strolling campus and taking photos like it’s still my first week. There’s no shame in it!


Every branch was icy so I stopped my walk to class and snapped a picture.

You’ll also find your favorite place to study, which is a process that takes many semesters. I’ve gone through phases of studying in the Brody and Mudd Atria, on MSE M and A Levels, and in various campus cafes and the Reading Room, but my current favorite place is MSE C Level. This might still just be me coming off of finals talking, but when I need to work alone, C Level has always had my back.


This is my favorite cube and when other people sit in it, I hiss at them.

5. Making the Best Out of Everything

The last and most important thing to know about Hopkins is that the experience that comes from it is entirely determined by what you want. So my advice to you, Class of 2021, is this: join all of the clubs, do all of the things you think you might even have the tiniest interest in doing, and then choose what you want to spend your time on what you enjoy most. College is about you and nobody else; the people you choose to surround yourself with will make everything worth it. Late nights of homework are made better by trips to FFC late night, and weekends are made better by spending your Saturdays exploring.


I’m all for graffiti if it’s going to be inspirational like this.

So get excited to come to Baltimore in about 9 months, because the best four years of your life are fast approaching. Don’t forget to savor the rest of your senior year, pore over the bedspread you’re going to buy to match your college aesthetic, and read all of the blogs. Before you know it, you’ll be living it, and you’re going to find a brand new family.


As excited to meet all of you as I was to meet Octopodes’ new freshmen just a few months ago!

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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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!

To Paige, With Love

Taking inspiration from JHU_Genevieve, I have decided to dedicate this post to a fantastic human being and an extraordinary friend. Though she has never been my roommate, or suite mate, or housemate of any sort, Paige is my soulmate in every sense of the word, and the truest friend I never knew I was missing.


My bed, Paige napping.

The first week of classes my freshman year, I was early to everything. I was eager, unassuming, and ready to learn, but that didn’t mean that I wanted to be the first person to arrive to a class. Naturally, I took this time to appreciate the view of Keyser Quad and the breezeway by sitting on a bench between Ames and Krieger, probably at about 2:40PM on that first Thursday. At the other end of the bench was Paige. She asked me if I was in the 3PM Calc III discussion section, which I was, and I found out that she was also going to the same class.

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Finals feels

The interesting thing about life is that nobody tells what you need to spend time trying to remember until you’ve already forgotten it. I’m sure we chatted, but the details of that day are hazy after that; we probably sat next to each other in class, but a dazzling, out-of-this-world friendship wasn’t spontaneously formed. Paige became a familiar face. I found out that she was also ChemBE and we bonded over a mutual love of a shared professor. We both sat in the first row of our shared classes freshman year, but never together.

But then sophomore year started. Maybe something just clicked, or maybe it was gradual. Maybe we realized that we both sit in the first row a lot, we were both ChemBE, and we were both taking a lot of the same courses at the same time, but we finally sat in the first row together during Differential Equations that fall. From that point, the seed of the best friendship I have ever had was planted.


Carrying 2 x 4s through Waverly

It’s difficult to articulate exactly what happened, but we moved from one class to the next from that point forward, sitting together in the first row, studying with one another, and staying up until 3:30AM trying to wrap our brains around Thermodynamics. Paige introduced me to snow cream (stick a bowl outside when it’s snowing, add sugar, milk and some vanilla and life is great), showed me that we could be productive outside of the library, taught me her favorite ways to dance, and never listened to me when I told her to get a Spotify account.

We listen to Cher when we need motivation, watch The History of Japan when we need a break, and sometimes we dance with a disco ball during finals. We are both RAs, living on opposite sides of campus, but we still stay in each other’s rooms until the wee hours of the morning. We nap in one another’s room when it’s convenient, we send images of Gudetama back and forth, and we live in a friendship completely free of judgement.


Thought I lost her but she was just on the floor.

Paige doesn’t like blankets that are too soft, she doesn’t like Brody, and she pronounces the L in “walk” and “talk”. Her work ethic is inspiring, her intelligence unbounded, and her friendship unparalleled. When I think all the way back to my very first days here, I realized that Paige has been there through it all, and my Hopkins experience here would be nowhere near what it’s been without her.



Closing out the summer with views from the 410

In the past month, I’ve begun to feel restless. My days are jam packed with classes, rehearsals, meetings, and events, but my mind has been yearning for something different. With the constant activities, I’ve started to realize that all I want is a day in the library. It sounds weird, but I really feel like that’s what’s missing. To sit in the naturally sunlit atrium, the coffee charged cafe at the upper entrance of Brody, or even a quiet table on C level is the only thing that could possibly bring me solace in this whirlwind of my junior year.


We also got new Pode babies!

With this newfound love for the occasional sedentary afternoon, I found myself looking at the remainder of my coursework for my degree and realized that my senior year was looking pretty light. Most people would jump at the opportunity to take an easier semester and do something for themselves, but a few weeks ago, I made a choice.

I’m also doing something for myself. I’m just taking a slightly different approach.

A common tour statistic boasts that 60% of Hopkins students declare a second major or a minor to accompany their primary major. For the past two years, I have proudly waved my single major flag high, but for the first time, I’m proud to be a statistic. At 2:45PM on Monday afternoon, I walked in to speak with the head of the Mathematics department and walked out with a second major 18 minutes later.

So why mathematics?

A video: See Professor Richard Brown’s response to this question to understand how I got interested in a math degree. I remember watching this late at night during my freshman fall and I’m pretty sure I teared up a little.

A feeling: Barring my freshman spring, I have taken a course in the Mathematics or Applied Math & Statistics department every semester I’ve been at Hopkins. I have found that being in a math class helps me to stay motivated, because I always have a homework assignment that I’m eager to work through. Being able to come back to that math homework has always been comforting. Math is always something I can come back to and work through by myself, so it also gives me the alone time that I need in a world of engineering collaboration and teamwork.

A future: I don’t know what I want to do for grad school. I know I want to go, but I don’t know for where or for what. Maybe I want to go somewhere to continue studying chemical engineering or biological engineering, or maybe I want to change courses completely and study math. Either way, my coursework is set for the next two semesters, and it will be in my senior spring that I make the decision to take either Analysis II & Algebra II, or Partial Differential Equations & Dynamical Systems. The first route allows me to root myself in a purely mathematical world, where the second  will strengthen my knowledge of my current major and research.

A question: If I’ve enjoyed my courses in the math department this much in the past, why not?

It’s Been A While

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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.

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Decision release was one week ago for the class of 2020 and there isn’t a better time to be on the Hopkins campus than right now. The weather is starting the early spring seesawing typical of the east coast — the kind where it’s 50˚F one day and 75˚F the next. Chatter of new freshmen is rising in admissions, more people are pulling out their shorts and flip flops from the backs of their closets, and Brody terrace is covered with people sipping iced coffee, chatting, and doing light work with friends.


It’s that time of the year again, and all of these things combined can only mean one thing: Spring Fair and Homecoming. I feel like we need a name for this point of the school year. It’s not just the arrival of spring, but it’s the imminent feeling of fun and campus-wide celebration that comes with the month of April. I still have homework and exams, sure (five in the next two weeks, but who’s counting?) but there’s more fun ahead of us than there is behind us.


Spring Fair is April 15 through April 17 this year and I could not be more excited. Since the weather for last year’s Spring Fair made it seem more like Winter Fair, the early onset, unseasonably warm weather this year has me hoping for better this time around. Don’t get me wrong — last year was still tons of fun, but there’s so much more to do when the weather cooperates with the mood.


To give you the breakdown if you haven’t heard of it before, Spring Fair starts on Friday with activities including games, an open air market on Keyser Quad, and food (lots and lots of food). After class lets out, I fully plan on taking advantage of all of this by getting classic Spring Fair food, sitting on the Beach with my friends, and soaking up the sun to my heart’s delight. On Friday night, there’s a concert; this year it’s Chainsmokers, Shwayze, and Marion Hill, so I already have my ticket and I’m super excited to go. Saturday and Sunday is just more food, more sunshine, spring themed activities, and just getting to appreciate the simplicity of hanging out with my friends.


It’s hard to encapsulate exactly what Spring Fair is in a few sentences, but I can tell you that it’s one of the best times to be on campus. Plus, it’s open to the public, so if you’re in the Baltimore area, you should check it out to see for yourself. Obviously, it’s a completely different experience as a Hopkins student because for 3 days, you get to wake up to what’s basically a giant, campus-wide party. Amidst the last of spring midterms, projects, and extracurricular craziness, Spring Fair is an excellent reminder of why I love Hopkins so much.


There are a million reasons to love Hopkins, but this blog has been written with the express intent of detailing one incredible Hopkins experience that falls into a giant pile of answers to “Why Hopkins?”. I’m not just here for the fried oreos and the cool concerts, I’m here for a lifetime of friends and memories. The education is, of course, the reason to apply, and the reason to be proud once you’ve been admitted, but it’s the experiences that make Hopkins the place I call home. I’ll always be from New York, but my room is the one I share with my friends in Charles Commons, my friends are the ones I’ve made in Baltimore in the past two years, and it’s the collection of experiences that I’ve had that makes Hopkins and Baltimore my home. Spring Fair just happens to be one of a large collection of experiences that has contributed to the making of this home.

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.


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?


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.


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.


I love you, Maryland Hall.

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.


    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$olute reference$.


    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.


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.


Why Hopkins?

In fewer than 24 hours, high school seniors across the country will have all of their decisions laid out before them. On April 1, the schools that are holding out will finally tell prospective students about their choices. The constant poring over grades, SAT scores, recommendations, and essays is long over, but this is where the hard part actually begins. Now the real options are sitting in front of you, and you need to decide what school is right for you.

In the spirit of Hopkins Decision Day this past Friday, March 27, I want to share why I chose Hopkins.

Unlike most of my friends, I had visited none of the schools to which I applied before I found out where I had been admitted. The only exception was Vanderbilt, where I had participated in a summer program and taken a chemistry course the summer after my junior year. They wound up denying me anyway, but there are no hard feelings, because I have no doubt that Hopkins was and continues to be the right choice for me.

I won’t lie: I wasn’t an Early Decision acceptance, and at the very beginning of the application process, Hopkins wasn’t my first choice. My intended major on my college applications was Chemistry. It wasn’t until after I had sent in my applications that I decided I’d rather major in Chemical Engineering. I applied to twelve schools — you name it, I probably applied. As my senior year went on, more of my friends were finding out about their acceptances, and a large majority of my schools kept me hanging until the final day. I had applied Restrictive Early Action to Yale and been deferred, so I spent months of my senior year in the dark. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful.

I hadn’t applied to any schools with rolling admissions and it wasn’t until the final week in March that I got my results. I was admitted to several schools which I narrowed down based solely on friendliness of admissions counselors with whom I had spoken, the types of mail I was receiving from them, and the amount of financial aid the school gave me. (I’m a triplet with a single mom, so financial aid was not something I would have been able to go to school without.)

When I laid out my decisions before me, just those criteria alone seemed to rule out any school that wasn’t Hopkins, but I still hadn’t visited. With high hopes, my mother and I took the trip down to Baltimore for SOHOP during the first week of April, and the reason why I chose Hopkins really lies in that visit.

There are only so many things you can learn on paper: the statistics of admitted students, the number of students who study abroad, the percentage of undergraduates participating in research, and the types of jobs Hopkins graduates receive are all on the website for undergraduate admissions. I would know because I went through it dozens of times, but experiencing the school for myself really convinced me that this was where I should be.

One of the first things I did was take a tour of campus, which was beautiful. I took the tour with my mother, and I remember her asking me if I could see myself going here. I didn’t respond right away. It was overwhelming at first; I was on this campus (which felt huge at the time — rest assured it feels pretty small now unless I’m walking from Bloomberg to Mason Hall) with such smart looking people. How do people look smart without saying a word? I’ll never know, but after taking that tour, going to the activities fair, and sitting in on a lecture about nanoparticles in cancer research (if that sounds familiar, it should because I wrote about it a few weeks ago in The L Word), I was sold…almost.

It was ultimately the people that made me feel like this was the place I wanted to spend four years of my life. By some store of luck, my host wound up being @JHU_Grace and she was the reason I applied to be a student blogger in the summer before my freshman year. She showed me that Hopkins kids are smart and cool, and that there are so many ways to get involved outside of your major. To me, she was living proof of seizing all of the opportunities that this school had to offer, and she showed me that Hopkins is so much more than what it appears to be on paper.

Visiting campus wasn’t a magical clicking experience where I thought to myself that I couldn’t be happy anywhere else, but I think that was because I had that click long before I visited. I don’t believe in destiny, and choosing to come here was a result of choices entirely my own. Truth be told, I think I would have been happy at any of the universities to which I had been accepted, but I chose the place where I felt that being happy wouldn’t be an effort. It didn’t take me a long time to find great friends, opportunities, professors, and classes, and I don’t think it would have been quite as easy anywhere else.

Here are things Hopkins has that I can guarantee you won’t get anywhere else.


Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the first day of classes


Papermoon Diner within walking distance of campus. Definitely an experience.


The George Peabody Library (Fun fact: The library in Beauty and the Beast was modeled off of this one. If it’s worthy of a Disney princess, it’s certainly worthy of me.)


Lighting of the Quads


The Baltimore Museum of Art right next to Wyman Quad


The anniversary of the original Washington Monument


Sunset during Intersession


The bear-dog that is almost constantly outside of Brody Learning Commons


The majesty that is Shriver Hall after a dusting of snow


Dr. Dog concert in Washington D.C.


And of course the dragon boats in the Inner Harbor. Never forget the dragon boats.


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.


My first real lab notebook