Category Archives: Breaks

Spring Fair: Funkytown 2017

Perhaps my favorite event at Hopkins is Spring Fair. It’s a time in which students relax and chat on the Beach, eat copious amounts of food truck and stand food, shop around campus from the numerous vendors, and just have an overall fun and good time.

Unfortunate.

Unfortunate.

Even though Spring Fair is sandwiched between two regular school weeks, everyone takes the time to come out and relax. While the event is an excuse to put off next week’s assignments and tests, Spring Fair always seems to renew Hopkins’ sense of livelihood and color. Everyone takes a moment to relax before the impending finals week, and academics are put behind us, even if its just for a day or two.

What I love most about Spring Fair is being able to catch up with friends and alumni I haven’t seen in ages. Because the fair is mostly concentrated (food and shop vendors) on the Freshman Quad, I always seem to run into friends old and new. It’s an awesome way to explore and bond, but also a chance to meet and socialize with others. There are always new sights to see and more food to try, and each year is always as exciting as the last.

A lot of my friends rave over the Henna booth. Creds: Ig: jhuspringfair

A lot of my friends rave over the Henna booth.
Creds: Ig: jhuspringfair

One of my favorite stands is Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned Soda Pop – you buy a collectable metal mug (trust me, it’s deceptively huge), and for the entire weekend, you’re able to continually refill it with any of the 7 soda flavors. Each year they come up with a different specialized mug design for Spring Fair, so it’s a common tradition to collect them throughout your four years here. Another stand I’m partial to is a chips and salsa stand – they lay out 20 different kinds of salsa from most mild to spiciest, and my friends and I always try to build up in order to see who’ll last until the very end.

My friend Vicky trying out all the different types of soda!

My friend Vicky trying out all the different types of soda!

Another fun aspect of Spring Fair is the amount of animals that roam around campus. Aside from being able to pet goats and rabbits at the petting station or ride ponies, there’s always an unusually high concentration of dogs that people bring on campus. This year I counted 43 across 3 days (although I guess I could have mistaken the same dog more than once). There was this huge Mastiff that came up all the way to my waist (I didn’t have to bend down to pet it), but unfortunately I didn’t save my snap :(.

Monkey Man

Monkey Man

Spring Fair is a time of unusual livelihood and concentrated happiness on the Homewood campus. I can’t wait to be able to experience it for the rest of my Hopkins experience, and to be able to come back afterwards to enjoy it again and again.

Iceland 2017

“Wouldn’t it be cool if went to Iceland for Spring break next semester?”

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Billy the Blue Jay in Iceland

We (my suitemates and I) looked up airplane tickets back in October and they were ridiculously cheap. We booked them a month later and started a 150-day countdown in preparation.

We’ve been in Iceland for 8 days now and we’re going back to Baltimore tomorrow. The trip has been something else, though; there’s no way we could have expected it to turn out the way it did.

It truly has been a break in the most literal sense. Of all the places we’ve gone to, many of them have no Wifi (ahhhh, I know) and because of that, I think we’ve surprised ourselves with each other’s company. Whether it be learning about a completely new aspect of Austin’s life or Youngjae’s childhood, we’ve just been talking a lot and I feel closer to my suitemates than I ever have before.

It’s a nice feeling to be “off the grid” for a bit, where the stresses of school and everyday life can’t reach where I am. Even though I went into Spring break with the knowledge that I have quite a bit of homework to catch up on, I can’t really do any of it without Internet access. And because I don’t have any Internet access, I’ll just worry about that later.

I don’t know about you, but none of us have ever really planned a trip all by ourselves. Usually, our parents are the ones to figure out all the housing and food, so doing it entirely on our own was a huge learning experience (props to my suitemate, Sebastian, for basically doing all of it). And of course, because we’re college students, we tried to minimize costs as much as we could, buying food at discount stores and living in remote Airbnb’s. Food in Iceland is a lot more expensive than we thought, but we found this Costco-like store called Bonus and stocked up on foods we could cook every night.

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View outside of the first Airbnb we stayed at!

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Don’t know why, but the logo is some sort of loopy pig…

We’re essentially doing a full road-trip around the coast of the country, starting in Reykjavik and moving every night to a different home by car. Along the way we’ve stopped at numerous man-made and natural attractions like Fridheimar, Grjotagja, and Gufufoss — all of which were unbelievable to see.

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Grjotagja – The water in the cave was steaming, also smelled like eggs

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Hvitserkur – Black sand beach!

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Some random car shot

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Coffee sold here was A+

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More black sand beaches

But I think my favorite of all the ones we’ve seen so far has to be the Northern Lights. It’s one thing to see a picture of it online, but seeing it in person was just breathtaking. We stood on a tall hill next to Hofn and saw a green dome shift across the entire sky. We were completely surrounded by the lights, and even though they were only visible for a couple of minutes, it was a moment of epic-ness I’ll never forget.

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Unfortunately this is the best picture we got — we didn’t have a tripod and it was freezing outside 🙁

Unfortunately, we only saw the lights that one night because visibility shifts from day to day. Maybe that made the experience that much better.

I’m writing this in the car as Austin drives the last bit back to Reykjavik (thus completing our coastal circuit). He’s also singing along to a throwback 2000s pop playlist (right now it’s Umbrella by Rihanna) he found on Spotify as Sebastian and Youngjae sleep. I’m so glad we decided to take this trip even though we were initially skeptical we could pull it off.  It’s been meaningful to me in so many ways, and I wouldn’t trade this break experience for anything else.

 

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Self-Care 101

Many call it the “sophomore slump”. I guess it’s named that because classes start to step-up and social life begins to shift around. Of course, that’s just a generalization.

Coming back to campus for my second year, I initially felt much more comfortable and prepared. I think a lot of freshman year was getting settled in and figuring out how to adapt, so it was nice to come back to a place knowing where everything was and how things worked. Still, I felt that last semester was rough. I was distressed, lost at times, and I really didn’t take the time to take care of myself. 

And because I neglected to take care of myself, I got really sick during the latter half of the semester. It first started with pneumonia — at the beginning of Thanksgiving break, I went to NYC with some friends to explore. I felt a little uncomfortable the day before we left, but I shook the feeling off because I was excited to go on this trip we had planned for weeks. While there, I got multiple fevers and migraines, but I still went out to explore the city because we’d only be there for 3 days (stupid, I know). We also spent good money on this trip, and I didn’t want that to go to waste. I think a part of me didn’t want my friends to miss out on all the experiences that could’ve been, but looking back I really shouldn’t have tried in the first place.

After getting back to Baltimore halfway through break, I ended up going to the ER on Thanksgiving (which happened to be my birthday 🙁 ). There, I officially found out I had pneumonia and I spent the next couple weeks recovering. After having “recovered” I had to revisit the ER to get even more antibiotics. I missed even more class because of that. 

I think in a time where I missed 3-4 weeks of school (and forcing myself to go to some classes when I shouldn’t have), a lot of compounded stress made it much harder to recover. I was on the border of trying to get work done, catching up on deadlines, and recovering, and trying to do all those things at once didn’t really resolve anything. I did poorly on tests I could have made-up, but at the same time, the end of semester was filled with make-up tests I still had to take. 

Taking care of yourself.

selfcare

It’s a super simple, yet oddly foreign concept to me. I like to try and do a lot of things, and because of it, I leave myself behind. Looking back, I realize I completely forgot to take care of myself because I didn’t think it was as important as socializing or studying. Now, I ask myself what could I have done to do more self-care?

First is realizing your own boundaries. I think students at Hopkins are involved in a long list of activities, classes, and clubs; I’m the same way. I know that I can handle doing a lot of different things, but at the same time, I know that I’d be a lot better at one thing if I’d just focus on that. I mean part of college is exploring, but I wish I’d drop some things I didn’t think were worth my time. 

Second is asking for help. I consider myself a pretty independent person, and I don’t mind doing things on my own. With that comes a certain amount of control on some aspects of my life, but I also sometimes overestimate what I can and can’t handle. Last semester I wish I had asked more favors of my friends, things like getting extra toothpaste or shampoo when they had to go to CVS, or picking up an extra sandwich on their way back from class. Although seemingly trivial, I think small favors like these would have gone a long way in times where I was really pressed for time.

I know this is an obvious one, but eating right, exercising, and getting a good amount of sleep. In college, it’s so easy to just escape your dorm at 2 AM and walk across the street to get an order of mozz-sticks. It’s also easy to make plans to exercise by yourself or with friends, and then fall out of routine the next week. It’s ALSO easy to plan on getting work done from 9:00 PM to 11:30 PM, then finding out talking with your friends took 2 hours and it’s now 12:30 AM. I think being harder on myself to follow routine things would have helped tremendously.

College is an exciting place, but it’s also distracting. Like me, a lot of my friends struggled with school last semester. I realize now that taking time for self-care is probably the most important thing I need to do not only here at Hopkins, but throughout the rest of my life. The transition from home and parents to college and self-sufficiency is a lot tougher than you’d expect, and I wish I had recognized that sooner. 

This is more like it.

This is more like it.

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Breaking the Fall

I’ve been in Baltimore for the entirety of this semester. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I call it home, but sometimes you just have to leave and explore a little bit, right?

I think it has to do with constant familiarity of environment and people, and of course midterms too. It’s easy to get bogged down by what you have to do, day in and day out, and it’s hard to take a step back sometimes to realize what you’re after.

I think that’s why it was so nice to change things up for once – this past fall break was an infinitely fun time, and It’s definitely helped to reorient me.

Friday:

After an awesome, intentional sleep-in until 12 PM, I trekked on over to the Peabody campus to meet with my friend, Nick, to work on an arrangement for my a capella group, the Octopodes. We’re working on an arrangement of Contact High – by Allen Stone. It’s a super groovy song, but we’re still in the middle of trying to get the feel of it down. It’s for a winter concert that’s coming up on December 2nd! (I’ll write a blog soon about my a capella group and what arranging is all about, so stay tuned!)

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A snippet of what an arrangement looks like.

After an *intense* buffet session at Akbar, a nearby Indian restaurant in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood, I headed on over to a chamber music rehearsal at Peabody. This semester, my saxophone teacher grouped four of us together and created a saxophone quartet – we’re currently working on a piece called July – by Michael Torke. It plays with so many tonal colors and a really distinct rhythmic groove. We’re planning to go out to nearby coffee shops and local venues to share the piece with others!

Saturday:

If you’re a Hopkins student, you fully take advantage of the fact that D.C. is just a 1 hour, 8 dollar train ride away.

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A picture of the mosaic at Baltimore’s Penn Station!

So that’s exactly what a couple of friends and I did – we took the 11:05 AM MARC train to D.C., and got off at the Rosslyn station stop. Once there, we walked out into a wonderfully sunny day and 15 minutes to a cupcake shop named “Baked and Wired”.

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A guide to my tummy.

Grabbing lunch on the way, we made our way to Six Flags, which is what we’d planned on coming to the D.C. area for previously.

It was absolutely ridiculous – there was a ride where you go on a rollercoaster laying on your back, and when you’re inverted upside down it feels like you’re flying through the air. Another one made use of VR Headsets and a 20-story drop that was pretty other-worldly. Because it’s close to Halloween, Six Flags is currently in its “Fright Fest” mode, where characters in costumes roam around the park and try to scare you when you’re walking from one place to the next. My friends and I got a good laugh out of it afterwards, but navigating through the park truly was frightening. 

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nope nope nope

Sunday:

In Bio lab, we were given an “assignment” to go to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and take some notes on species and habitats. To be honest, it seems more of an excuse just to go and have some fun, but I’m not complaining.

I’d never been to the Maryland Zoo before, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. The park was pretty full, and there was a lot to do and see.

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Penguin feeding!

Coming back at 4, I went to Octopodes rehearsal, where we were treated to drinks and dessert by one of our member’s family. The rest of rehearsal was pretty typical – we’re currently working on learning a bunch of songs for our concert, like the arrangement I’m working on right now!

 

An action-packed three days of break, I’d say. Now I’m left cramming for all the homework I haven’t done, but I don’t mind one bit.