A Kameo Appearance

Just a third culture kid's musings on Baltimore, Biomedical Engineering, burgers, and everything in between. *Disclaimer: Not everything discussed within these blogs begins with the letter B.

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Organic Chemistry: Debunking the Myths

It’s November 1 – which is absolutely insane. This means three great things:

  1. Thanksgiving break is less than three weeks away and I finally get to go home.
  2. It’s fall and the weather is cooling down, which is awesome.
  3. I’m a solid ¾ of the way through my Sophomore fall semester.

Now, as a pre-med (and for my BME requirements), this is the semester I was required to take the class that everyone seems to dread: Organic Chemistry. I just took my 2nd of the 3 midterms for Orgo last week. In the midst of the course right now, I thought I’d be in a prime position to layout myths perpetuated about the class and tell you if it really does live up to it’s insane reputation.


That right there is 6,7-dichloro-hept-2-ene. And people told me I’d never use Orgo…

Myth 1: It’s the hardest class you’ll have to take.


Don’t get me wrong, Orgo is a difficult class. It’s inherent difficulty comes in the fact that there’s just so much material that needs to be studied. In terms of actual concepts, though, the class isn’t significantly harder than anything else you’ll have to take. If anything, it’s easier than what’s to come as you move towards upper levels.


Myth 2: It’s all about memorization.


A lot of people try skating through Orgo purely off of memorization alone, and a lot of the time, those are the same people that call it the hardest class ever. The fact is, memorization will only get you so far. Where in Bio memorization worked because it was straight facts, Orgo is rooted in concepts that need understanding to be applied.

If only I was, Aunt May...

If only I was, Aunt May…

Myth 3: It takes a lot of time.


This is the one truth about Organic Chemistry that everyone agrees on. If you don’t dedicate the time this class warrants, you will fall behind. Personally, the class has completely changed the way I study, and I’m actually all the more grateful for it. Its the first real wake up call of college that shows you how you need to work to do well.

At the end of the day, Orgo is a class we all inevitably have to go through. I can tell you one thing about it with certainty though: it’s made out to be much harder than it actually is.

The Five Stages of Preparing for Two Midterms

Last semester, I wrote a blog post entitled “The Five Stages of Preparing for a Midterm”, where I outlined my process for studying in the days leading up to a singular midterm. I left a little disclaimer at the end that said multiple midterms are an issue for another day.

Today is that day.

I like stay optimistic.

Optimism when the semester started.

More accurately, October 7 was that day. I had a Linear Algebra midterm at 9:30 in the morning followed by a Molecules and Cells midterm at 10:50. Let me tell you – the week leading up to that day was probably one of my most stressful at Hopkins so far. I managed to pull through the day though, and now’s the part where I get to sit in my post-midterms bliss and tell you all about it.

Stage 0: The Beginning of the Semester

While this stage doesn’t occur during the week before the midterms, it is important because it’s during the week following syllabus week. Picture this: you’re planning out your exam schedule, and as you note down dates, you look at your calendar and realize that on October 7, you have two back-to-back midterms.

What do you do?

Sit down and wallow for a bit? Cry profusely? Try and accept the fact that this is a reality? Move on? Dread the day until it arrives?

Answer: all of the above


Optimism quickly rushing away.

Stage 1: Friday, September 30th

Here we are: the Friday before. Seven days until October 7. These midterms are close enough to be a pressing concern. Professors are announcing them during lecture and informing you of material that will be tested. The reality that you’d been hiding away has finally peeked back around. It’s the weekend, but we both know you’re not going to be doing anything but working. Looks like it’s time to start sleeping in the library.

Maggie Smith always knows.

Maggie Smith always knows.

Stage 2: Sunday, October 2nd

The weekend is over and Friday is only five days away. Friday and Saturday were hardly spent doing anything relaxing; instead, they were spent in Brody frantically switching between your two courses’ material, trying to ingest as much information as possible. Forget trying to sleep tonight.


Stage 3: Wednesday, October 5th

The middle of the week. Everyone around you is preparing for their first round of midterms too, but only a select few are in the same boat as you. You envy everyone who has the luxury of preparing for one midterm at a time. Your friends sympathize, but they don’t really understand your struggle. Coffee? You’ve already had too much, but one more cup can’t hurt, right? Keep going, keep going. Don’t panic.

Look at the clock: how did it get to be 2 AM already?

I'm not the only one seeing this, right?

I’m not the only one seeing this, right?

Stage 4: Thursday, October 6th

You may have had an hour or two of free time the past couple of days. Not today. From morning until night, all that time is going to be spent taking practice tests, reading the textbook, and feeling as if you’ve forgotten the first course’s material as you study for the second. Get to sleep early today. You’ve done all you can, and it’s been an incredibly long day.

Sorry, but that feeling sticks with you until after the midterms.

Sorry, but this feeling sticks with you until after the midterms.

Stage 5: Friday, October 7th

Wake up an hour early and shut off the 17 backup alarms you’ve set. Wash your face, brush your teeth, throw on your midterm sweatpants, and mentally prep for the next two hours of your life. Two hours. That’s it. That’s all you’ve got to get through. Hopefully you’ve studied enough, and these midterms will be a total breeze.

Like I said, a total breeze.

Like I said, a total breeze.

And finally, once you’re done, sleep – sleep for as long as humanly possible. Then sleep for a few more hours. And take some Advil for that stress-induced cold you’ve inevitably come down with over the course of the week.


Now What?

It’s been 365 days…plus or minus 4 weeks, since my first blog. That means it’s been entire year since I got to Johns Hopkins – I’m a quarter of the way through college and officially a sophomore, which is absolutely insane. With all this in mind, I figured I’d take a second out of my day to break down what that means, and share with you all the wisdom of a man who’s made it through a full year at college.

1. First and foremost, I’m not wise.

It’s funny, you know. Coming into Hopkins, I remember everyone who welcomed me and all the first-year mentors (FYMs )I knew were sophomores; and as a freshman coming in during O-week knowing nobody, I looked to them as the end all be all of advice. To me, these were people who knew Hopkins inside and out, and had their lives completely figured out.


The truth? As a sophomore now, I feel like I know less than I did last year, and so does everyone I talk to. Sure, I’m taking more advanced classes, but it’s true what they say: the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. It’s humbling, but terrifying at the same time.

It’s times like these advice like this is necessary:


2. I’ve learned. A lot.

In only a year, I’ve managed to get involved in activities I enjoy, help launch a start up company, win business plan competitions, get a research position, and get most of my prerequisite classes out of the way (not to say I did it without a bump in the road here or there). It’s astonishing, really. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about the opportunity that Hopkins as a school provides, but there’s no good way to articulate it until you’re actually here and in the middle of it all. Everything is there. All you have to do is reach for it.


3. Without a doubt, this is all going to be over before I know it.

Ever since I got here, I’ve been trying to work on an explanation as to why time moves so much faster in college. What feels like a week ago was really a month ago, and when looking forward to things so far in the future on my calendar, I blink and all of a sudden they’re here. I don’t know why this is the way it is, but I think it’s a bit of a double edged sword: on one hand, I don’t have nearly as much time as I think I do, but on another, everything worth looking forward to feels like it’s hardly a moment away.


Closing out Freshman Year

Yes, you’re right, it’s time for the obligatory “freshman year is over” blog post. You may have read one, three, or even twenty posts from the past about this exact topic, and you might think that at some point the topic would become overused or outdated, but it doesn’t. And that’s what so strange about it. No matter what, everyone, anyone you talk to about the fact that freshman year has ended says virtually the exact same sentence: “Where has this year gone?” It’s an incredibly scary reflection to make. It feels like yesterday was O-week, and now here we are, about to close out our first year of college.

I’m a quarter done with college, and I’m dumbfounded. As I reflect though, I figured I’d go ahead and right out my thoughts. For all those coming in, here’s my few tidbits of advice:

  1. Take advantage of covered grades!

I really can’t stress this enough. Take advantage of the opportunity to take upper level courses under a pass/fail grading system. It pays off, trust me. Take advantage of the freedom that pass/fail grades provide you: go out and explore the city, join a bunch of extracurriculars, find your rhythm and figure out how to enjoy yourself here. Covered grades are a blessing, don’t waste them.

  1. Don’t slack off

Once covered grades are gone, slacking off is a hard, and I mean terribly hard, habit to break. Slacking off also has a habit of coming back to bite you. All of us were the kids in high school who could get by with procrastinating and not taking everything especially seriously all the time. That doesn’t work anymore. Once you start to slack, material piles up, and before you know it, the next midterm or final rolls around, and you’re filled with a bunch of regrets about those Netflix binge sessions.

  1. Get out of your comfort zone

This is another huge thing. College is a big change, and with big change comes new opportunities and new people. Everyone wants to meet people. Everyone is social. There’s always something new to do. Make the effort to step out of your comfort zone to try those things. You never know, it might become the thing you do for the rest of your life.

  1. Make mistakes

To clarify, this isn’t the same as being irresponsible, but you’re also in college now. Trying to meticulously plan out every aspect of how you want things to work will leave you without any excitement or spontaneity. This is a time to make mistakes and learn from them, to help you figure out how resilient you are without your family around to constantly back you up. Mistakes help you discover who you are as a person, and ultimately helps you mature in a way you never could back at home.

Finally, I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice as I write my final freshman blog: have no regrets. Regardless of what happens over the course of your freshman year, all these experiences are meant to shape you as a person. It’s far better to be able to sit down at the end of the year and laugh about some stupid thing you did than sit and wonder what could have happened if only you’d gotten up and done it.

The Five Stages of Preparing for a Midterm

Hot off the heels of my Chemistry midterm this morning, I figured I’d give you a look at my process of preparing for a midterm.

Phase 1: A Week in Advance

This is around the time that everyone starts to say “there’s a midterm coming up.” It’s also around the time that you start cracking open the books in your free time to get a glimpse of the material that’s going to be on the test. Is it time to go hard? No, we’ve still got a few phases to go.

Phase 2: Three Days in Advance

This is when crunch time starts. The midterm takes full priority, and its time to put all hands on deck. You’ve still got a fair amount of time until the midterm, but as a rule of thumb, it’s good to feel ready to take the test on the day before the test is given. That way you’ve got a whole extra day during which you feel fully prepared.

Phase 3: Two Days in Advance

Break out the practice tests, forget about socializing, and get all your food to-go. It’s time to head down to B-level (the really quiet one) in the library and drink ridiculous amount of coffee to make sure you’ve got a handle on the material. This is your last chance to stay up all hours of the night to study.

Phase 4: The Day Before

Today you shouldn’t be seeing the outside world unless you absolutely have to. This is the do or die time, and it’s all hands on deck with studying. This is the final push to get all the material understood. Is this the night you should be staying up until 3 in the morning studying? No. This is the night you should end early and get a good night’s rest. Make sure you set like 5 alarms just in case. Missing a midterm because you overslept = you’re screwed.

Phase 5: The Day Of

Panic that you might have woken up late but realize you actually woke up two hours early. Get some last minute review in, but for the most part, just go in and knock the test out of the park. You’ve spent all this time studying, now it’s time to put it to use.

*Disclaimer: This method only applies to one midterm. Multiple midterms are an issue for another day.



The Best College Investments You’ll Ever Make

All you incoming freshman are probably trying to figure out what you need to get for your dorm, figuring out the clothes to buy for Baltimore weather, and overall planning the start of your college career. Given, those things are necessary, but there are also a few other things that you’re going to want in order to make it through the weeks here. Needless to say, they may not seem too important right now, but trust me, they make life so much better.

Spotify: First off, students get a discount so a Spotify premium account only costs $4.99 a month. Sure, it’s not as grand as Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning an Oscar, but it’s still pretty great. More to the point though, Spotify is just ridiculously useful to have. It’s the kind of thing that seems pointless before you get it, but once you do, there’s no turning back.


Irrelevant but necessary

Netflix: This list wouldn’t really be complete if Netflix weren’t mentioned. It’s every college student’s best friend. It’s where you turn when you have a midterm in 12 hours and decide to have a panic attack. It’s where you turn after you bomb said midterm and need to avoid another panic attack. Finally, it’s where you turn when you want nothing more than to chill (no pun intended) in your room and binge watch an entire season (or 9) of How I Met Your Mother.


Amazon Prime for Students: This actually comes in more useful than you’d think. Better yet, being a college student gets you a free 6-month trial of Amazon Prime (yes, that does mean free 2-day shipping on everything). Need materials for a project to get here quick? Amazon Prime. Want to send a friend a gift? Amazon Prime. Have some extra cash to spend? Amazon Prime. Need to take a step back and reevaluate your finances? Amazon Prime. Went broke buying all this cool stuff on Amazon Prime? Amazon Prime.

I may have a bit of a problem…


A Microwave: Oh yeah, there’s actually some practical advice on this list too. Right so I didn’t get a microwave until second semester. That was a mistake. Again, a microwave is the kind of thing that seems trivial at first, but once you get one, it’s a whole new world. You can make Hot Pockets in your dorm. In. Your. Dorm.

Are there other uses for a microwave? Yes. Are they better than Hot Pockets in your dorm? Nope.

You've made it this far, here's an exploding microwave.

You’ve made it this far, here’s an exploding microwave.

Mini-Fridge: Alright, if you choose not to get anything else on this list, definitely get the mini-fridge. Why? It’s simple: you’re going to be keeping snacks in your dorm. Snacks mean drinks. Drinks are better when cold. Fridges cool things.

I rest my case.




Musical Genres and the Semester

In the same way my preference for genres switches just like that, so does the pace and environment of the semesters at Hopkins. Along those lines, I decided to come up with a list of genres to appropriately describe your emotions as various events throughout the semester unfold.

R&B (aka. Coming Back from Break)

It’s the beginning of the semester, everyone is both happy to be back at it and not at all ready to experience another semester of possible heartbreak. It’s a very bittersweet time, and you have no idea in which way the next experience will make your emotions sway. The highs and lows are ubiquitous, managing to provide a reassuring feeling of being back where you belong.


Rap (aka. Sitting Through Lectures)

It’s the type of experience that will either be gripping and insightful or tiring and repetitive, without a middle ground. While there are few professors, err, artists, that everyone agrees are amazing, you won’t be hard pressed to find yourself in an argument about the good and bad qualities of everyone you’ve had the luxury of listening to.


Pop (Top 40) (aka. Finally Getting out of Lecture, Finally Finishing an Exam, Getting an A, Making it to Friday in One Piece, Sleeping in on the Weekend…You get the point)

By all means, considering how prevalent it is, this really should get old, but for some inexplicable reason it doesn’t. Oh, and there’s always some new experience with which you’ll find yourself feeling this way. It’s the type of feeling that makes it easy to relate to someone in any setting. There are a few who have a distaste for it, but for the most part, it’s pretty, uh, popular.


Classical Music (aka. Studying for Midterms)

Everyone acknowledges its importance, and knows that without it, the modern music we enjoy overwhelming success we crave wouldn’t be a reality. Regardless, that doesn’t make us like it any more. It becomes tough to bear for prolonged periods of time without getting bored or distracted, unless you’re one of the few who really enjoy it, in which case, you’re going places.


Metal (aka. Heading to a Midterm)

It’s like coffee without the coffee. It’ll wake you up in a second. It makes it hard for you to focus, but it gets you pumped. You don’t know what to expect next, but you know that it’s definitely not going to slow down.


Emo (aka. Failing a Midterm)

It happens. As much as you don’t want it to, it does. What now? Let out all your emotions and be sad for a while until you resolve to do better next time and pick yourself back up.


EDM (aka. Weekends)

I don’t need to explain, right? Right.













Joining a Design Team

For all you incoming BMEs out there, I’m sure you know a lot about what Hopkins BME has to offer, but here’s one thing you might not know about: design team. At the most fundamental level, you work with a team of other BMEs, primarily upperclassmen, to design a medical device. I don’t mean you just come up with something and present it to your classmates at the end of the semester. With design team, you work for legitimate grants and business competitions to get your team’s idea made into a reality. Freshmen only get this opportunity in the second semester of the year, and are placed onto teams that have already been working since first semester, or potentially even before.

So, how do you get onto one? Bribes are a good start. I mean, nail the interview(s). Basically, towards the end of your first semester the whole process starts, and all of a sudden, virtually every BME freshman is interviewing for a design team. Over the course of those 2 weeks, you’ll be asked which team you’re interviewing for about as much as people are asking you where you’re going to college right now. The point is, the interviews are all about interest, not experience. Upperclassmen know that most freshman hardly have any experience in terms of design, which is why this opportunity exists. That being said, it never hurts to bring something (anything) to the table. Personally, I highlighted my public speaking ability. It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary, just set you apart. Fast forward through a bunch of interviews and then it’s up to the teams to decide if you got the part. Regardless of whether you do or not, it’s still a great experience, and I highly recommend it for any incoming BMEs. It’s a chance to do real BME work your first year, and it gives you a chance to see if you want to design or if you’d prefer research. You’ll learn more about it when you come to campus, but if you’re curious, I’ll leave the link to the design department at the bottom of this blog.


Well, here I am, at the end of my first semester of college. Two weeks from today, I’ll have submitted my last final (I can’t stress enough how much I hate physics) and be on a plane to see my family. It’s an incredibly strange feeling to be honest. Looking back on this past semester, I can easily say that it’s been great. Yes, it’s had ups and downs, and the couple of months were anything but easy, but overall, it finally feels like Hopkins is becoming my own. See, for the first couple of months, it’s going to feel like a stranger out of place. All freshman will. It’s almost like you’re invading someone else’s territory, and all you can do is sit there and take what comes to you, but now, it feels different. I feel like I’m really a part of Hopkins.


I’ve gotten involved in clubs, made friends, and achieved the goals I set out when I began college. Why is all of this relevant, you ask? Well, twelve days from today, early decision applicants are going to receive their decisions. That means that we’ll have our first batch of the JHU Class of 2020, which I found absolutely insane. What I’m saying here is for those ED kids, and for the rest of you if you’re reading this later in the year. Regardless of what the decision may be, you should know this: college is going to be a huge change, and while you may not feel like you belong at first, don’t worry. It’ll take some time, but the adjustment will happen, and once it does, you’ll feel like you can take on anything.

Debunking the BME Myths

So I know I’ve touched on the fact that I’m BME in the past, and I’m sure many of you prospective BME’s would like to know what it’s like to be a BME having heard all the stories, so here’s my attempt at letting you know how it’s going. Here’s my shot at debunking a few BME myths.

  1. BME + Pre-Med = Impossible

This is by far the most popular myth. It really isn’t true. There are so many pre-med BME students (myself included) that are more than fine. In fact, some people are pre-meds with a double major/minor. Don’t be discouraged about pursuing pre-med because you think it’ll be a lot of work. Nearly all of the coursework is covered by BME requirements anyways (Organic Chem. 2 and Lab excluded, unfortunately </3 ).

  1. BME’s have no social life.

Again, absolutely not true. That’s not to say that BME should be taken lightly, but BME kids aren’t pariahs who spend their days withering away in textbooks (not always, at least). Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go wither away in my textbook.

Jokes aside, as a BME your social life will be just fine. Hopkins is a tough school, and regardless of what you’re doing, you are going to have your harder days and your easier days. That being said, if you want to be a BME, just be aware that it is a lot of work, but it’s also an amazing experience.

  1. BME is useless if you’re not pre-med

I know that some people believe BME is only good as a major for pre-med students. That’s not necessarily true. While BME is obviously related to the field of medicine, there are so many other avenues to travel with a BME degree besides med school. Research, business, or design are all other ways to go. Don’t be discouraged from BME purely because you’re not interested in med school. On that note though, if you’re not interested in medicine at all, then BME might not be your best bet.

Alright, there you have it. I hope I got some of the realities of being a BME across. Let me know if you have any other questions! For now, I’m going to go sleep.





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