Gilman Girl

The Life & Rhymes of Molly Y., English Major

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Why Hopkins: A Spring Snapshots Blog

Somehow, I only have a little over a month left of sophomore year. While certain parts of me want to rejoice at this — after all, three months of no essays, exams, and/or 40 page readings are just around the corner — I can’t help but feel that spring semester went all too quickly, especially considering how much I’ve enjoyed myself both in and out of class. As I’ve said before, my classes this term are at their peak interest level for me. Never before have I had such a wide breadth of reading assignments, from Arundhati Roy’s novel (and my new favorite book) The God of Small Things to Michael Fried’s canonical treatise against Minimalism in art to, just recently, Eve Sedgwick’s essay on gender and sexuality. My brain is being stimulated from all directions, and I can feel myself evolving as a student in ways I couldn’t have imagined before coming here. Inevitably, it hasn’t always been a joyride — especially when I had two huge essays due on the Friday before spring break — but even that experience taught me more about my time management capabilities and capacity for critical thinking than I knew before.

In lieu of my class time enjoyment, though, has also come a sense of balance that manifests itself in smaller moments of repose, on and off campus, alone and with the homies. This, I’ve found, is what I truly love about my experience here. Despite however trying our academic times get, there is usually some outlet available to put things back into perspective and take a break from the seemingly constant stresses of our work. With as picturesque of a campus as Homewood and an accessible set of communities in and around Baltimore city,  a breath of fresh air and reminder of how grateful I am to be here, however brief, is close at hand.

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This is me, post-two-essay-completion (as mentioned before), arms raised in praise to the heavens and release of my worries. JHU_Ebo and I sat on the quad in front of Gilman for about an hour in the spring sunshine and simply basked: it was the Friday everyone was leaving for spring break, and our jobs were done (for the moment). At Hopkins, we’re blessed with an insanely beautiful campus almost year-round (aside from the gross slush-filled times in February), and this is a moment I’ll likely never forget — a moment of pure elation as I surveyed my surroundings and, even after a two-paper deadline had me nearly slain, felt truly, genuinely happy to be here. For more proof of just how gorgeous it was outside that day, here’s a rare JHU_Ebo selfie featuring Gilman and her forehead:

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And now, for something entirely different:

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For my Introduction to the Museum class, we went to the Baltimore Museum of Art to examine the architecture in each gallery and compare. I snapped this photo in the contemporary wing, and I can remember thinking two things: A, I love that these kids are making this ‘highbrow and impossible to understand contemporary art’ their personal playground and B, I love that I’m here for a class right now. It was definitely another ‘Why Hopkins’ moment: at least in my humanities courses, I’ve been able to do a considerable amount of off-campus traversing in the name of homework and class supplement. Baltimore is a place with so much to see, and with an art museum basically on campus and an abundance of free public transport coming in and out of campus, my courses and my love for this place have sometimes gone hand-in-hand, which I consider myself lucky to experience.

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This photo has more of an abstract Why Hopkins spin, but bear with me. About a month ago, Throat Culture (the sketch comedy group I’m in on campus) had a show, and I got to play the one and only Hillary Clinton. My friend, fellow gummy candy connoisseur and former SAAB star JHU_Joseph left work in D.C. early to come and see the show and promptly sent this extremely flattering Snapchat to me and an anonymous mass of other friends. I’m telling you this for several reasons: for one thing, though they aren’t the largest constituent on campus, the theater community and the arts in general are here, and they’re a joy to be in. In terms of theater, I’m only involved in TC, but even our group and the people who come to the shows have become such an integral part of my experience here, even if we don’t perform in the huge concert hall on campus. It’s a group of people you could only find at a place like Hopkins, and it continues to remind me why there are more reasons to come here than just the academics.

This is a cheesy blog, but a necessary one. Maybe it’s because of the gorgeous weather we’re having (typical to Baltimore in springtime) or the uncanny amount of enjoyment I’m getting out of almost all of my classes this semester. But Hopkins is truly a place like no other, and it’s even small moments like these that keep me grounded in how great of a privilege it is to go here.

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Calm Before the Storm

The next few weeks are going to be busy. “Hustle” doesn’t even begin to cover the kind of thing I’ll be doing in between now and spring break, a time I’ve been preparing for since yesterday. The second half of the year starts with a bang, and I love my classes this semester. Still, it takes about a hot second for the pace to pick up, and before you know it, you have 2 papers, an exam and a presentation due in the same week (or, in some cases, the same day). In the first chunk of the semester, I’ve had my fair share of work, but as I glance at the impending last weeks before break, filled with deadlines and reminders and due dates, I’m realizing that January and February have totally been Molly’s Time to Frolic: The Calm Before the Storm. In lieu of this, I’ll use this blog to present you with a few favorite carefree moments I’ve had, maybe to counteract the extreme nerdiness that was last week’s blog. I promise, I’m not always in Gilman writing down quotes old smart people have said! Not always!!

Recruitment was the first weekend of the semester, and while it was just a tad tiring, I got to see some of my favorite ladies for four days straight and, after a long day of events, kick back at a diner wearing the same huge sweatshirt and scarfing down chicken tikka masala. I’d say this is probably as accurate of a personality pic as you could possibly get.

pie me to the moon

pie me to the moon

Not long after Recruitment, JHU_Emily may or may not have gone on an extremely romantic date to Dangerously Delicious Pies, a small but mighty pie place about fifteen minutes from campus. Yes, it was a weeknight, and yes, we deserved it. They have a Date Night Special — $20 for a duo, I believe — and we took full advantage of it with smiles on our faces, which isn’t really our style for photos, so here we are scowling per usual. Just focus on the pies.

Right after this, we knocked over all of the boxes~

This past weekend, I took a spontaneous evening trip to D.C. to see SAAB (and Hopkins) alumnus JHU_Joseph at his Real Person Job at Hamiltonian Gallery. That night was the opening for their latest show with artists Nara Park and Dane Winkler, and after a day spent working on school stuff with JHU_Emily, I decided to take advantage of my free evening/minimal(ish) leftover homework to see the final product of the install he’d been working on all week. One of the attendees brought in a small beagle puppy named Sherman, and Joseph let me share his Potbelly sandwich on the train back: not a bad night, to say the least.

Alas, it’s comin’ on crunch time, and despite the past few weekends’ festivities, I have a two-part Spanish exam this Friday and Monday and a Throat Culture show sandwiched in between, among other academic shenanigans to prepare for (so many essays!!!!!). It’s time, as Shang from Mulan would say, to get down to business.

 

Clockwise rom bottom left: Introduction to The Museum, Performance Art in America, and Intro to Literary Studies

Fragments of a Serial Note Taker

If you know me in a class-setting or have ever seen me doing homework, then you know I’m kind of an adamant note taker. The ‘kind of’ is to make that last part sound more casual and moderate than it actually is: essentially, to lead you to think that I’m not as much of a note taking fiend as the title of this blog suggests. Hyperbole always hooks people in, but as the following pictorial evidence will show, I’m not hyperbolizing in the slightest.

Clockwise rom bottom left: Introduction to The Museum, Performance Art in America, and Intro to Literary Studies

Clockwise from bottom left: Introduction to The Museum, Performance Art in America, and Intro to Literary Studies. The hand cramps have made me a stronger person, inside and out.

I’ve mentioned in several previous blogs how much I love note-taking, and I think I once attributed it to a weird enjoyment from the feel of a smooth-writing pen to paper. This is totally still the case, but I also have the continuous need to quote any well-worded fragment of a professor’s lecture, an assigned 40 page article on JSTOR, or pretty much anywhere language is involved. Something about taking the time to write a complexly-worded phrase or series of sentences demystifies whatever jargon is at play, and it keeps me focused in times when I could just as easily open an iMessage tab to text JHU_Ebo about some ridiculous internet find.

Case in point

Case in point

Nothing about this whole “waxing poetic about note taking” thing is new, and for the sake of time management and not getting premature arthritis, I’ve been trying to do it in a bit more moderation. Still, it can be especially difficult when you’re an English major taking five humanities classes, all of which require reading and writing about various texts in a way that breaks down the upper echelons of literary and artistic works to a solid level of understanding. Hence, the barrage of notes and the rare removal of pen from paper. Now that I’ve given you the proper introduction to my note taking philosophy, here are a few hallmarks of my notes from spring semester thus far.

“The school brings the written text into contact with the spoken                language, and this contact produces friction.”

 -John Guillory, “Canon”

This quote comes from an anthology of essays about literary criticism that we use for my Intro to Literary Studies class. Guillory’s essay, “Canon”, analyzes the various hypotheses about how the literary canon was formed, as well as the multitude of socioeconomic and historical factors that went into its creation. The aforementioned quote caught me off guard, as I had never considered the way texts and spoken language engage in this malleable point of contention in school. I love his choice of the word ‘friction’ to epitomize this phenomenon. It reminded me of the distaste with which so many of us first confronted the language in Shakespearean plays in high school, as two very distinct forms of speaking — 17th and 21st century lexicons — clashed. Ultimately, my example is an extreme simplification of what he’s trying to say in this section — that schools teach you not only how to read and write, but also how to speak — but regardless, this quote made the cut for notes.

“Museums are a significant antidote to the globalized homogenization that is the byproduct of hyper-capitalism.”

-Robert Janes, “Museums and the End of Materialism”

While Janes’s verbiage may not roll off the tongue in the traditional sense (and take two or three more read-throughs to fully comprehend), this equal parts optimistic and defiant sentence is one of the best I’ve read in my Intro to The Museum course thus far. Janes spends his essay talking about the myriad of ways a museum has the potential to impact society on political, global and environmental levels, not simply within the context of its walls as a ‘cultural institution’. He calls for all museums to recognize this potential and wield it accordingly, to take advantaged of the multitude of forms in which a museum can exist and combat said “globalized homogenization” for the greater good of localities and international relations alike. His piece, while providing few concrete avenues of achieving this realized potential, was an inspiring one, but after some intense deliberation over myriad articulate one-liners, this one took the cake.

“Just as a spectator mimics the actions of the performer, the latter initiates its spectators, reflecting contemporaneous conceptions of what it means to be human.”

-Juliet Koss, “Bauhaus Theater of Human Dolls”

As a performance art history novice and lover of broad conceptual statements, I can safely say that I wrote this in my notebook before I realized what I was doing. This week in my Performance Art in America and Europe course, we’ve been learning about the Bauhaus in Germany during the 1920’s. Essentially, it was a movement that prioritized a unity of artists and craftsmen, of both technical and artistic training in one school of production. Part of this movement was the Bauhaus Theater, a main component of which was the creation of these massive (sometimes bulbous, sometimes more angular, sometimes very difficult to describe) doll costumes that performers wore in various shows and ballets. This quote is, perhaps, a more broad statement about performance art, but in relation to the Bauhaus, it applies tenfold. Also, the word ‘contemporaneous’ is worth noting.

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Schedule Swatch

My brain did a strange thing a few moments ago: amidst its usual ponderings of “What will I have for breakfast?” and “I should be wearing warmer socks right now,” it meandered to a contemplation of where I was and how I was feeling last year at this same time. I don’t have an exact date on my mind, but more of a season of quiet change that started with Intersession and continued through my spring semester. Memories of equal parts carefree frolicking and stressful indecision came rushing back as I settled on a breakfast of peanut butter toast and tea and realized exactly how much had changed.

A year ago today, I was having quite a lovely time being back in Baltimore early. I used the open days to hang out with people whose schedules and mine never matched up during the school year, who I only saw once or twice a week at a club meeting or in class. My spring schedule looked like it was going to be an interesting mixture of creative writing, history and marketing classes that would keep me on my toes. But I was still dealing with a lot of self-doubt: I didn’t mind my major, but I also didn’t love it. It just seemed like the most obvious choice for so many people with my kind of skillset (on paper, at least), and the department’s prestige added a degree of clout that seemed foolish to turn down until I’d given it a thorough try. After two semesters of doing just that — and of doing a great deal of exploration in other areas of interest — I can safely say I’ve finally arrived at what is potentially my favorite schedule yet.

Best Schedule, Worst Color Scheme

Best Schedule, Worst Color Scheme//click-to-enlarge

I hardcore frontloaded my Mondays, but frankly, I’m pretty okay with it. I get to start off the morning with my first ever Official History of Art class here, called Performance Art in America and Europe: 1909 to Present. I can still remember seeing the title in the course catalogue and clicking “Add to Cart” before I even realized what my fickle hand was doing. I’m going to include the full description here, because the wording is fabulous (it includes one of my favorite words, “ephemeral”) and explains it far more concisely than my overexcited brain ever could. Ahem: “This course surveys the development of performance art in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. We will explore the evolution of performance as a medium; the ways performance artists have engaged questions of race, gender, and sexuality; shifting relationships between performance and work in other media; and theories of performance. We will also examine the special challenges that attend the study of ephemeral and time-based art.” I’m coming into this class with little to no background on the subject matter but a scary amount of enthusiasm that I’ll try to keep in check. Sounds about right.

Me, when I literally WAS Performance Art *brushes small speck of dirt off of shoulder*

Me, when I literally WAS Performance Art *brushes small speck of dirt off of shoulder*

After 50 minutes of Spanish and a hot second to grab some lunchtime nourishment, I’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon in this upper-level English class that I’m admittedly a tad bit intimidated by. In Forms of Moral Community: The Contemporary World Novel, we’ll be discussing literary and philosophical imaginations of moral community in the post-WWII period (1950-2001). We’re reading everything from Ian McEwan’s Atonement to Toni Morrison’s Beloved to essays by Simone de Beauvoir and factoring questions like “What does it mean to acknowledge another person’s humanity?” and “How fundamental are moral emotions?” into the mix. There are only about ten of us in the class, so I’m excited to have ample opportunity to sort through these ideas in discussion and to read such a diverse array of classic contemporary literature for homework.

Tuesdays and Thursday are stiff competition to the glory of Mondays and Wednesdays, as well as the open-endedness of Fridays. Introduction to Literary Study is a pre-requisite for the English major, a beginner level class on the basics of critical study of literature. Maybe feeling hyped about that sort of description has me at my peak nerdiness, but frankly, I’ve missed writing analytically about literature for so long. Writing Seminars was an often times fun and interesting foray into the world of fiction and poetry writing, but my AP English Lit loving self is very, very happy to be back in the land of structured essays and critical approaches to literary study. We’re reading Jane Eyre — one of my favorite novels ever — and various other pillars of English literature, and you could say I’m sufficiently geeked about it.

English Lit: Almost as good as having three tacos all to myself on my birthday. This picture has no actual relevance to anything

English Lit: Almost as good as having three tacos all to myself on my birthday. This picture has no actual relevance to anything in this blog, I just needed a photo synonymous with joyfulness

At the well-timed denouement of my alpha schedule is Introduction to Museums: Issues and Ideas, another necessary pre-req, but this time for the Museums & Society minor I plan to pursue after the surreal classroom experience I had during GhostFood last semester. The course focuses on the plethora of external factors affecting the way museums exist today, taking into account not only the ownership of the institution’s contents itself, but also the political and socioeconomic factors surrounding it. Yes, it’s another “beginner level” introductory course, which made me feel like I was late to the game when I first registered for it and ILS. But I’m planning to make this semester my tabula rasa, the term when I’m finally doing what feels as close to what I genuinely love learning as a swatch of classes can get. I’m willing to start from square one and work my way up from there. A year ago today, I wasn’t feeling nearly this sure of myself, of what I wanted out of my education here or of what my actual interests were, despite my attempts to convince myself and others of something different. The anxiety I felt back then has definitely left its mark — hence the weird breakfast time flashback I described at the start of this blog — but as of now, I feel that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing for the first time in quite a while. This feels right.

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Me, giving my past one last look and journeying into my future / my future estate

S/o to Throat Culture Sketch Comedy Group for meme-ing me to perfection

A Major Change

When I first got to Hopkins, I had little to no idea what I really wanted to do. My interests were obviously centered in the humanities, and I loved to write. Beyond this, however, I didn’t have a clear path in mind, and so I chose the major that had my primary focus right in the title: Writing Seminars. I’d wanted to explore creative writing for a while, and the introductory classes that constituted my requirements for the year, along with the diverse distribution requirements (History, Philosophy and English) made it seem like this was the major that would fit perfectly with my main skills and interdisciplinary interests.

As most people will tell you, the jump from freshman to sophomore year is more overwhelming than expected. Major requirements become more specialized (at least for Writing Seminars), living arrangements change completely, and among a plethora of other social and academic factors, there’s a preconceived notion that you should feel totally comfortable slipping back into the Hopkins sphere. Inevitably, the bubble bursts, and for some reason you tend to reevaluate just about every aspect of your “path” here. For me, this came to fruition with my Intro to Fiction class: an entire semester devoted to in-class fiction writing exercises and the presentation of an original 10-15 page short story at the end of the semester. The task seemed daunting at the beginning of the semester, and so it proved to be as the weeks progressed. We were required to read several short stories and analyze them for each class (which was easily my favorite component), but this ultimately constituted a small portion of the classtime. I found myself begrudgingly confronting each new writing exercise, with the presence of my final short story looming over me the entire semester.

I got to go home for Christmas break enviably early, before the official finals cycle even began. I used the time to decompress, but also to address what exactly left me feeling slightly unfulfilled by the term’s end. Most of my other classes fell directly within my true interests: a journalistic writing class and a museum studies class, for example, were easily the highlights of my academic experience at Hopkins thus far. But neither were required for or relevant to the essence of my major. I felt pretty embarrassed about how long it took for me to realize the futility of my current track in relation to what I naturally gravitate towards. After several long conversations with my parents and more than a few long dog walks (my personal favorite mode of contemplation), I came to the conclusion that I simply wasn’t happy being a Writing Seminars major at Hopkins, even with its impressive array of faculty and alumni. I missed analytical writing and the flexibility to take more diverse humanities classes, and unfortunately, it took being semi-miserable in a fiction writing class and an exorbitantly long holiday break for me to reevaluate my direction.

I’m reassured by the fact that plenty of students at Hopkins and all over the country change their majors at least once in their college careers, and luckily for me, English isn’t too far of a jump from Writing Seminars. When I spoke to a friend about making what at first seemed like a badly timed cataclysmic shift, she mentioned that I was fortunate enough to have the epiphany this early on and not first semester senior year: she wasn’t wrong. At this point, I’m glad to be back for Intersession, taking a class on the philosophy of aesthetics (which sounds more pretentious than it is in our discussions, in which a bunch of non-philosophy majors try to strip Plato’s writing down to the very basic building blocks), and trying to reconfigure my courseload for next semester. I feel a newfound sense of control over my life, like I finally took a stand for what truly mattered to me in some climactic faceoff. But I’m just going to embrace it for now, and wait for the sentence “I’m an English major,” to sound more casual than the way it sounds now: weirdly strained and overexcited. We’ll see if that day ever comes.

S/o to Throat Culture Sketch Comedy Group for meme-ing me to perfection

S/o to Throat Culture Sketch Comedy Group for meme-ing me to perfection

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Term-ination

My last post was written from the comforts of my home in Pittsburgh, and due to the blessed/cursed finals schedule I had after Thanksgiving break, I’m now writing this post from — you guessed it — home. Finals week ended much more quickly for me than for almost everyone else I know at Hopkins — JHU_Emily just finished up her last final yesterday, for example — and I got to come home last week. In the end I think it was a blessing, but it’s definitely taken a great deal of processing to feel “done” with fall semester. Rather than emerge from a three hour final triumphantly, tossing my notes into the wind and snapping pencils in half (because this is what people normally do), I calmly emailed a final assignment on a Tuesday morning and went home less than 24 hours later. Not exactly the cathartic mic drop moment I had in mind.

Fall semester was, in a word, weird. As we all know, this word has myriad interpretations and is probably overused to the point of having no real meaning at all, but let’s deconstruct. Coming back for the second go round was something I hyped up in my head — a lot. Freshman fall is an exciting time by nature, but sophomore fall is something entirely different, more of a peaceful reacquaintance than anything else. I quickly grew accustomed to walking across campus again, to seeing friends, to JHMI-ing around when I could and spending long days and nights in Gilman Hall. Still, I came back to school refreshed and ready to settle into my Extremely Cool Room that was All Mine because “apartment living” is available to us regal sophomores at Hopkins. I finally entered Gilman for the first time in three months, and lo and behold, it got its own geotag in my absence, a geotag that makes little to no sense in the general context of Gilman but that I’m fine with nonetheless:

Technology is amazing

Technology is amazing

I had high expectations for this past semester, and on several levels, they were fulfilled. I took some really interesting classes, which you can read about here and here. I pushed myself even further as a writer by taking a journalistic writing class taught by a former New York Magazine editor and didn’t let a Hopkins science class get the best of me after all. I re-engaged with my favorite “extracurricular activities” and my favorite people, and I spent a spooky amount of time eating food in study spaces with JHU_Emily.

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Brody Black Bean Burger, a Diet Coke and a Printed Sweater: A JHU_Emily Midterms Survival Pack

Despite the anticlimactic nature of this semester’s end, I can safely say I’m glad with the way it turned out. The lack of entrance/exit fanfare was, at first, kind of disconcerting, but given the little time I had to really reflect on the term’s trajectory at school, I’m grateful to be back in a place where I can unwind and trace the productivity of the past three months. The Hopkins state of mind, while extremely important in my development as a Real Human Person, often leaves little room for release and reflection, especially in the onset of finals. Mental topics shift from this class to the next to planning a working dinner to trying to calculate potential hours of sleep for the night, and the Pittsburgh bubble, while not being a tropical vacation spot or European metropolis, will do just fine for me to unwind a bit before the next academic season. I’ll be back in about three weeks or so for Intersession Adventures 2k16, but in the meantime, you can find me over here in Pittsburgh, filling out internship and study abroad applications, sending JHU_Girija snapchats of my dog, and making lists like there’s no tomorrow — see you next year!

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Break Withdrawal

I’m currently seated at the kitchen table in my mom’s apartment, smelling fresh coffee brewing and toast toasting and my dog just chilling because she was just outside in the rain, and the wet dog smell is kind of inevitable. I can safely say that I could just stay here, forever, and never go back to Hopkins and be totally happy.

Obviously, that last statement is an exaggeration of its own; I’d likely get pretty sick of the wet dog smell, my back would get stiff from the wooden chair I’m sitting in, and the smell of coffee might eventually nauseate me. Eventually. But with finals season looming overhead and a good deal of work to do before I go back, the whole “staying at home forever” option grows more viable with each glance at my to-do list: Write and submit follow-on piece for Journalism class by Monday. Memorize completed part of Spanish presentation and schedule a time to meet up with the group. Workshop letters for Wednesday. Response paper for Wednesday. Final paper for GhostFood — ??? (the three question marks mean, ‘you still have no idea what you’re writing about, figure that out STAT.’) and the list goes on.

At home, I’m able to sit on the couch for hours and read books I said I’d read three months ago at school, “for pleasure,” as they say. I can open my laptop and, in three days time, make my way through the entirety of “The Great British Baking Show, Season 1” because it’s on Netflix and is quite possibly one of the greatest baking competition shows I’ve ever seen. Granted, I’m one of those people who has been semi-obsessed with the U.K. since pre-K (I know you see what I did there, and I know it’s hilarious), but still, I highly recommend this show. At home, I can get chai tea lattes in huge mugs with my best friend and spill half of the contents on myself before I’ve even had the first sip, and then wander around Rite-Aid for an hour eating a bag of chips I’ve yet to pay for and reading fashion magazines I forget exist at school. At home, I can walk my dog through the park and listen to an absurdly acoustic playlist and not think about my impending Final Exam for Linguistics or Final Presentation for Spanish or Workshop for Intro to Fiction, all of which are taking place on the same day, in four-ish days or so. This is what me pretending like I don’t have responsibilities looks like:

My mom has definitely improved on her iPhone photography skills, and I am so proud

My mom has definitely improved on her iPhone photography skills, and I am so proud.

So maybe things are theoretically easier at home, and in this moment — 9:30 on a Friday morning — I don’t want to go back to school. But I have to keep things in perspective, and so maybe this blog is sort of selfish in that way; it’s what I’m using to re-ground myself in my reality as a Hopkins student, one who plans to study abroad next year and needs to start working on applications soon (like, very soon), one who has a stupid amount of finals happening this coming week (even though it’s not even technically finals week yet) and a spring semester schedule to finalize (because I’m still waitlisted for you, Intro to Poetry, and I still don’t know what to do about that!! You’re a REQUIREMENT.) I’m a Hopkins student who’s looking to intern over the summer in a place that may or may not be home — New York, D.C., I’m looking at you (hopefully). All of these things — and plenty more — require me getting out of this semi-comfortable wooden chair in my mom and I’s breakfast nook and not petting my dog for a little while. I need to do as much work as possible before I get back from break (aka in two days — ah, procrastination) to make the coming days bearable, and I really need to start planning for my responsibilities next semester: see ‘study abroad’, ‘schedule’, and ‘intern’. Home has been lovely, but, despite the beginning sentiment of this blog, Hopkins is where I truly need to be right now. And I think that’s for the best.

 

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At My Own Pace

Scheduling for spring semester is always a nerve wracking ordeal (‘always’ referring to my year of knowledge on the matter), but this time around, it sort of unleashed a spooky side of myself I like to call “Molly Psyching Herself Out and Paralyzing Herself and Making It Impossible To Do Anything Productive For A Few Hours.” I went back and forth between three different iterations of my schedule, ended up being waitlisted for two of the necessities (one of which is actually a requirement for my major) upon registration, and commenced to overthink my entire path at Hopkins before 10am.

I want to go abroad for (hopefully) the entire year next year; this will drastically affect the way I get the credits I need to graduate, to go for an art history minor, and ultimately, to come out of Hopkins knowing that I made the most of the amazing courses and resources it has to offer. Something about scheduling for next semester — theoretically my third-to-last semester here — brought all of these thoughts together in one scary explosion, and the rest of my Friday was spent not being able to focus on, you know, finishing up homework and relaxing like a boss.

In addition, the extra-curricular load has been sort of light this semester. In lieu of a not-so-great spring semester GPA, I decided to devote the majority of my efforts to getting my grades up and keeping them there to ensure that I had the qualifying GPA for my study abroad applications. I still do things outside of homework and breathing, but less of my focus has been on getting an internship and thinking about career prospects and ‘networking’ and all of these kind of terrifying buzzwords that I’m reading in my daily emails from the Career Center. I’m only just feeling like I have time to seek out spring/summer internships, to email people and be like, “Hello! I am a Young Enthusiastic Student with a Passion For Writing and ‘The Arts’! Here Are My Qualifications.” JHU_Ebo and I had a quick, semi-stressed out exchange about this via text, and it was nice to know that someone else — a BME, no less — was kind of sort of feeling the same way.

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I’m not sure what kind of success I’ll have next semester — academically, with internships, or otherwise — but I do know that I’m not the only one who feels the weight of the ‘young college student’ uncertainty, and I probably don’t need to have everything figured out at this stage in the game. It can be all too tempting to look around at some of my other classmates, with their sophomore fall internships or research projects, and assume that I’m the only one feeling unsure about what direction I’m taking here. As evinced by the aforementioned text conversation, I’m definitely not alone in my sentiments, and I also know more about what I want to do than I give myself credit for most of the time. I love to write, to get off campus and explore the arts community in Baltimore, and to talk to people about it/learn as much about it as a non-native Hopkins student could. I’m doing more of that than I realize most of the time, and while I still have a ways to go experience-wise, I’d say I’m off to a pretty okay start. As a parting note, here’s JHU_Ebo again, trying to decide of art imitates life or vice versa.

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Linguistically Yours

Despite the humanities-centric nature of my schedule this semester, I still had to fill a portion of my overall science/math requirements, in the hopes of, you know, graduating.While we don’t have core requirements in the way of specific classes here at Hopkins, we do have them in terms of overall distribution. The science/math related ones fall under the big umbrella of NQE, which stand for Natural Science, Quantitative Science, and Engineering, respectively. Do these titles make me a little nervous? In keeping with the brutal honesty of this blog, I have to say: yes. I took one look at them as a pre-frosh and maybe turned on some pre-Viva La Vida Coldplay and breathed in and out a few times. Now, approximately halfway through my first semester of sophomore year and through my NQE credits, I can safely say that, as a Writing Seminars major with science class stage fright,  tackling the distribution requirements here is a more manageable — and dare I say, interesting — task than I first envisioned, partially thanks to the unexpectedly cool (and very difficult, but again, cool) linguistics class I’m taking right now.

Language and Mind is technically a beginner level linguistics class, cross-listed under both the Cognitive Science and Psychology departments. To save myself from ever having to walk into a lab and mix things in a beaker ever again (too many high school lab catastrophes to mention here), I tend to veer towards these types of NQE’s. In addition to this, and if I’m keeping with the brutally honest theme here, they tend to have some degree of overlap with what I’m learning in my other classes. For example, learning to write well and analyzing good writing both inevitably veer into conversations about human psychology and nuances — nuances in the people being written about, in the ways your own narrative tends to form, and ultimately, in reconciling the two in a well-developed piece of prose, fiction, journalism, etc. Finding this point of intersection (if it exists) and making the most of it often helps to keep me focused on work that, again, while very interesting, also has its moments of intellectual swampiness that I don’t feel like dealing with, but ultimately have to.

But back to Language and Mind. I signed up for the class because of its intriguing yet tame description: “Introductory course dealing with theory, methods, and current research topics in the study of language as a component of the mind. What it is to “know” a language: components of linguistic knowledge (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics) and the course of language acquisition. How linguistic knowledge is put to use: language and the brain and linguistic processing in various domains. This course is restricted to freshmen and sophomores.” Key phrases: introductory course, what it is to ‘know’ a language, restricted to freshmen and sophomores.

The first few classes required mostly reading-based homework and discussion, which was great. A very odd, very obscure part of me really loves to have a gargantuan text in front of me and take lengthy notes (maybe because I love the feeling of pen to paper? will investigate this and update you in future blog posts), and doing so in this class was and still is an integral way for me to fully process the complex range of information we’re learning. However, within approximately two weeks of the first lecture, the professor said the compound word “problem sets” for the first time, and my stomach may or may not have done a poorly-executed somersault. I could easily have keeled over and remained in fetal position (maybe physically, maybe metaphorically, maybe both) at this point, but with hopes of maintaining a strong GPA this semester for study abroad application in the spring and a little bit of “gumption”, I decided to stay in the class and see what was good.

While there have been trying times, I’m glad to say that the decision was a good one. I’ve learned to transcribe English words phonetically, the phonemic knowledge behind the phonetics (aka the psychology behind the way we speak — you guys, there is more than one way that we actually pronounce the letter ‘t’…just gonna leave that there), the morphological structure of words, and, by far the most complex section which we’ve just completed, syntax. Some of my favorite portions of the class have been about linguistic theory, a lot of which is devoted to the fact that newborn babies and young children have this inexplicable aptitude for language acquisition and phoneme distinguishing across languages that older humans just don’t.

The great linguistic minds of the world still haven’t figured out how this phenomenon works or why it exists, but they affectionately refer to it as innate knowledge and The Paradox of Language Acquisition. Children don’t fully learn a language by being taught; rather, they have this subconscious way of figuring certain things out, a “mental grammar” that they can create for themselves based on whatever language(s) they’re learning. That grammar stays with them into adulthood and continuously shapes, but it is in its most malleable and powerful form when they’re in the ‘universal listener’ stage, which ends after the first year of life.

The interesting aspects of the class are definitely counterbalanced by more technical, application based learning that has required a very specific mixture of repetition, good study music, and focus to master. Still, despite my initial fears about said learning, the challenge has been an unexpectedly good test of my work ethic and ability to prioritize, to keep the end goals in mind and not just let my aversion to science-related academics be an excuse for mediocre work. And, like I said way before, there are some genuinely fascinating theories out there about the way we learn language and some genuinely crazy facts about how many layers there are to one word, one phrase, one sentence. As a Writing Sems major who manipulates and analyzes language on a daily basis (and as a low-key logophile), knowing the science behind language gives what I do a new spin as well, a new awareness of the true power of language, as cheesy as that sounds. In sum, Language and Mind has made the distribution requirement feel like less of tedious load and more of a way to keep my education at Hopkins truly well-rounded, in a way that’s simultaneously manageable and meaningful.

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A BaltiMidterms Narration

While I’m by no means a time management expert, I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two about how to navigate midterms season at Hopkins in a way that leaves me feeling (slightly) less frazzled than my freshman fall self. I haven’t yet achieved the perfect balance between the vigorously studious moments and the Fun Times with Friends, but thus far, this year’s stretch of midterms has gone markedly better, due in part to the routine I’ve slowly but surely adopted over the past year. It’s got a little bit of everything: some Baltimore goodness, some Gilman, and maybe some mid-2000’s R&B/hip-hop.

It’s Saturday morning. I wake up at approximately 7:30 am, because I, much like my dear homie JHU_Emily, kind of like being up early in the morning. I shower,  put on some attire, and look outside. The sun is streaming through the windows of my apartment, and I realize that going to Gilman today will probably make me kind of sad; I want to frolic in the sunshine, breathe the Balti air, and surround myself with the unpredictable mass of humans who exist outside of the Hopkins bubble. It’s Saturday. However, I still have work to do. There’s no getting around that. It’s a Saturday during midterms season, and I may or may not have a behemoth of a linguistics midterm coming just round the bend.

I put the essential study materials in my backpack, put on my playlist inexplicably entitled “hop-scotch” that starts with this song, and catch the 9 o’clock JHMI. I’m going to Red Emma’s in Station North, because I can comfortably sprawl out my work and maybe my limbs across one of its square tables and also get some “grub.” Here is the cheesy snapchat my friend took of me as I contemplated my workload/stomach’s needs:

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and here is the really bad panorama I tried and failed to subtly take of my surroundings for the sake of this blog:

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Maybe getting off campus to study sounds like a time-consuming/pointless/didImentiontimeconsuming endeavor. Maybe it is in certain situations, but it’s become a necessity for me during some of the most stressful parts of a typical Hopkins semester. We obviously have myriad study spots on campus, which you can get sufficient glimpses of in the H-I blogs or in various admissions pamphlets. Still, I’ve found that staying exclusively on campus to study can be more conducive to psyching me out than it is to approaching academic rigor with a sense of capability. All of a sudden, school becomes the end-all be-all, and my mind goes like this: There is no life after Hopkins, Hopkins is the final countdown, my hopes and dreams will be unattainable if these tests don’t go well for me, is there even a world outside of this big marble sign?

For the sake of maintaining my sanity in a place where the work load often feels insurmountable and campus sometimes gets a bit all-consuming, taking a free ten-minute shuttle ride to a different type of microcosm is rarely a bad idea. Older people and younger people and in-between people I don’t know sip their coffee and do their respective “thing”, and they’ve probably taken their fair share of stressful weeks as well. I look up from my work to creepily watch them for a moment and gain some perspective. I then continue to do my “thing”, i.e. tackle the day’s academic tasks, ideally whilst nestled at a table by the window overlooking W. North Ave.

*Transition to several hours and a JHMI ride home and a quick dinner later*

With a good portion of my weekend homework out of the way, I decide to spend the evening from 9pm onwards not thinking about passive transformations and syntax in linguistics or Jacques Ranciere’s dense (but very interesting) prose. I manage to catch a few gallery openings with the artist formerly known as JHU_Joseph and dance to the sounds of the sixties at The Crown, a Baltimore favorite for almost any kind of performance just down North Charles Street. Here is what all of that looks like:

Amanda Horowitz, I <3 My Emergency

Amanda Horowitz, I <3 My Emergency

JHU_Ebo and JHU_Grace, taking a chill pill mid-dance party

JHU_Ebo and JHU_Grace, taking a chill pill mid-dance party

*Approximately 8 hours of sleeping later*

Today is not quite as nice as the day and night before, and that’s okay. I’m in Gilman, and I look something like this:

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Today is for confronting the terrifying underbelly of my linguistics homework, starting to write a 15-page short story that will be read by everyone in my fiction class, and tackling some hefty portions of Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics. It’s for some coffee and a little bit of calming piano music, which will later change to a playlist comprised entirely of my and JHU_Emily’s tried and true pump-up jams, because I still haven’t finished my linguistics homework, and I need Drake to reassure me that I’m fully capable of doing so.

a glimpse

a glimpse

Today is the flow portion of the midterms “ebb and flow.” It requires a good bit of concentration and a reliable set of playlists to fit the 5 stages of focus I go through over the course of my work day. There are many days like this at Hopkins, and not just during midterms season. Still, I manage to make it through the wilderness with some iteration of what I wrote about here. It’s a delicate balance that I’m only just starting to adopt as my own, but that I’m hoping will keep me grounded in the months to come.

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