Despite the fact that I’m still waiting for one more final grade in one of my classes, this past semester is essentially all wrapped up. It seems like every semester that goes by is shorter and shorter, and this fall semester was no exception. Academically, this will probably be my best semester with the exception of freshman fall. Personally, I did a lot of growing and spent good chunks of time reflecting and thinking ahead to the future. I would call that a success. But I didn’t do it all myself! I got some help along the way:
Eddie’s Market and the friendly staff. Thank you to the man who always makes my breakfast sandwiches and the woman at checkout who always gets super happy when I bring my own reusable bag in. Also, just thank you to whoever decided you get a free coffee with a purchase of an Eddie’s breakfast sandwich. One of the best deals in Charles Village. Even when Towson Hot Bagels opens up, I will always stay faithful.
My applied math wifey, Simi, for the cumulative time we’ve spent working on applied math assignments these past 2.5 years and especially this past semester. Thank you for calling me when I don’t understand a concept, digging through lines of code with me to find errors (usually something dumb), and not getting mad when I laugh at your funny looking plots. Although your time in AMS has come to an end, I will be asking you tons of questions about stat next semester!!
My fellow music appreciators, Aaron and Danny. I am thankful for our lil cosmic latte, and for Solange, and 22, A Million, and Topaz Jones, and Blonde. Thank you for always wanting to listen to Nightride and throwing on “Player” anytime you have the aux. You both will always be fantastic additions to any Facebook livestream I ever have, even when we’re not en route to Shake Shack. We will loyally await the next seasons of Insecure and Westworld together.
Low acid coffee from Carma’s, with room. Thank you, best $2 I ever spend in the mornings, for the 1) warmth and 2) caffeine. You are the best companion to walk into Brody or to class with. And although my mom got me French press for Christmas so that I will stop spending my money on coffee, I will always remember you, and on some mornings, I will splurge on you.
Any meal I’ve shared with someone this semester. Thank you Woo, for bringing me boba that one time and wanting to get late night milkshakes with me from Papermoon even though they changed their hours. Thank you Frank, for encouraging me to always make mac and cheese even when its 1 in the morning. Thank you Aaron and Josh for dropping bills with me post-date party to feast on short ribs and pork belly at Joung Kak. Thank you Andrew, for always being down to cook dinner, even in the midst of finals. Thank you Adrian, for the countless dinners and endless hummus.
My housemates: Wade, Simon, Aaron, Tom, and Frank, for letting me decompress in your rooms after a long day. For always being down to chill on any given weeknight, even when you have something to do early the next morning. For letting me steal your ibuprofen, cereal, and articles of clothing. And for being truly for the boys, and joining me again on the quest for a new homestead next year (RIP).
Baltimore. For The Bun Shop and Artifact Coffee, when I don’t feel like studying on campus. For Dooby’s and TenTen, for the best comfort food a boy can get for dinner on a weeknight. For Old Bank and Beatnik and Floyd’s, for fresh cuts and the courage to get me down to a 0-guard fade. For the half marathon itself, the accompanying training, and the race day cheers from the locals. And for Taharka Brothers ice cream, for any and every occasion.
For one of my classes, Environment & Society, our “final” was to investigate an environmental problem of our choice, write up a paper about it, and also incorporate some sort of creative presentation or display that would help people make realistic choices about the issue at hand.
Last week, we presented our creative projects in class and I was wowed by what everyone had to share! My peers wrote plays about fracking, wrote and illustrated childrens’ books about fish protesting the construction of a nearby industrial complex, developed board games that showed players the trade-offs between environmental and economic costs, and made apps that helped you save orangutans. It was awesome.
For my project, I wanted to investigate our current food system and how it has created problems of food insecurity and environmental degradation. For the creative component, I vlogged my experience living on only $15 over the course of three days, only able to buy food from a different source each day: a convenience store, a grocery store, and a farmers market.
I learned a lot from the experience — that being food insecure is exhausting, and that the conventional food system is something that needs to be changed if we want to create a sustainable future for all.
Take a look at my experience and learn what you can do to be an advocate for food sustainability and food justice!
film a short documentary about food deserts and swamps (… eventually! This is for my term project in one of my classes this semester.)
filled out a week-long food diary to discuss food waste
This last one was for one of my classes this semester, The Environment and Your Health. The intended takeaway from the assignment was for me to become more cognizant of my own personal food waste. And I did! But I also realized that I am just weirdly fascinated by learning what people eat. This makes sense, because I lovewritingaboutfood and almost all of my YouTube recommendations are cooking or those “what I eat in a day” videos. So, similar to this food diary assignment, I decided to take note of what I ate in the last 5 days. Let’s see if there’s anything interesting about my eating and cooking habits.
I know I’m just about out of groceries when I have to buy breakfast. I try to always eat breakfast at home to save money, plus it also encourages me to wake up earlier. But, on this day I think I was running late for work, and plus I had no more breakfast food, so I bought a breakfast sandwich from Eddie’s Market, which is a small grocery store just a block away from my house. They have this great deal where you get a free coffee with the purchase of a breakfast sandwich. I was sold.
I usually eat pretty light for breakfast, so I wasn’t super hungry for lunch before my class at 1:30. I grabbed a pre-made pasta salad and a yogurt from Levering, and ate it right before class started. Quick and dirty.
For dinner, 3/6 of the guys in my house had a treat-yo-self Friday and we made ourselves some steaks. Some roasted potatoes and steamed green beans on the side and we were food coma KO’d for the rest of the evening.
Saturday – 10.29.16:
Breakfast: everything bagel + hummus + coffee
Lunch: turkey/havarti/tomato/arugula panini
Dinner: butternut squash soup
Again, still no groceries, so I got a bagel with hummus and a coffee from Brody Cafe and was working on a group project on Saturday morning. After a bit of struggling, our MATLAB code finally worked (@JHU_Emily was a witness!) We tried to interpret our output but got stuck so we decided to call it a day.
Immediately after, I went to Trader Joe’s in Towson to stock up on groceries finally and made myself a panini when I got back home. I tried out my housemate’s George Foreman panini press for the first time and it was a complete sandwich-game-changer.
For dinner later, I heated up some leftover butternut squash soup I had from earlier in the week, and got into costume for Halloween festivities. My friends and I went as, you guessed it, Trader Joe’s workers. Low effort, maximum wow factor.
I slept in, so I made myself a nice, sizeable brunch with all of my new groceries. My group needed to continue working on our project, so I packed myself some snacks for the library and made a pit-stop at Carma’s Cafe for literally the best cold brew coffee in the Charles Village area.
Back at home, I made myself another George Foreman panini before hanging out my friend’s place for a small potluck gathering. I baked some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, she made some homemade sushi, and another friend brought some pita and hummus. We feasted.
Monday – 10.31.16:
Breakfast: granola bar + grapes
Lunch: pumpkin soup + bread
Dinner: sausage + potatoes + green beans
I realized that running late to things in the morning was becoming a pattern, so I decided to load up on granola bars and portable breakfasts at Trader Joe’s. This morning, I tried out one of their bars and it’s pretty darn good! They’re the Trader Joe’s Raises the Bar ones, if anyone really cares. I ate a side of grapes at work, while @JHU_Genevieve and I worked on designing some pages of this year’s Insider’s Guide!
I didn’t pack lunch and I needed to find food that I could eat while doing some last-minute review of material for a quiz I was taking that afternoon. I settled on some pumpkin soup and fresh baked bread from Levering and chose a seat at the bar in Levering Lounge, one of my new favorite study spots.
For dinner, I needed to whip up something quick in order to get to a meeting. In under 30 minutes, I had myself some delicious chicken sausage, a side of potatoes, and some green beans! The sausage is again, from Trader Joe’s, and I swear to you — it’s the best chicken sausage on this entire planet. It’s their Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage and it’s delicious sweet and savory and maple-y — ugh, they’re amazing.
Tuesday – 11/1/16:
Breakfast: coffee + free doughnut
Lunch: yogurt + granola
Dinner: soba noodle stir-fry
And today! This morning was rough and I needed to treat myself to a coffee from Brody. I saw that a student organization was handing out free doughnuts outside on Tyler Terrace, so I snagged one and settled on a seat in the library to knock out some work. A bit later, I got hungry again, so I ate some yogurt with granola I packed for myself that morning. I had actually packed it for breakfast, but the free doughnut changed the status quo.
During classes, I snacked on an apple while ironically, learning about pesticide use. By around 5, I was about ready to make dinner, and so I whipped up my go-to soba noodle stir-fry, pictured here:
made a purchase for 1/3 of my meals
visited on-campus dining options 5 times: twice at Brody Cafe, and three times at Levering
65% of my meals were vegetarian
drank coffee 4 out of the 5 days
enjoyed free food 3 times
In conclusion, it is indeed possible to cook for oneself the majority of the time, especially living off-campus with access to real, big-people kitchens. I find that I enjoy my meals so much more when I make them myself. Cooking is also a great stress-reliever for me, and I always try my hardest to carve out 1-1.5 hours for dinner on most nights. Plus, it’s always fun to cook and eat with people, like I did with my housemates and my friends at the potluck!
However, eating on-campus is inevitable just because it’s convenient and pretty good! As a junior, I don’t have a meal plan, so I frequent Brody Cafe, for coffee and snacks and Levering Food Court, for lots of quick lunch options. Other common on-campus dining options for me are Levering Cafe and Bamboo Cafe.
Eating more vegetarian meals was kind of an unofficial goal of mine; I’ve been trying to explore different types of proteins, both animal and non-animal, and plus eating less meat is, besides having fantastic health benefits, cheaper! Eating less meat also reduces my carbon footprint, so that’s always good, too!
Honestly, coffee is a very important part of my morning ritual nowadays. I think I should start making my own coffee though to save money, because it does add up… but speaking of saving money, it’s great when you’re a college student because there’s so much free food on and around our campus.
Bad days are inevitable. Here’s what I do when they happen:
Stop doing work. I won’t be productive, and I won’t feel any happier when I’m doing it.
Down a bowl of pho. Or ramen, depending on the day. Choose your comfort food. Then eat it.
Watch an episode of The Office. Fire drill episode highly recommended.
Listen to Blonde. Poolside convo ’bout this really bad day that’s almost over soon.
Take a walk. Or a run. Depending on your energy level.
Take a nap. They help.
FaceTime a friend.
Get a mani/pedi. I’ve never done this, but four of my (male) friends did this. They said it was dope.
Grab a scoop of Mint Mountain. Current favorite flavor from the Charmery. Speaking from personal experience, this is a cure-all.
Clear my desktop. Highly satisfying.
Edit photos. This might be a very Quan-specific favorite pastime.
Play Catan. I haven’t played a game of Catan since the summer, and I could really go for one right now.
Clean my living space. Clear space, clear mind? People say that, right?
Plan a trip. #SB2K17 must live up to #SB2K16.
Watch cooking videos. Or just binge-watch @emmymadeinjapan taste snacks from around the world.
Find new music. There’s a lot of new albums I still need to listen to. Perfect time to go through them!
Cook a meal for myself. Once I finish watching cooking videos, I usually feel the need to attempt something in the kitchen for myself.
Watch some stand-up. I am not a big stand-up guy, but recently my friends have been showing me some fantastic HBO specials. I highly recommend Sarah Silverman and Louis C.K.
Take a long shower. To date, two of my housemates have vouched for showering in the dark? Is that weird? I might have to try it.
Leave if needed. Sometimes, you just need to leave campus. True story.
I think everyone reaches a point in the semester where everything just piles up: school, clubs, life in general. Fall Break seems to come at the perfect time — right when everyone just about needs it. Including me.
When it’s this time of year, the campus is buzzing with talk of summer plans, semesters abroad, internships, and job placements. And all of the talk had me feeling way too introspective and I remembered that I’m through 4/7 semesters here at Hopkins, meaning that I’m roughly 57% done college. During Spring Fair, I asked one of my friends who’s a senior:
“Have you done everything you’ve wanted to do at Hopkins? What’s left?”
That got me thinking — I’ve covered a lot in my first 57%. I’ve learned about the world through numbers and data and functions and models. I’ve read countless papers about health policy and epidemiological surveillance data. I’ve written poems and short stories, forming narratives I never thought I had the creative capacity for. I’ve designed graphics upon graphics for way too many clubs than I can handle. I’ve found myself in one of the most close-knit group of friends I could ever ask for. I’ve gotten my hands dirty with some research, and an internship (or two, hopefully). I’ve learned about the real world — the history, the injustices, the changes we need. I’ve eaten my weight in UniMini steak, egg, and cheese hoagies, Brody Cafe veggie burgers, and Alkimia banana bread.
I feel things ending and changing.
I look at the courses I need to take to graduate — there’s not many more. Two more classes for AMS, four more Homewood classes for PHS. I remember that I won’t see some of my friends going abroad until junior spring — for some, not until senior year. I think about the clubs and organizations that I’m in — how soon enough, I’ll be the oldest, the most experienced. It’s scary to me to think that in about a year, none of my fraternity brothers will be ones that I knew before joining myself.
But there’s still more. In these next two years, I’ll hit more milestones. This summer, I’m moving into a house on St. Paul with five of my best friends. By senior year, I’ll be taking classes at Bloomberg to finish up my public health major. Hopefully, I’ll have spent one summer interning somewhere on the West Coast. I’ll have two more Spring Fairs, two more homecoming games, two more opportunities to welcome the incoming freshmen classes. I’ll have some sort of plan for life after college. And when I graduate I’m going to take the most savage picture jumping on the Gilman Seal.
I’ve been trying to find a way to reconcile my love for three things: data, health, and art — and for the longest time I’ve had trouble splitting my time, efforts, and energy between the three. Am I a data scientist? A public health enthusiast? A lover of music and graphic designer?
Where should I spend the most of my time? Learning Python or comparing contraceptive prevalence among different regions in India? Working on my design projects or finishing my Introduction to Probability problem set? Contemplating figurative language for Fiction/Poetry Writing I or deciphering the demographics of a country from a population pyramid?
But I finally feel like I’m getting it. Like I finally found out the secret of my universe without even knowing it. And I’ve decided that I don’t have to choose between the three, and that sometimes I can be all three at the same time.
This realization probably spurred from two things: my public health class on data visualization, and my recent involvement with a clinical scheduling research team.
In Data Visualization for Individualized Health, we’re coding both functional and visually pleasing (the two best kind of descriptions in the world) web applications for use in the field of precision medicine. For this week, my class was split into groups and tasked with building a Shiny app that reads in data on a health indicator of our choice, and displays and “individualizes” that information. I registered for the course because I knew it could combine my love for data and public health — I love the idea of looking at public health through a data-driven or statistical perspective. However, I wasn’t aware of truly, the art behind these data visualizations. Our readings talk a lot about principles of art and graphic design, laying out ways to make displays clear, informative, and aesthetically pleasing. I’m practically salivating.
Just yesterday, I had my first meeting with a research team I just received the opportunity to join. Starting within the applied mathematics & statistics department as a branching off of the baseball scheduling group, the team uses optimization techniques to schedule jobs to clinicians in ways that are most beneficial and efficient for the clinic. Currently, my role in the team is to learn Django (whose tagline is “The web framework for perfectionists with deadlines” which describes me terrifyingly well) to develop a friendly graphical user interface for our clinic scheduling tool. Here it is again: an intersection of data, health, and design. I think I could cry.
In other news, I’m really digging this semester. My classes are really stretching my brain out: I’m doing a lot more coding (with new languages), a lot more writing (including my first ever collection of poems and short fiction as well as my first college research paper), and a lot more problem set solving than I have ever before, but indeed, the grind is good.
I’ve been finding it harder and harder to make time to really create something during the semester. Other than designing graphics for various student activities, and my pseudo-hobby of curating Spotify and Soundcloud playlists, I’ve unfairly pushed my creative side away recently. So first off, I’ve decided to take on a yearlong project: film 1 second of every day of the year, and at the end of 2016, piece together a 366-second documentary of everything that happened in the last 12 months for my own personal enjoyment.
I’ve started playing piano again. Listening to some contemporary works have inspired me to explore a part of piano repertoire I haven’t ever before in my 11 years of playing. Right now, I’ve been working on this piece by Ludovico Einaudi (arguably his most famous piece), and also just messing around with a radio-hit medley composed of “Sorry”, “Hands to Myself”, and “Hotline Bling”.
I’m excited for my classes this semester.
I’m taking 17 credits: Intro to Optimization II, Introduction to Probability, Data Visualization for Individualized Health, Global Health Principles and Practices, and Fiction Poetry Writing I.
“Opti II” is the second part of the optimization class I raved about last semester, and it’s taught by Dr. Fishkind again, which I’m really excited about. “Prob” is a required AMS class, and I hear it’s tough, but that the topics covered are really interesting. “Data Viz” is a class basically about what I want to do with my life – combining data/statistics with healthcare – and it’s a miracle I got in, considering I was 12th on the waitlist for what was originally a 12-person class. “Global Health” (I’m still working on a good abbreviation) is supposed to be one of the best public health offered at Hopkins, and “IFP” will help with the whole needing-a-creative-outlet thing.
Spring semester is one of my favorite times of the year.
Besides classes, springtime at Hopkins is just the best. First of all, the warmer weather will already make life better (but I’m not complaining about this blizzard giving us two snow days at the start of the semester). I’m going to Iceland over spring break in a group of 7 guys, which will be, to be quite frank, absolutely heinous. Then there’s homecoming weekend, and Spring Fair. Plus, a lot of grilling with my fraternity brothers, Beach lounging in the afternoons, and overall more happy-sighing.
Being productive has increased my sense of comfort.
My future housemates and I are in the process of signing a lease for our house next year. Mainly, it’s nice to know that I won’t be homeless next year. But better yet, I’m going to be living in a great house, with the greatest friends, with old-people responsibilities like paying bills and making sure the lawn is mowed. The last part probably won’t be fun, but right now it’s just exciting to feel like an adult.
And I’ve applied to different summer internships, crossing my fingers that someone will find me employable. I’ve also been in the midst of applications and interviews for a couple different part-time opportunities on campus to make some extra money and save up for that Iceland trip!
We just got 30 inches of snow, and it’s melting into that brown, slushy mess in the streets. I’m about to have my toughest semester workload wise since coming to Hopkins. I’ve been spending way too much money on food. I didn’t get to travel over break. I didn’t really do anything exciting at all over Intersession. But I’ve been enjoying the sense of normality that comes with being at Hopkins. I’ve been happy.
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