A Couple of Moments…

It’s hard to believe that midterms have already begun and we’re about a week away from spring break. As I procrastinate on studying for my exams this Friday and next Monday, enjoy some GIF-worthy moments of these past few weeks:


On the night of the blizzard a few weeks ago, my friend Jill and I trek back to our dorms after hanging out at a friend’s apartment. Don’t fall Jill!


Piper Kerman, prison reform activist, writer of Orange is the New Black, which the Netflix series is based off of, came to speak at Hopkins as a part of the Foreign Affairs Symposium (FAS) this spring! I wasn’t able to get a video — but FAS also Skyped in Edward Snowden for a virtual discussion a week later, and that was pretty incredible.


Enjoying a sirloin panino at Carma’s Cafe, a popular eatery just a block away from campus, as a study break. A much needed change of pace from dining hall food.


A picturesque Gilman Hall on a snow day this semester. There’s nothing much better.


My buddies Frank and Andrew join me for an excursion to Hampden for fresh fades at Old Bank Barbers and dinner at Grano Pasta Bar. The walk to Hampden from campus takes only about 20 minutes, especially when you cut around back of Mason Hall on the south end of Homewood.


A great view of Baltimore from the rooftop of the Telephone Building, an apartment building near campus. The weather’s been super nice recently, and when the wind calms down, you get nights like these.


Ah, the first game of KanJam on the Beach this spring. Spring at Hopkins is the best because the weather gets so much nicer, the campus looks green again, and of course -Spring Fair and Homecoming. I enjoy three things above all else: 1) nice weather, 2) good food, 3) live music. And we got all three.


And of course, my favorite round, marble table in Gilman Atrium, gettin’ some good study time in. Sometimes, I think that if I write my poetry assignment here, at the center for humanities, it’ll turn out better.


I’ve been happy.

I’m satisfying my urge to create.

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 IIIntroduction to ProbabilityData Visualization for Individualized HealthGlobal 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.



Coming Home

In an attempt to make my break a little more productive, I went to the public library to borrow some books (on big data and data-driven decision making, but that’s not the point).

When I was getting my library card renewed, the librarian asked me if my “home” address was still the same and I had to pause and think about which one she was talking about.

Later, I asked my mom whether I should buy a train ticket for Wednesday or if she could drive me back “home”, to Baltimore. And then I realized —

The little suburbs of North Wilmington don’t feel very much like home anymore. This is what it’s like:

There’s the cozy coffeeshop on Marsh and Silverside, but I only just discovered it recently. There’s my go-to burrito place in the same shopping center, but I haven’t eaten there enough to be a regular. There’s the movie theater I’ve gone to for as long as I can remember, but I was surprised to learn they installed new recliner seats.

The people I went to high school with are all off doing their own thing. My little cousins seem so much older than when I last saw them a couple of months ago. Once both my older sister and I moved out, my younger sister claimed territory in all three rooms – so now I kind of just wander between the three to figure out where I’m sleeping for the night.

So I suppose every not-kid-almost-adult has to have that moment where “home” becomes “my parents’ home”. A friend of mine mentioned it a couple of days ago:

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It’s a little sad to accept the fact that the place where I grew up doesn’t feel the same anymore. That some old friendships have been reduced to catching up over coffee and lunch. That calling it home feels strangely wrong. But it just means that I have a new home, one that feels so important to me that calling somewhere else home feels like I’m betraying something. JHU_Genevieve articulated this feeling of home better than I ever could.

And I’m ready to go home. At my parents’ place, I am fed extraordinarily well, I get to lounge in the living room for hours at a time, I started playing piano again and began to read a book just because. But there’s a lot more waiting for me, and it’s not here. I think I’m having a delayed freshman-moving-to-college feeling. I feel like I’m finally leaving. Wilmington will become a comforting reminder of my growing up, of my family, and Baltimore will be my home. For spring break, I won’t be coming back, I’ll be chasing the aurora borealis with my friends in Iceland, finally and really going abroad. In the summer, I’ll be in Baltimore, or if not I’ll be somewhere else, maybe D.C. or New York. And for the rest of my time at Hopkins, I’ll come back to Delaware, always for the holidays, and maybe for a wedding, or a birthday, but then like clockwork I’ll return home, to Baltimore.

Me and My Degree: A Noteworthy Friendship

At some point in an undergraduate’s life, one realizes that he or she must try and schedule out what classes must be taken (and when) in order to, you know, get a degree. This is somewhat of an important task, seeing as graduating would be a good thing to do — so I used this rationale to map out my next two and half years (…) when I should have been listening in lecture (they post the lecture recordings online after class, don’t worry). As an applied math and public health double major, navigating degree requirements across two schools can be kind of confusing, but not very hard at all. One could even describe the activity as “fun”, maybe — I get nerdy and excited when I see all the cool classes I still have to take and what interesting courses are offered next semester. Everyone always talks about how “easy” it is to double major and how “flexible” distribution requirements are – and going through my degree shows just that.

To start, I looked at my major requirements, for applied math first, then public health afterwards. Then, I looked at my distribution and writing requirements. The easiest way I have found to visualize a degree is through the e-catalog. Here, specifically for applied math, every single class that one needs to take to get a degree in AMS is located in a simple guide. The degree is split up very easily into 9 distinct parts.

  1. Calculus
  2. Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
  3. Computing
  4. Discrete Mathematics
  5. Probability and Statistics
  6. Optimization
  7. Area of Focus
  8. Quantitative Studies
  9. Natural Sciences (for B.S. degree)

First off, all applied math majors are required to complete the calculus sequence, consisting of Calculus I, Calculus II, and Calculus III (or Honors Multivariable Calculus). Luckily, I came in to college with AP credits for Calculus AB and BC, so I dove right into Calculus III during my freshman fall and was done with this degree requirement by the end of my first semester!

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Next, there are two ways to fulfill the Linear Algebra and Differential Equations part of the AMS degree. You can either A, take a course in linear algebra and a course in differential equations, or B, take 550.291, Linear Algebra and Differential Equations, also known as LADE, and then an additional linear algebra/differential equations focused course. I chose option A, and took 110.201 (Linear Algebra) last spring, and am taking 110.302 (Differential Equations and Applications) this semester, finishing this requirement in only a couple more weeks!

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For the third part of the degree, an AMS major must take at least one computing course, there being many options that can fulfill this requirement. As someone who had absolutely zero experience doing any sort of coding or programming before I got to Hopkins, I took 250.205 (Introduction to Computing) last semester and loved the course. The specific class runs through the very basics of computing, from using a command-line interface to learning Python and MATLAB. The class itself helped me a lot this semester as well, as my optimization class uses a lot of MATLAB and algorithm language, and learning R for my biostatistics lab was a lot easier because I knew a language beforehand. That being said, I easily finished up this requirement by the end of my freshman year.

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To fulfill the discrete mathematics portion of the degree, I took 550.171 my freshman fall and absolutely loved it as well. It was such a new way for me to look at math, and it gave me great experience with proof-writing as well as an introduction to graph theory, which has become a really interesting topic currently in my optimization class. Yet again, I finished this requirement by the end of my first semester.

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Next up is the probability and statistics requirement. I still have to take both of these classes, and I have heard from numerous people that these are pretty tough courses in the applied math department. Luckily for me, I planned out my schedules during these semesters to make sure that I don’t have crazy tough semesters all while also taking these 400-level AMS classes.

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The sixth requirement is optimization – and from the amount of times I’ve mentioned how much I love this class – you already know that I am taking this class right now, and will be finished with this requirement by the end of this semester.

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And because of this class, I have decided to do my area of focus in Optimization and Operations Research, the other focus options being Probability and Statistics, Scientific Computing, Discrete Mathematics, and Financial Mathematics.

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I decided that I’m going to take 550.362 next semester, because it continues off of what we learn in the class I’m in right now, and maybe also 550.400 because it will hopefully be taught by Beryl Castello, who instructs Discrete Mathematics and is also my advisor in the AMS department!

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The last two parts of the degree are pretty straightforward. Basically, you need to have taken 40 “Q” credits and 12 “N” credits (if you want a B.S.) by the time you graduate. Using the Degree Audit function found on our registration website, I found that I won’t need to go out of my way to complete these requirements – I actually finished part 9 before even coming to Hopkins just from AP science credits!

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Next up, we have to look at the requirements for public health. With my AP credits, I am already done with the calculus requirement and the biology requirement, so all that’s left in this section is the four classes, 280.335, 280.340, 280.345, and 280.350. Having already taken Fundamentals of Health Policy & Management last semester and taking Public Health Biostatistics this semester, I just need to take The Environment and Your Health and Fundamentals of Epidemiology to finish this section.

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I fulfilled my introductory social science requirements by taking Invitation to Anthropology and Introduction to Social Psychology last year. I also am taking Elements of Macroeconomics this semester and am planning on taking Elements of Microeconomics next semester, so that would also count towards this requirement. I will merely choose the classes that I do the best in to count towards my PHS GPA 🙂

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Then, all that’s left to do is take one of the social/behavioral public health courses (I’m in between Sociology of Health and Illness and Cultural Factor of Public Health), take three more 200-400 level PHS courses, and take my 10 credits at Bloomberg during my senior year. Lastly, I plan on tackling my applied experience during a summer internship or other public health related experience.

And finally, we have reached the distribution requirements. Because my primary major will be applied math, I need only fulfill the distribution/writing requirements for engineering students:

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After this semester, I would have already fulfilled my humanities/social science 18-credit requirement through the public health major, and only need 14 more engineering/quantitative science/natural science credits through my own major and with AP credits. Engineering students also need to take 6 writing intensive credits, and having already fulfilled 3 credits through my expository writing course freshman fall, I only need 3 more writing intensive credits. And that’s it. That’s my entire double major and all of its requirements.

To summarize, and because I am sucker for organized visual displays, here is a color-coded schematic of my undergraduate career.

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What is that — I can graduate a semester early? Yes, it is indeed possible. As you can see as well, there’s not much left for me to finish my majors – this puts me at ease, but also scares me a little. A part of me is excited that I am closer and closer to being able to use everything I learn in college in the quote unquote, real world, while another part of me remembers that I still don’t really have a good idea of what kind of work I want to do exactly, and questions whether or not I will even be ready for that reality. I trust that everything about my life will somehow magically work out, and even in the case that it does not, I still have this sick color-coded spreadsheet I can show off.