Category Archives: Perspectives


jhucampus            “What is your passion in life?” A svelte researcher from Berlin, Germany, posed this daunting question to me the day I went in the Vision and Cognition lab for a brief meeting. He was a man of elegance who radiated a sense of sage and intellect. You could already notice this ambient aura from the way he presented himself in his choice of outfit (a velvet grey striped suit with a black turtleneck) and his gesticulations as he talked (smooth motion of the hand with purposeful accents). At once eccentric and graceful, I found his vibe very interesting. I was curious as to what thoughts his mind harbored, what values he upheld, and what his background comprised of. He was a man of color with a European upbringing with the passion to study the human experience of color to complement his likening of painting. Indeed, a sentence fails to encapsulate the extraordinarily dense character of the man. But, what I can express that such a multidimensional persona was so electrifying that I focused my efforts on working with him rather than for the research topic itself.


As a research assistant at Hopkins, there are various roles that one can play in the research process. The responsibilities can range from menial tasks like categorizing video tapes into boxes to complex jobs like computing programing algorithms of data from hundreds of participants. More often than not, the research assistant position entails helping the researcher expedite the research process by setting up experimental tasks, conducting the tests, or researching about the topic of interest. Admittedly, it is difficult to sum in one sentence the entire scope of the all the possible roles of research assistants among and within departments. But, mostly, it is to assist the researcher attain their objective in their respective research.


With the work that I am doing with my researcher, however, the tables are turned. Instead of selfishly imposing his visions of his projects on me, my researcher has constantly sought for my input in his experimental questions, incessantly suggested possible works that I can pursue in the future that relate to my passion, and relentlessly challenged me to construct my own opinions around complex issues. Although we haven been researching about a topic so closely integrated in the visual system – how we see color – he has encouraged me to find ways to draw connections of the subject matter to the interests that I gravitate towards. We have gabbed on for hours about how our sensory modalities can converge to create color vision whilst hearing music. Topics like these that engage both the informative research subjects as well as my intrinsic amusement are hard to come by in a day to day conversation with friends or professors. My talks with my researcher has motivated me to think of innovative artistic ways to musically and visually stimulate the mind in ways that can affect the emotional state of students here at Hopkins.


I have been extremely lucky to have someone who can provide the scaffolding of intellectual instruction to me out of volition. The chances that I get to meet someone who is willing to see the growth of my intellect and help me create my own brainchild are very infinitesimal. I can not wait to see how my passions will strengthen or change throughout the next couple of months spent with my researcher.


The moment he asked me the question about passion, my mind halted to an absolute stop. I did not know where to start and if anything, I didn’t even have a starting point. I ended up fishing for empty words that could fill the awkward gap. The gut feeling I felt at this moment is so vividly ingrained my memory, because it magnified the lack of clarity I have in my mission here at Hopkins. It was the much needed slap in the face for me to not only localizes which arenas my interest lies in but also search for practical steps that I can take to bring me closer to the fore of my passion. My researcher concluded today’s meeting with a commonly said but beautifully hopeful remark that reinforces the optimism that the society needs more of, “The sky is the limit.”


Attitude of Gratitude

     With 2015 rapidly winding down, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what we have been thankful for this year. Upon stumbling on an inspiring TED Talk video, it has dawned on me that happiness is not what makes us feel grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. 

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     The thing about gratitude is that true gratitude does not arise from simply having something but having the opportunity to do something with what we have. If we change our paradigm to be grateful of the opportunities given to us, we can live gratefully, for every missed opportunities leads us to another, different opportunity.

paris-terror-attacks-aftermath     In the wake of the attacks in Paris during the past weeks, it is, indeed, a challenge to feel grateful for the disturbingly uncomfortable predicaments that transpire in our daily lives. Be it violence, bereavement, unfaithfulness, oppression, etc. Surely, it’s not easy to find joy in all aspects of life. However, once we rise to the occasion and respond appropriately to the opportunity given to us, feeling gratitude is possible. Being given the opportunity to learn how to be patient after an argument with a friend. Being given the opportunity to reflect on humanity and figuring out ways to ameliorate social ills after an event like terrorist attack on Paris and better the status quo. Being given the opportunity to stand up for your conviction amidst a conflicting situation. In my case (for this year’s thanksgiving), being given the opportunity to reunite with my whole family on the day of my grandmother’s funeral. Certainly, when we are confronted with a difficult situation, it can tear us into pieces. But, finding the gift in such sufferings is what gives taste and color to our visceral human experiences.

For all the people I thank

For all the people I thank

     Experiencing the loss of a loved one, especially during college, is tough. Don’t get me wrong, grief devours boxes of tissues spent on tears, dried eyes, and an over-actively running nose. But, one thing that I’ve come to understand is that Thanksgiving is a poignant but heartening time to mourn and honor those you have lost. Its the perfect time to be thankful for being given the opportunity to be living the life as someone’s granddaughter, daughter, sister, and friend. I’m thankful for being given the opportunity to find those I can truly rely on at the hardest of times, here, in college. I’m thankful for being given the opportunity to bond with my friends on a deeper level.I’m thankful for being given the opportunity to experience and grow from the sufferings during such a fragile time at a safe haven with my friends at Hopkins.

So, I learned to stop and look. And give thanks.



They say, ‘you’ are simply a looking glass self – that is, our concept of ‘self’ emerges from our ability to assume the point of view of others and thereby imagine how they see us. We get a sense of who we are by how we react to the responses of others and the society.

Walking out of my first Introduction to Sociology class with this newly learned thought in mind, I stopped to reflect on how the interactions and people that I’ve encountered so far have made a difference in my concept of my “self” – which part of me stayed the same, which changed? 

My Room/Suite-mates:

“Hey, nice to meet you, Sarah. I’m also Sarah. We’re roommates.”

Sarah and Sarah


Cohabiting a room with a completely random stranger is rather a vulnerable experience and can often be fairly a hit or miss. It really takes the right partnership to allow honesty and comfort to reign. Suffice to say, my roommate and I had the same first middle/last name (a pleasant surprise!). What we did not realise at the moment of our awkward first greeting was the myriad of commonalities that we shared, other than our name: our obsessive-planning-personality, familial values, and our admiration of – or perhaps obsession with – Beyoncé (shoutout to Indira). Somewhere in between our first Facebook chats and the almost-daily Flatbread lunch meets at CharMar, a mutual affinity blossomed. What could’ve been just friendly acquaintances at best, my suite mates and roommate became a source of safe haven. With them, the strange became familiar. With them, ‘home’ wasn’t 4 walls. ‘Home’ was, simply, being with them.  

Inner Harbour Adventure

516AB at Inner Harbour

Our RA:

“Edmond to the rescue.”

The word “eccentric” does not do the description of my Residence Advisor justice. He is beyond erudite and insistent on the bonding of the floormates in Wolman. From late night horror movie runs to free cupcake sharing, our floormates have garnered numerous, unforgettable memories together within the span of a couple of weeks, sympathising with one another about upcoming tests, putting our heads together to solve inscrutable Physics problems while bringing our hearts together for heart-to-heart conversations, feasting on heaps of shrimp chips, all thanks to the efforts of our awesome RA, Edmond. When and if anything unexpected happens (i.e.when you lock yourself out of your own room, or your roommate has stomach cramps at midnight), he is always there for us. 

Wolman 5 West

Wolman 5 West Floormates

With the first few weeks of Hopkins under my belt, I’ve already encountered a plethora of incredibly talented people. But, regardless of how many people I’ve met, my college experience thus far has been defined by how much of the people I met. At a place like Hopkins, where the invitation to aspire and achieve is ubiquitous, the interactions we have with people can offer a significant edge. All of us are trying to find ourselves, in one way or another. And in that journey to find ourselves, discover ourselves, empower ourselves, we may get lost in our trajectory, stumbling into uncharted territories that make us feel uncomfortable – even afraid. But, while the struggle is there, the communal kinships we create at Hopkins ultimately enhance and add on to the many factors that sculpt and outline our subjective experience. 

Spending time here has revealed how interconnected our individual fates actually are – a point often missed in the anonymity of the daily grind. Amidst the bustling chaos,  it is soothing to think that all of us are constituents and active creators of the social fabric of Hopkins that, in return, shapes the individuals we are and will become. This reciprocity is what makes forming Hop-kinships special and valuable here at JHU. And for being given that opportunity to be here, at Hopkins, and to meet the people I met and will meet, I am forever grateful.