Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 21, 2024

A how-to guide on surviving and enjoying Hopkins

By NICHOLAS DEPAUL | September 13, 2012

Four years later and Baltimore is still dripping, relishing the last throes of summer. Officially, I am a senior in college. That title has been a long time coming. I arrived as a freshman eager to plunge in to Hop’s high-level academics and Bmore’s flourishing music scene, and plunge I did. I took courses across disciplines, created my own major, and worked my way through the ranks to become the head of the campus radio station, WJHU. It is a great feeling, to be sure, but I find I am already beset by nostalgia; how few faces I recognize, how little time is left!

I doubt I will meet, or at least establish close relations with, many members of the class of 2016. My life is full of activities and work and planning for a hazy future and I fear making new friends and attending large-scale social events are low on my priority list. In this light, I felt I should take advantage of this soap box and offer some suggestions and advice to the newest members of the Blue Jay party (no joke, this is what a group of Blue Jays is called). I do not pretend to hold some authority position, but I have had a wonderful and enriching experience at this usually great university, and hope that all of my younger peers will feel the same when it’s all said and done.

Take control of your life: You’ve arrived! Are you hungry? Eat. Are you tired? Sleep. Is your room covered in dirty clothes? Do your frickin’ laundry. Your schedule is your own: choose the classes you like at the times you want, stay up late, hang with friends, crush work in the library for 12 hours straight. Your schedule is NOT your parents’. Do not under any circumstances let them dictate your life. If your mom wants you to be a doctor and has been bragging to your uncles for years that you will be, but you actually enjoyed your Spanish or Urban Planning class the most, find the strength to follow your own path. They will appreciate your decision in the long run.

Engage in a variety of academic and cultural experiences: one of my favorite courses from my years at Hopkins was the intro astrophysics course with Prof. Riess. It was the only course I took that had anything to do with the subject, but it has stayed with me and given me a new perspective on the universe we live in (it gets deep). I have concentrations in fiction writing, environmental science and political science, and have taken courses in history, business, philosophy and sustainable engineering among others. This term, I’m enrolled in Graphic Design 1 at MICA, the art college down Howard St. (equal to RISD in the eyes of the art world). Don’t get stuck in your major. The next four years are your only chance to go to college. Take advantage of all the resources Hopkins has to offer, even if that means digging a bit deeper than the average student.

Push for what you want: Hopkins can seem very stuffy and traditionalist at times. It has a “create your own” major program, yet does not advertise it and puts many roadblocks in interested students’ paths. It takes the registrar’s office ages to do anything. If you need something done, don’t sit idly by. Go talk to someone, face to face, and watch them sign your form or enter your transfer credits.

Go abroad: I can’t stress this one enough. I conducted ecological research in Brazil for a semester during junior year and it was the time of my life. If I could do it again, I’d go the fall of both my sophomore and junior years, to two different destinations. Look into unexpected places that are hard to travel in alone. Above all else, don’t choose an academically rigorous semester abroad; you will regret it. Don’t you want to watch dolphins all day and drink beer at wild beach BBQs all night instead of writing papers? I know I did.

Don’t worry, be happy: If your workload is crushing your soul, drop a class. “But then I won’t get accepted to (insert profession here) school and then I won’t get a good job and then I’ll never find love and die alone in the gutter!!” you might say. Please, you are at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. You are set up for success like few others. Don’t waste this privilege being depressed and lonely. Grab it by the horns and ride this bird into the sunset.

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