Everybody tells you when you’re a freshman that college is a time to explore, try new things and discover who you really are. Everybody tells you to talk to everyone you meet during O-Week, explore every major at Hopkins and sign up for the thousands of clubs that are at the Student Involvement Fair.
Nobody tells you that when you’re a senior.
Senior year can often be like this: You’ve declared your major ages ago, took all of your core courses, and specialized with all the upper-levels and research you’ve completed.
You’ve mapped out what the next few years will be like (if not the next few decades), whether you’re applying for jobs or going to graduate school. You’ve hung out with the same people for the past three years and you’re not going to let go of them in the fourth.
And that club you joined freshman year? That’s your life now. Everything’s set in stone, and you better be happy with it.
But here’s the key word: can. Because even if you’re an old fogey like me who came when Mrs. Gladys was still around and hand-foot-and-mouth-disease wasn’t, there are still new things that you can do and discover.
Broadening your horizons and exploring what Hopkins has to offer isn’t something that ends with O-Week, and for many, it becomes a defining part of the rest of their Hopkins experience.
Let’s take languages as an example. I’ve already taken Heritage Chinese courses my freshman and sophomore years. It was something I knew I was going to take when coming to Hopkins. Like many Chinese kids who grew up in the U.S., my knowledge of the Chinese language wasn’t fully developed. I reasoned that I might as well take the opportunity that Hopkins offers for people like me.
I sought this opportunity out and my parents encouraged it. Overall, it was a great time. I even decided to study in Shanghai for a summer in order to take my Chinese learning to the next level.
This year, however, I decided to try something completely different: Korean. Like Chinese, Korean was also a language I wanted to study for a long time, albeit for totally different reasons (ahem K-pop). But often, I simply assumed that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to take Korean at Hopkins, and that I would just take night courses in Korean after I graduate.
But I realized that the truth was the opposite — after college, you’re going to be busy with work and (eventually) family.
Where would learning a new language fit into your crowded adult schedule? Where would you even find night courses? Here at Hopkins, taking Korean was simply a matter of clicking the right buttons on SIS.
While registering for the course was trivial, it’s still not easy to go out of your comfort zone.
I was afraid of telling my parents about taking Korea. My mom never had much enthusiasm about my interest in Korean culture (it’s gotten better. Now her biggest concern is the fact that my Korean class is 9 a.m. every weekday, a valid concern when your son is a night owl).
But I didn’t just fight with my parents. I also had to fight with myself.
Is this something I really see myself doing? Am I really doing this?
Oh dear, I thought during my first day of class. I’m going to be a senior, my first class is Korean and it’s going to be a room full of freshmen. I’m going to be so out of place!
But despite those thoughts, I made my way to the Korean classroom, where I sat down right by the back wall.
The professor stood up and told us to introduce ourselves. We said our names and years, and as I expected, most people in the room were freshmen.
Contrary to my expectations, though, there were a few seniors scattered through the room.
I felt better knowing that there were people in the same situation I was in. I wonder how they felt, trying out a new thing that fourth and final year.
College is a journey, and no matter whether this is your first year or fourth, you can always take that road less travelled.
So what are you waiting for? Learn that language you’ve always wanted to learn!
Take that class and explore a new field! Never danced? Never did journalism? Never played chess? Go join that club! Go on that study abroad voyage! Start that business venture! Find new love!
People have said that the best time to start something was yesterday.
And the next best time to start? Today.