As the end of August drew near, I began to spot more and more cars filled with boxes and suitcases parked outside the AMRs and CharMar. After a semester and a summer of online everything — whether it be a class, movie watch party or an internship — seeing people walking around on campus was surreal. Watching the bright-eyed freshmen move their bedding, pillows and other school supplies out of their parents’ car trunks, I was reminded of how I arrived at Hopkins three years ago.
As an international student, I took a 14-hour flight from Incheon, South Korea and arrived at Dulles International Airport. Carrying three suitcases, I took a taxi to Baltimore. When I finally got off at the Hopkins sign right across from Wolman, my freshman-year dorm, I saw other students move their boxes in trolley carts with their parents. Watching a student’s mom open the door for her son to walk through the door with his cart of things, I felt a strange feeling. It was subtle — a tang of longing. I was fine when I waved goodbye to my parents before boarding the plane, but I suddenly wished to have my parents by my side too, to hold the door open for me and help me pull my luggage.
It was a fleeting emotion. When I struggled to get the door, one of the parents was quick to help me with a kind smile and perhaps a sympathetic look, as if they knew what I had felt a moment before. But I was fine by the time I was on the elevator, and I forgot about the feeling of something missing by the time I was unpacking in my 6W dorm room.
This brief emotion is what I was reminded of on the morning of August 15, 2021 as I crossed N. Charles Street.
Then, a new thought took its place. It was the day my sister was coming to school. I was glad to be able to pick my freshman sister up from the same airport I arrived at three years ago. When my sister said she was going to apply to Hopkins, I was thrilled but didn’t say much because I was afraid I might influence her decision. When she got accepted, I was more excited than when I was accepted back in 2018. Now, I was happy that I would be there to help my sister when she arrived at Hopkins.
I also remembered how one of my freshman suitemates had an older sister who was a junior at Hopkins. Her sister was there for her when she went through a rough breakup, when she was hungry or when she simply needed family support. While my parents did nothing short of sending me all of their love and support from across the ocean — 7,000 miles away — I sometimes did want to be able to lean on my family or have the comfort of knowing that they were a few hours away should I need them.
Freshman year is probably the most difficult year in college. There is an overwhelming amount of newness — new bed, new food, new friends, new classes, new professors and more. And if it’s your first time being abroad? It’s a whole new layer of new.
When I went to the airport on August 15, I was waiting on the other side for the first time. My sister moved into her dorm with a member of the family (me!) there to help her that day.
Elizabeth Im is a senior from Seoul, Korea studying Cognitive Science. Her column, (Im)possible Ways, hopes to present new perspectives in life to its readers. She reflects on ideas that are sometimes deemed impractical or even impossible and argues how they may be the very thing we need today.