Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 26, 2023

How to find yourself in college

By ZACHARY BAHAR | September 1, 2022



Bahar necessitates the importance of experiencing college with an open mindset.

Walking into my Wolman Hall suite last year, I felt secure in what the coming year would bring. I spent the summer talking to peers on Instagram and Discord, chose my roommate, built a four-year plan and knew what clubs I would join. I was even getting dinner with my soon-to-be best friends that night!

Swept into the whirlwind of Orientation, everything felt right. I rushed from dinner to hangouts in the AMR II game room, from Homewood Field to the Glass Pavilion to Hampden. Each day brought new opportunities, new people and new excitement.

As the storm settled, something felt off. People who talked for months about how amazing Hopkins was started thinking about transferring and online friendships didn’t materialize. As days turned to weeks, the perfect place Hopkins promised to be didn’t appear.

Hopkins was never my dream school. I applied last minute after my mom mentioned it and was shocked when I was accepted. When I visited Baltimore on a rainy day in March 2021, I intuitively knew I was in the right place. Despite my semi-random path to Hopkins, I still entered that dorm with high hopes — hopes which simultaneously came true and let me down.

As my first semester unfolded, I acted on my hopes, but nothing was exactly as I imagined. Friendships I imagined lasting a lifetime vanished in weeks; people I knew let me down.

I spent countless hours wondering why these friendships weren’t like those with my friends back home, why I couldn’t connect with people and what I was doing wrong. I was hurt and scared in an environment that, despite my best efforts, I didn’t — couldn’t — understand. I was surrounded by people who interested and excited me, but I didn’t feel interested, excited or valued.

In this daze, I walked to a third-floor room of Shaffer Hall and left two hours later feeling elated. After months of telling myself I wouldn’t, I had gone to Hopkins Quiz Bowl.

I did Quiz Bowl in high school, but I knew that the Hopkins team would be too competitive, too elitist, too much. I was wrong. Schaffer 303 was precisely the room I needed to find.

My fears didn’t vanish that day, but they abided. After months I began finding the right people. I spent more time at Quiz Bowl, in Hillel, building friendships and redefining the word. These friendships aren’t the same as the ones I shared with my best friends at home, but they don’t have to be.

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