“You are like a ball of constant stress.”
I remember this line spoken to me during the beginning of my freshman year. At the time, I was still a Peabody Institute voice student, and I was in one of my earliest studio lessons. While nervously singing an art song learned hastily the night before, my legs kept shaking and my head could not keep still. Noting my incessant movement, my professor finally stopped me and spoke this unforgettable line. I know this statement may sound somewhat harsh, but it has to be one of the most accurate statements said to me. It defines who I am.
I am a perpetual worrier. If there is something to be stressed about, trust me, I have already been stressed for weeks. I am far from being a proponent of change. I like to stick to the things I already know.
I think this is why I’ve dealt with constant homesickness throughout my time at Hopkins.
During my freshman year, I often dreamed of going back to Toronto. Coming to a different city was quite scary for me and easing into the music school routine was way more difficult than I had anticipated. Despite being surrounded by other nervous freshmen, I felt an unbearable sense of loneliness and ached to return to the comfort of my childhood home. Luckily, my loneliness was short-lived as we were all abruptly sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At first, I was excited to be home. I embraced the quarantine lifestyle, happily doing Zoom workout sessions and binge-watching an outrageous number of Netflix shows.
Afterwards, I enthusiastically ate my mother’s home cooked meals and whipped up the puffiest dalgona iced coffees.
However, as eager as I was to return home, I quickly became just as eager to leave. Who would have thought that being cooped up in your childhood home for over a year would make you suddenly miss communal bathrooms and cafeteria food?
When I returned to Baltimore for my junior year, this time, I felt beyond prepared to be out on my own. I had secured an apartment at the coveted Village Lofts, found a roommate with whom I had instantly connected and was ready to stop seeing my parents on an almost-hourly basis.
But, to my surprise, returning to school was not the magic “fit” I was hoping for. Taking organic chemistry and physics simultaneously took a major toll on my mental health. This, combined with my transferring to a different campus (as I was no longer a Peabody student), made me realize that I lacked a solid support system to deal with this stress.
Once again, I fell into a pit of loneliness. I missed home. I missed being able to drive wherever and whenever I wanted, from early morning Starbucks drive-throughs to late-night bubble tea runs. I missed squeezing my constantly-angry cat whenever I was feeling upset and having my fluffy dog get jealous and frantically try to steal my attention away. I missed so much of my life at home; I missed Toronto.
I understand that this all may sound super sad and depressing, but what Sophia a year ago had yet to realize was how much her life would change in the span of one year.
In this past year, I have both accomplished and experienced so much more than I could have ever imagined.
I explored my passions in education, spending last summer working for the Community Impact Internships Program to coordinate a tuition-free Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program for low-income students in Baltimore City. I was elected the co-president of the Women’s Pre-Health Leadership Society, a club I first joined during my freshman year when I had no clue if I could ever be pre-med. Lastly, I was one of the magazine editors for The News-Letter, when, just two years ago, I was terrified to have anyone read anything I wrote.
More so than any tangible achievement, I have made so many amazing memories here. I played hide-and-seek in Krieger Hall at midnight, literally almost losing two of my friends while doing so. I rallied hard at Power Plant Live! and bar-hopped at Federal Hill, finding my one true love: green tea shots. I held several charcuterie board nights and learned to perfect the art of the “charc” board while oversharing a bit too much over glasses of wine. I tried hotpot for the first time, and it has since become a biweekly must for me to consume an ungodly amount of tender beef dunked in “tom yum soup” broth.
Cliché as it is, I have honestly made some of my closest friends here at Hopkins and have shared so many incredible moments with them that I will cherish forever.
Looking back, it’s so funny to me that I was so homesick and desperate to go back to Toronto, as I feel the complete opposite now.
I am already grieving my time here, quietly choking back tears whenever anyone mentions graduation to me. As excited as I am to begin my true “adulting” life, I still feel like that young freshman who could barely wake up for her 8 a.m. theory classes at Peabody. I also still feel like that sophomore who was excited but nervous to speak up in her Zoom breakout rooms. Last but not least, I still feel like that junior who couldn't find her way to Gilman Hall for her first in-person class post-COVID-19.
What I am trying to say is that, in a wild twist of fate, I am already beginning to feel homesick for Hopkins. I wish I could go back in time to tell Sophia one, two or even three years ago that she will be just fine, but I can’t. Although I know the future is quite scary, I am sure that Sophia one year from now — or maybe even 10 — would tell me that it will all be okay. Wherever I end up, I will make that place my new home. I am so thankful to have had Hopkins as my home, even if it was cut a bit short.