Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 23, 2024

The butterfly effect: Friendships made at Hopkins

By MICHELLE LIMPE | May 27, 2023



Limpe reflects on the friendships she has made at Hopkins and the uncertainty of the future.

I wish I was cynical about goodbyes. No matter how many times I’ve had to close a chapter and let go, nostalgia and sentimentality always get the best of me. As I lament the end of not just my Hopkins career but the time spent with my friends, I’ve always envied those who are able to rationalize goodbyes and move on, though I know this graduation is going to hit differently for all of us.

“Do you think we’ll all be friends in four years after we graduate?”

This is a question that one of my friends has been asking our group since freshman year. Usually, we’ve always taken it in a light-hearted manner, immediately reacting in a collective groan with some telling him to “shut up.” But now, that four-year mark is here.

This last semester at Hopkins has made me feel wistful in a way that I’ve never felt before. Every day, I’ve felt like I was desperately trying to cling onto and make the most of every single moment, not wanting to let any opportunity to hang out with others slip by while also balancing the many responsibilities I had this year. 

At first, I wondered why this end seemed different. I’ve had to say some tearful goodbye before — at the end of high school, summer camps and even to my family. But then I realized that this is the first goodbye where I genuinely do not know when I will see some of my friends again. In high school, we’ve always had a home base. Whether it would be in a few months or during the next summer, I knew I would get to see my closest friends somehow because we were all bound to go back home at some point to see our families. With all of my college friends coming from different parts of the U.S. and now pursuing careers in various industries across the country, the next time we will all be together again remains a mystery. 

Looking back at the friend groups I’ve made here, I always marvel at how they came to be and how fortunate I’ve been to find people who click so well, care so deeply for one another, protect one another and truly motivate each other to succeed. Even if we all come from diverse backgrounds and have different responsibilities and goals, we always try to prioritize our friendships as much as possible — even if that means squeezing in a random 30-minute interval to surprise each other for our birthdays or spending hours planning out the logistics of a trip to ensure that we can all be there. 

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how these friend groups formed. 

Of course, some friendships were made more intentionally. For example, before freshman year, I messaged a random girl asking to be roommates, and since then, we’ve been good friends and have remained roommates up to our last year at Hopkins, bonding over our love for Taylor Swift’s songs and staying up for late night album releases. Some friends I sought out by joining a sorority, dance group and other clubs, where I met others who have common interests and experiences.

Some of my other friend groups that have solidified over the past years were initially formed purely by chance through the butterfly effect. If one of my friends had decided not to go to an orientation activity or if I had decided not to go to a party during that first freshman week or if I had roomed with someone else, my Hopkins experience may have been drastically different following a different series of events. 

The friends I made through PILOT, for example, are especially a testament to the butterfly effect. In fact, I often say that I would not have found this group if I hadn’t joined The News-Letter. Completing my sophomore year halfway around the world from Hopkins was a very isolating experience, and I would not have gotten through it if not for the paper and my Organic Chemistry tutor group. Long story short, I originally had a different PILOT group but needed to switch groups because the initial meeting time conflicted with another meeting I had for the paper as a News and Features Editor. 

Such a seemingly small change, but thank God I had to make that switch. For some reason, the people in that group brought the companionship and laughter I was missing during the COVID-19 year, and those weekly Zoom meetings spent struggling over Organic Chemistry problem sets became one of the highlights of my year. Soon, the group began to hang out outside of our PILOT meetings, even Zooming me in to join the conversation since I was not in Baltimore. When I finally returned to campus for my junior year, they were the first people to welcome me back, and our shared experiences and friendships continued to develop through Biochemistry class, beach trips, parties and random late-night hangouts and rant sessions.

While many of the best memories with my friend groups were made on trips (such as to New York, Quakertown, Philadelphia, Shenandoah, Mexico, the Bahamas) and other Hopkins events (we will never forget the great saga of Spring Fair 2022 before the “Meek virus” hit us all), I will miss the mundane and everyday hangouts the most. When will we be able to spontaneously go on weekly adventures or late-night walks again? When will we ever get to live a 10-minute walk (or 30-minute Blue Jay Shuttle ride) away from each other’s apartments? 

Maybe these friend groups did form through chance and convenience, but they were strengthened by our mutual support, care and love for one another. Our bonds have persisted through all the frustrations, inside jokes, laughs and joys of college. Even though we may not know what the future holds for our friendship or when we will all reunite once we cross that stage on Homewood Field, I trust that the butterfly effect will bring our paths to meet again. I will always be grateful to have shared this slice of my life with the friends I’ve made here, and I can’t wait to see all the success that the future undeniably holds for everyone. 

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