Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
November 28, 2023

Finding your place at Hopkins

By ZACHARY BAHAR | August 30, 2023



Bahar advises new students on creating and managing friendships at Hopkins.

“Welcome to Hopkins! We’re glad you’re here!”

Over the next few weeks, you will hear variations of these words more times than you can count. You will be inundated with invitations to the new world in which you find yourself. Maybe Hopkins feels wholly foreign to you or maybe it feels natural. In either case, you will need time to explore it and find your place. I urge you to savor this time.

My own experience arriving at Hopkins was a whirlwind of excitement and energy. The August days were long. The sunlight, which shone through the windows of Wolman 521 and woke me at 6:30 a.m. (even though I was often out until midnight), was incredibly hot, but there was always so much to do. I was constantly rushing from one orientation event to the next with my First-Year Mentor group, hanging out in the AMR II social lounge with my friends, meeting new people and seeing new things.

Everything was exciting and everything was new. I let myself get swept into this wave and loved it, but it didn’t immediately bring me the community I needed.

By the end of that week, I made new friends and felt confident that the coming year would be successful. It absolutely was, but as the excitement of those first weeks dissipated I slowly realized that there were faults in the “perfect friendships” I had formed in those first few days. 

In the rush of the moment, I didn’t pay attention to my own needs. 

I’m grateful for those friends and am proud of myself for discovering Hopkins beyond them.

I hope you find meaningful and lasting friendships beginning during Orientation Week, but also know that your relationships will change and evolve in the first semester and this can hurt if you ignore yourself.

Recognize what personal needs a relationship satisfies

Spontaneous friendships are incredible — I met one of my best friends while looking through the math section of Barnes & Noble during orientation and have loved taking classes and nerding out about math, science, and religion with him — but not all relationships satisfy the same needs. Be mindful of what people and spaces fulfill your physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs, and seek them out.

Be attentive to your own needs

These needs and what people can fulfill them will change, but that doesn’t mean that the time you’ve spent with a group of people or in a particular club was worthless. It just means that you have grown and changed, hopefully for the better.

Don’t burden yourself with past expectations

We all enter college with expectations, whether they be about classes, friendships, clubs or anything else. Having expectations is good (they guide our actions, help determine what’s worth prioritizing and can prevent bad situations) — binding yourself to past expectations is not. If you hold onto the past, you’ll miss out on the incredible opportunities and joys that surround you in the present. So much of your Hopkins experience is what you will make of it. Don’t mourn what could have been, savor what is.

Believe in yourself and your own strength

It hurts to admit that a relationship isn’t meeting your needs. It hurts more to take a leap of faith and search for new friendships and communities, not knowing if you’ll find what you’re looking for. Be honest and trust yourself. Hopefully, with each leap you’ll feel more confident and be surrounded by even better people. And if you fail, you’ll have the strength to stand up.

Explore your options

You have four years at Hopkins to explore the wide array of communities and spaces that exist in and around the Homewood campus. Take this opportunity to try things out and see what fits. You might be surprised by what you fall in love with.

The first year of college is exciting and hard. Recognize this fact and trust the process.

As for myself, let’s roll back to August 22 of 2021. The first orientation event I attended was a Bagel Brunch hosted by Hopkins Hillel to welcome Jewish students to campus. I didn’t know it at the time, but some of the people I met at that breakfast would become my future roommates and closest friends at Hopkins. It took time for me to feel a part of the Hillel community, but it did happen.

Take the time you need — you have it. Find the friends that stimulate you — they are here. Immerse yourself in the communities that nourish you — you’ll find them.

Welcome to Hopkins! We’re glad you’re here.

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