Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 16, 2024

Four years at Hopkins

By ZAL EKINCI | May 21, 2024

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COURTESY OF ZAL EKINCI

Ekinci reflects on his highs and lows of his time at Hopkins.

Before going into the nitty gritty of my time at Hopkins, I just want to say that I’m grateful for both the hard and good times I’ve had here. These experiences are what have shaped me into the man I am today. I came to Hopkins as a teenager right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I leave a full grown adult ready to swim through the challenges of life. 

Freshman year was by far the hardest year for me. One would think that, coming in as a freshman, you’d be having a lot of fun, getting to meet new people and experiencing independence. That wasn’t the case for the Class of 2024. We were the COVID-19 freshmen, and most, if not all of us, were confined to our computer screens for nearly the entirety of the year. 

Keeping up with classes was certainly hard as I was learning from pre-recorded, YouTube lectures and slides for the most part, but the most challenging aspect was socializing. When I moved from Turkey to the U.S., a majority of my social circle was left behind. Of course, we still get to hang out every summer; however, in the U.S., I had to build up a new social circle, and the pandemic certainly did not help. 

Like all hardships, though, Zoom University also came to an end near the middle of my sophomore year, and I found myself freed from the chains of dorm-room confinement. While I had a lot of fun times during the lockdown as well, such as the launch of the University’s Minecraft club, for me, the true fun started when I took my first real step on Homewood Campus.

The chaos of college life embraced me from sophomore year onwards. Running to classes and making it on time for meetings were just the tip of the iceberg, though. Getting to meet the people I talked with online, eating from the restaurants I had heard so much about and sitting on the Beach were the best parts of sophomore year. That summer, I had one of my favorite and toughest experiences: my internship at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Though it pushed me to my limits with the steep learning curve and fascinating projects, that internship also introduced me to some of the best people at Hopkins, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.

My most fun time at Hopkins was my summer study abroad experience in Japan after my junior year. I even got to visit the Tokyo Imperial Palace and meet with Princess Akiko of Mikasa. I had the privilege of having dinner with her alongside my host family at the Imperial Palace. Getting to expand my worldview and connect with peers across the entire world who had come to learn Japanese was an amazing experience. I’m longing to return to Japan in the future to meet up with my host family who helped me acclimate to a new culture.

COURTESY OF ZAL EKINCI

Senior year was certainly an adventure with a lot of ups and downs. I finally didn’t have as many classes as I did during junior and sophomore year, but, this time, I was battling a different beast altogether: What path did I want to take after graduating? I came to a crossroads, torn between walking down the path of higher education or throwing myself at corporate America. I believe that I’ve made the right decision, and, thanks to my experience at Hopkins, I’m ready for what’s to come. 

Now, as a graduating senior, my time at Hopkins is ending, and I’m proud and honored to say that I am a Blue Jay. From this point on, I’ll stride forward to even better memories, wearing my badge as a Blue Jay with honor.

Zal Ekinci is from Montville, N.J. and is graduating with a degree in Biology and Chemistry.

Editor’s Note, 2024; A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Zal Ekinci’s name.The News-Letter regrets this error.


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