<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Tue, 24 May 2022 01:18:05 -0400 Tue, 24 May 2022 01:18:05 -0400 SNworks CEO 2022 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[Pursuing the intersection of science and the humanities]]> Growing up, I got the impression that people expected me to eventually choose between studying the humanities and science. However, I've always felt an equally strong affinity for both. Even in my undergraduate days, which are coming to a close now, I decided to major in both Writing Seminars and Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), because I couldn't imagine not having either discipline as a part of my life.

Unfortunately, my majors are valued very differently in society. When talking to family friends or relatives, my performance in math and science were always praised, while my performance in English or other humanities classes were often made incidental. But The Writing Seminars department was the main draw of Hopkins for me when I was deciding which college to attend.

In high school, creative writing was one of my favorite hobbies, but I never had a chance to formally study it. Once I got here, my Writing Seminars classes quickly became the highlights of my week. Part of it was just the difference in class size. The introductory MCB classes are so large that it can sometimes be hard to feel like part of a community. Writing Seminars classes are very intimate and tight knit by nature because of the small number of students and the discussions on fiction and poetry, which are highly personal.

But I do love science and human health, and I found that I flourished best where I could find niches that intersected the humanities and health. One of my best friends, an Anthropology and MCB major, and I joked that we were "STEManitarians" - not only science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) students but humanitarians too.

There are a surprising number of places where the humanities and science cross paths at Hopkins if you go looking for them. Some of my favorite classes have been in the Medicine, Science, and the Humanities department. I took a book club over Intersession during my freshman year, where we read The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and it remains one of my favorite experiences here. History of Medicine is another class that I recommend to broaden your view of medicine today. The News-Letter, especially, has been a place to relish just how integral writing and communicating are to science and medicine.

The United States is in the midst of a scientific communication crisis. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that science can feel exclusionary if you don't know the lingo.

I recently presented some of my research at the DREAMS Spring 2022 conference. I found that where I thought I could start explaining my research was never where I actually had to begin. Instead, I always had to take a few steps back to give the necessary background to make my work accessible to a general audience.

The way we talk about science as a society needs work, as well as the baseline level of science we teach in our school systems. I see my pursuit of the humanities as critical to being a scientific communicator, not only because studying the humanities makes me a better writer and thinker, but also because the humanities, specifically creative writing, keep me focused on the language I use to communicate.

I've recently made concrete something I've always known at some level. I want writing to be part of my career. There is a tradition of physician-writers: Nawal El Saadawi, Abraham Verghese, Anton Chekhov, Michael Crichton and Khaled Hosseini among others. I want to follow in their footsteps, but to be honest, I've always worried that I wouldn't be able to make time to write during medical school. In The Writing Seminars, we talk about your "writing practice": how often you write and how you do it when you do it. My writing practice is still very sporadic: in bursts, often spurred by deadlines. But by talking to my friends and professors, I'm slowly figuring out strategies to change that so I can keep being a writer.

Graduation feels unexpectedly abrupt to me -- like I've turned the last page of a book without realizing I've hit the Acknowledgements section already. I'm ready to be done, but I'm also acutely aware of all the opportunities I've missed alongside the ones I've taken. Saying I'm a work in progress feels horribly cheesy and cliche, but it's true that I'm still figuring out who I am and what kind of writer I am and can be. It's a process that will probably never end, and I wouldn't want it to anyway.

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COURTESY OF MEGHANA RAVI

Ravi discusses how her love for science and creative writing have intertwined to shape her experiences and goals.

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<![CDATA[Letter to my freshman self]]> Dear freshman self,

You made it. As cliche as that may sound, I know that wasn't something you could have easily imagined, especially after your first semester. You are graduating today and are about to begin a new, exciting chapter of your life. These past four years have flown by faster than you could have imagined, and it has definitely been a learning experience. I'm going to do my best to share what I wish I had known when I was in your place.

First of all, there's no reason to spend so much time in the Brody Learning Commons or Milton S. Eisenhower Library. You probably thought that you were being productive by hiding behind your books in the Quiet Reading Room or C-Level for hours on end, but I can tell you now, that really does not help you. In reality you spent most of your time being unproductive when that time could've been used to continue carrying out the activities that you loved doing. Without a sense of balance and instead a hyper focus on studying, you ended up having your most mentally exhausting and worst academic semester. Luckily you did learn from this, and it was overall an upward journey from there.

Speaking of failure, please realize that it's a natural part of learning and isn't a reflection of who you are. It's probably hard to get yourself out of that mindset, but setbacks will happen more frequently than you would like them to, so it's okay to feel upset and even have a good cry if you need to. However, don't spend all your time wallowing and instead try your best to look ahead at what you could've done better and use those lessons for next time. It seemed like the end of the world after you failed back-to-back midterms in your introductory classes, and you almost made a huge mistake of dropping the major you've been passionate about pursuing for years after not doing well in another one of the introductory courses. However by taking it one step at a time and learning new study techniques, you'll be graduating this spring with general and departmental honors.

Also, don't be afraid to ask for help and rely on others during times of need. You've always liked being a little more independent, because you thought you were inconveniencing others with your problems. You wasted more energy than needed trying to resolve everything on your own. It's okay to reach out to others, as there are people who want to help. Since opening up a bit more, you've found yourself a strong network of family, friends and mentors who have guided you both through good and bad times. I would not be where I am now without them. Their unconditional support, love and advice made the impossible possible.

There's a lot more I could write about, but I'll leave you with this one last lesson, which I briefly mentioned before: make time for yourself. Whether that's getting back into playing tennis, practicing music, exploring/traveling to new places with your friends or finally joining gym classes after two years of inactivity during the pandemic, allocating time when you are not working is much needed. Since you are prone to stressing too much, resting and relaxing will keep you sane. That doesn't mean you need to always be doing something - even taking a two-hour nap when you are feeling overwhelmed will keep you refreshed.

College is wrapping up and so is this letter. I hope you cherish all the small and big moments. Make sure to remember the delicious Late Night mozzarella sticks from the Fresh Food Cafe at 11 p.m. Make sure to remember everyone cheering and marching out of Brody when the University announced students were being sent home at the beginning of the pandemic. Make sure to remember Ubering across three states during your junior year summer to make it to a wedding, because your bus never showed up. Make sure to remember the smiles and tears to come after you walk across the graduation stage. I still have a lot to learn in the future, but you should be proud of your growth from the last four years here.

Best,

Ananta

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COURTESY OF ANANTA SRIVASTAVA

Srivastava shares some advice and life lessons for her freshman self.

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<![CDATA[Memories with my roommate, best friend, sister]]> I'll be honest: I don't know how to do the graduation thing. It's not the wear-a-cap-and-gown, walk-across-the-stage part that perplexes me. It's more the aftermath: the friends-leaving-forever part.

Of course, we've all done it before. I still remember the goodbyes during the summer after my high school graduation. My friends and I gathered the evening before the first of us departed, letting it sink in that a phase of our lives was truly complete. At the time it felt momentous.

Those were friends I'd known for the better part of a decade. Why, then, does it feel somewhat more devastating to depart from people I've known for less than four years? I know, at least, part of the answer. In high school, we all hung out at school or in each other's houses. In college, we shared not just classrooms but also homes. With our families suddenly hundreds of miles away, friends became the closest people we had.

The person whose absence I will feel most heavily is my freshman-to-senior-year roommate, Sofia. After reading her biography on our Class of 2022 Facebook group, I tentatively messaged her. She seemed nice enough - we bonded over our hatred of Advanced Placement testing and our interest in neuroscience. Both of us, apparently, had also always wanted to pick up the guitar. (Neither of us has learned a single chord in the last four years.)

In a few months, we moved into the sixth floor of Wolman Hall together. At 1 a.m. on the first night of Orientation, we both sat in our half-lofted Wolman beds, sporting pajamas, rumbling stomachs and homesickness.

"I heard the mozzarella sticks from UniMini are super good," I said to her.

She raised her eyebrows. "I'm down."

She was, I soon learned, always down for anything. By the end of our first week of roommate-hood, she was wearing one of my dresses to convocation. By the end of the year, we had climbed our way up to the clock tower, hosted numerous study sessions in our tiny room and almost set Wolman on fire after an unfortunate ramen incident. Our Homewood apartment during sophomore year was full of similar shenanigans until the pandemic sent us home for more than a year.

We somehow picked up right where we left off when we returned for our senior year. Resolving to make the most of our truncated college experience, we cooked and baked together more, binged TV shows, played trivia, took long walks and had more of those late night/early morning conversations. We also had our first major disagreement. After all, it's impossible not to get on each other's nerves sometimes when you live together, but we realized those things fade into the background if the person matters enough. And to each other, we mattered enough.

As Sofia leaves for Boston to teach, and I stay in Baltimore for the next year, what I'll miss most is the day-to-day mundanity of our lives. I'll miss making fun of her inability to open cans. I'll miss her picking up the ukulele and singing the "Ripped Pants" song from SpongeBob Squarepants (if you know you know). I'll miss the back and forth of deciding what we'll bake next, seamlessly working together in the kitchen and then devouring our creations. And, if I'm being completely honest, I'll miss how clean she always attempted to keep our apartment. Doing life with her meant being fully comfortable, always.

Now, I'm left to spend a year in a city painted with memories of our time together. Every building on campus is where we both slept through a class and every place off campus is somewhere we first discovered with each other. Most of all, the room next to mine will no longer be a place I can go to show off a new dress or steal a couple of Tic Tacs. It will no longer house the friend who became the closest thing I've ever had to a sister.

So, the graduation thing. Crossing the stage will mean gaining a diploma but also losing a familiar way of life. Still, I take comfort in knowing that Sofia and I will always be in each other's corner in spirit if not in person. Perhaps a little less comforting, though, are the impossibly high standards I now have for any future roommates.

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COURTESY OF ROMILA SANTRA

Santra discusses the bittersweet feeling of graduating.

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<![CDATA[When we all graduate, where do we go?]]> Hi Class of 2022,

It's the most wonderful time of the year: graduation season! With perfectly manicured pictures of your cap and gown, a flurry of "Congrats Grad!" balloons and bottles of champagne, graduation season is (and should be) a time of merriment and joy, celebrating all the hard work you've put in for the past four years.

That being said, graduation marks the end of your time at Hopkins, for better or for worse. Amid the celebrations it's also okay to feel loss and to grieve that the four years you've spent here are soon concluding, especially since the pandemic has left an indelible mark on your experience. I can only imagine how hard it is to say goodbye right as the world starts to peek its head out from the past two years.

Maybe you feel betrayed that half your college years were snatched away, but you sigh with relief at never having to take a midterm again. Maybe you're devastated that those who have become your chosen family are moving far away from you, but you're excited to get out of Baltimore and thrive in a new environment.

I can empathize with all those emotions, because I'm one of you - sort of. I graduated as a third-year senior in 2021, and as this time of year rolls around I can feel the cocktail of emotions rise again as I watch all of you graduate.

I did not see my early graduation as a milestone; rather, it felt like prematurely ripping a scab from the wounds the pandemic had caused. Moreover, I could not attend my graduation ceremony as my circumstances did not allow for it, adding to the resentment I felt toward the world. I will say this though: One of the (relatively few) perks about a virtual graduation is that Commencement can end as soon as you turn off the TV.

So when the TV screen went black, and I was named an official graduate, one question lingered in my mind: Who was I beyond Hopkins?

I did not have the answer to that question, but I knew at that moment what I needed most was time. In losing a sense of self, I needed to give myself time to rest, recover and, most importantly, heal to feel whole again.

To give myself more time, I decided to delay applying to medical school and put my life on hold for a year. I started a job at the medical campus at an entry-level position where I was at the bottom of the totem pole and thus not tasked with many responsibilities. In classic Hopkins fashion, I wanted to be given more work and was almost frustrated that things were easier than they were at Hopkins. Looking at my peers in high-powered careers, I felt like I made glacial progress and wasn't doing enough. What on earth was I going to do with all this ample time?

Little did I realize that the flexibility of my job would be a blessing in disguise: Sometimes the best way to enjoy free time is to be free itself. Over this past year, I have done things that I never thought I was capable of, simply by saying "Why not?" From performing a dance given only two days of practice to lifting weights for the first time to winning a baking contest, I have found happiness in places I would have never thought to look. Productivity does not always equate tangibility; in fact, sitting idly with myself and my thoughts has been far more enriching for me than any career experience could.

That's not to say that there weren't bumps along the way. I spent all of last summer and fall applying to a dream fellowship, and everyone I knew thought I had a strong shot at winning. When I got my rejection letter last month after making it through the preliminary rounds, I was crushed. However, all wasn't lost. Applying to the fellowship helped me prepare for my new future plans, which align better with my career goals. Even the minor setbacks have their purpose: In October, I tried out for a TED talk and ultimately got rejected, but that inspired the basis of this very article you're reading. Time and time again, I have seen my successes be reborn from the ashes of my failures.

As this May marks one year from my graduation, what I can definitively say is that my vision of happiness, as well as my priorities, have changed dramatically. I have found that I am happier living a calmer life: going home after my 9 to 5, cooking myself a comforting dinner, spending time with those who matter most and being able to intimately know Baltimore, all of which have nourished my soul. At the end of the day, since leaving Hopkins I think I'm doing okay.

Class of 2022, I want to tell you that you'll be okay too. Life rarely goes according to the plans we make in our heads, but things end up working out, and you will be exactly where you need to be. Embrace the uncertainty of the future, because within uncertainty lies the potential for exciting things to happen. As you leave Hopkins, I want you to know that you have the power to live life on your own terms - only you can decide what your happiness looks like.

Though I'll never get the satisfaction of walking across the stage, know that I'll be cheering all of you on as you cross yours on May 22, ready to build your own lives.

All my love,

Ria

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COURTESY OF RIA ARORA

Arora reflects on her first year post-graduation.

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<![CDATA[Saying goodbye to The News-Letter]]> Like many freshmen, when I first got to Hopkins I had no idea what I was going to do with my time here. Pacing through the aisles at my first Student Involvement Fair (SIF) and putting my name down for any club that sounded vaguely interesting, I cast a net as wide as I could. Most of those frantic, overeager freshman sign-ups amounted to little more than receiving monthly emails from clubs I never ended up attending. The News-Letter, however, sent the one club email I actually paid attention to.

Still clinging onto my days as a copy editor for my high school newspaper, I started going once a week to The News-Letter's office - the Gatehouse - to help edit articles as a copy reader. Back in that pre-COVID world, The News-Letter produced a newspaper in print every Thursday, which meant Wednesday nights were when pretty much the whole paper was put together within the walls of the Gatehouse.

The fact that The News-Letter's home was this cozy, cottage-like building with a storied history dating back to the 1800s instantly drew me in. I would walk in every Wednesday for my copy reader shift and would see editors strewn about the building. Some were nestled on the couches in the main room furiously typing away on their laptops to finish writing an article, while others blasted music on the Macs in the side rooms as they designed the paper's pages with the ever-fickle Adobe InDesign. I absorbed everything around me, amazed at all of the hard work that came out of this tiny building every week. As a Computer Science major, I relished being in an environment light-years away from the stresses of Calculus III midterms or buggy coding assignments.

By my sophomore year, I'd been elected as one of the copy editors. This meant I was joining in on those delirious Wednesday nights in their entirety, copy editing every article that the paper published each week with my co-editor. Reading all of those articles, from major news events like the Garland Hall sit-in, to personal essays in the Voices section, to Hopkins lab spotlights in the SciTech section, made me feel more connected to Hopkins in a certain way. I felt like being involved with The News-Letter helped me stay informed and engaged with what was happening around me. It also helped me stay critical of the University as I learned more about the inequities and injustices faced by our student body at the hands of the administration.

I began to feel connected to the rest of The News-Letter staff as well. Those long days that stretched into nights and back into days were certainly draining at times, but there was a sense of purpose and camaraderie that kept us going. Coordinating 7-Eleven runs with editors for late-night snacks, creating copy-editing memes with my co-editor (which were definitely only funny for us but that we proudly still sent to everyone in our Slack channel) while we waited for pages to be ready to edit, writing funny quotes on the quote-covered Gatehouse walls whenever someone said something particularly outrageous in their sleep-deprived fog - these are the memories that I take with me from my sophomore year as an editor.

And then COVID-19 hit. When we got the email that fated Tuesday in March 2020 announcing we were being sent home, I was in the Gatehouse getting a head start on copy-editing that week's articles. The next day, we proceeded like normal, putting together what we didn't realize at the time would be the very last print edition of The News-Letter for the foreseeable future. There was uncertainty in the air as people hugged each other goodbye, then trickled out of that last late night.

For the rest of that semester, we started publishing all of our content online only, keeping up with production from our far-flung corners of the country. I made the transition from editing articles surrounded by my fellow editors on Wednesday nights to editing a few articles every day in my room, by myself.

I continued on as a copy editor my junior year, and as a paper, we continued with online-only production. There was definitely something lost in The News-Letter experience when we were entirely online; I never even saw my new co-editor in person that entire year. Still, we carried on. I continued to look forward to reading and editing The News-Letter articles, as it centered me in a way. It reminded me that there was actually more going on in the Hopkins community beyond the limits of Zoom calls. We still had opinions to share, art to review and news to report - even if that news tended to consist of ever-changing COVID-19 policy updates.

I became one of the managing editors of the paper my senior year, and with a more leading role on the paper came a year of planning how to transition back to a more in-person experience of The News-Letter again. It wasn't a full transition back to what the paper once was; we still published daily online content instead of weekly print editions, so those long Wednesday nights in the Gatehouse remain long forgotten.

But we started holding our weekly staff meetings in the Gatehouse again, everyone crowding onto the couches to listen to and laugh at everyone's answers to the infamous question of the week, checking in face-to-face with each section of the paper instead of over Slack. I also stood at an actual table for SIF once again, enticing a plethora of eager-eyed freshmen to sign up for The News-Letter like I had three years earlier.

My fellow editors and I began to fill the Gatehouse with new memories: exploring the dusty attic littered with yellowed The News-Letter clippings from decades past and launching The News-Letter podcast by repurposing an empty side room in the basement as a podcast studio.

My Hopkins experience certainly would not have been the same without The News-Letter. It's gone through some major transitions during these four short years I've been here, but the fact that I can say I've contributed to a historical record of Hopkins during this extremely eventful time is not lost on me. And most importantly, the impact the paper has had on me - from the stressful deadlines and long nights to the slap-happy jokes and bonds shared between editors - will stay with me long after I've graduated.

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COURTESY OF REBECCA MURATORE

Muratore reminisces on her time at The News-Letter.

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<![CDATA[22 Hopkins things to do before you graduate from '22 grads]]> While this list compiles a few events and activities that (as the title suggests) must be experienced during your time at Hopkins, it is most enjoyable when they are done completely by accident. We encourage you to spontaneously do random things as well and create your own list. If you find yourself wandering through campus and hear commotion and noise from Arellano Theater, approach it. And always say yes to free food - you'll find yourself staying for the event.

Having said that, here is a bucket list of 22 things to do as Blue Jays from the Class of '22:

  1. Making custom buttons at the Digital Media Center. Just using the button press and making pins checks so many boxes for taking a break from work. Satisfying? Check. Head empty? Check. Cute? Check.
  2. Looking at the stars at the Bloomberg Observatory. Open every Friday evening, the Maryland Space Grant Observatory on the roof of the Bloomberg Center is always a good way to feel insignificant and small (take any big-headed friends with you). They also have free tote bags.
  3. Spray painting the Fresh Food Café Bluejay. Legalized vandalism.
  4. Dance and a cappella showcases. Perfect if you ever need to be cheered up. A great reminder that Hopkins students can do it all.
  5. Taiwanese American Students Association (TASA) Night Market. While 'night market' might be a misnomer since the event takes place in the afternoon, the food is authentic and delicious, the performances are fun and it, at least, is definitely night in Taiwan.
  6. George Peabody Library. Now open post-pandemic and offering study spots! Study among the stacks of books and live out your dark or light academia dreams.
  7. Water vapor tunnels. These (deliberately unnamed) passageways offer the only sauna at Hopkins for a quick sweat. Unlock fast travel throughout multiple locations on campus.
  8. Comedy shows. The Buttered Niblets literally come unprepared and make stuff up at the show. The Stand Up Comedy Club (SUCC) and Throat Culture may or may not be on a hiatus, but each of them are hilarious in their own way. Post-attendance symptoms may include abdominal cramps from laughing too much and randomly remembering a line at the worst possible moment. Where else would you find niche Hopkins-specific jokes?
  9. Levering Toastee. Okay, we know Levering has a lot of food options, and all of them are good, but hear us out. This toastee hits different - it's the only thing on campus we could eat every day without getting tired. You can have your favorite, but the olive or pesto one is objectively the best.
  10. Spring Fair. Fried oreos, need we say more?
  11. Lacrosse Game. Great way to cheer on your cheerleader friends or the pep band. Does anyone outside of the lacrosse team have friends on the lacrosse team anyway? (This is a joke).
  12. Read in the Sculpture Garden near the Undergraduate Teaching Labs. It sounds like something your ideal self should do. A great legal activity for the beautiful sculpture garden!
  13. Culture Show. The best Hopkins tradition. What could be better than watching a cappella and dance performances in one free show while trying to catch free shirts midair?
  14. The LaB. Spending late nights eating ice cream sundaes while playing video and board games with friends is basically the childhood dream that you can now live out in college.
  15. Pulling an all-nighter. A different kind of late night trying to cram for a final or finish a project, and when you're done, you hear the birds chirping. (As a Study Consultant, Hanna does not condone this behavior. Sleep and proper time management habits are very important.)
  16. Flatbreads and crêpes at CharMar. Just like the toastee. Same, but different.
  17. Scream at the top of your lungs at the Beach. Every semester, it is tradition to scream at the Beach with your friends right before finals to clear the cobwebs in your brain (and to let out all your frustration).
  18. Stealing platters of food from events. There are a lot of catered events for professors only, and as we all know, professors mainly subsist on either their love for teaching or on frantic emails from students asking for extensions. That leaves a lot of untouched platters at events that they let you take home afterwards. That is the law.
  19. Designing and creating things at Wyman. Be it a woodworking project, laser cutting or electronics, you can get certified to make anything at the Wyman Park building - an engineer's dream!
  20. The Hopkins Student Organization for Programming (HOP) events. From paint nights to snack Sundays, the HOP manages to hold so many fun activities and giveaways every semester. Be warned though, the HOP's golden Easter eggs are impossible to find.
  21. Intramural sports. Make your own team and battle against similarly bunged together teams in flag football, soccer or any sport... you name it!
  22. Step on the seal. Congratulations to the Class of 2022, we deserve it!
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COURTESY OF HANNA SUH

Hanna Suh and Adyant Balaji list the top things to do at Hopkins before graduation.

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<![CDATA[On being the firstborn and first in college]]> College was neither a guarantee nor an expectation. It was my only resort. College was a word passed around my community like a looming icon of the mythical "American Dream" - a dream of social mobility, wealth and generational prosperity. My parents fled from their homes, as their families were torn apart along ideological lines, to a foreign land with the hope for a better future: a future of prosperity for their children.

To a family of refugees trying to carve a life in America, education and believing in the college dream was the greatest equalizer. The college dream was to do well in school, to get into a good university, get a degree, work a good job and have a good life. It was a dream of hope built on hard work shared countless times over by numerous families. I am just one of these hopefuls.

As the firstborn, I was conceived out of their hopes and was tossed into this journey out of their love and hope for my future. The college dream and belief were the mantras that guided me throughout my journey here. The college dream was ingrained into my being from my parents and guardians since I was young. Although the college journey was out of my own volition, my path to college was built upon the shoulders of my family, who toiled from job to job to support me and their hopes and expectations of success. I was to be the model for my siblings and trek on the tumultuous path to a college degree on my own.

The image of the Convocation stage with the ever-present symbol of the Hopkins seal is forever ingrained in my mind. Gazing upon the seal that represented my hopes and hard work, I cried in my seat as President Daniels spoke words of encouragement and platitudes about our place within this institution. At that moment, I stood upon the gravity of the sacred grounds. I was actually in college at Hopkins. I had made it.

However, the journey through college was laid with more turns and trials than the hopeful dream made it out to be. Money was an ever-pressing concern that loomed over my shoulder. The dizzying feelings of isolation in the crowds of students different from me made me feel claustrophobic and overcome by bursts of anxiety, although I tried to hide it.

People came from wealthier backgrounds, different life experiences and cultures that further isolated me, a poor Vietnamese-American kid from southern California. College was an isolating experience. As for many, it placed pressure on my mind on whether I could succeed and reach that American Dream, and whether I was even worthy of that in the first place. To find my place amid all the ambiguity and uncertainty felt like facing the world on my own. I didn't have anyone to look to or talk to about their experiences, or even the courage to ask for help, albeit out of misguided pride or shame.

Despite all these difficulties, I slowly began to find my place. I found a support system that I could lean upon and people who truly drive me to seek greater and strive for more. Whether it be the nights of complaining about assignments due or the dinners at Grano Pasta Bar, these memories made my life at Hopkins ever more enriched and ever more bearable. At the end of this journey, I am reminded of what I have accomplished here, whether that be in my academics, extracurriculars or relationships. Now that I am within the grasp of achieving my American Dream, I am genuinely thankful for my family and the community that allowed me to find myself and adapt and thrive at Hopkins. I feel bittersweet but excited to begin my next chapter.

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COURTESY OF ANDRE VU

Vu discusses the tumultuous path to college as a first-born, first generation student.

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<![CDATA[A year of bike rides through Baltimore]]> I think it's fair to say that everyone lost their minds during quarantine in different ways and dealt with it in different ways. Me? You guessed it - I developed an addiction to lazy bike rides in the Texas sun through my suburban neighborhood.

I'm from Austin, Texas. It's a nice city. People are currently moving there in hordes because of how nice it is. Predictably, it's a nice city to bike through, and it was nice enough that I spent all my junior year there.

Fast forward to August 2021: my senior year at Hopkins. My final year in Baltimore. I bought a bike at Walmart for $100. My father expressed many concerns about safety as he helped me transfer it from his rented SUV to my apartment's bike room. After he left that day, I worked up the courage to painstakingly wheel it out of my apartment building. Listening to Lorde's new album, I rode north toward Guilford and just kept going, turning when I felt like it.

I got lost, and then I opened Apple Maps and found my way home. It was not like biking through Austin, which felt like rereading Harry Potter curled up in bed.

Nothing was familiar anywhere I went, but every bike ride felt like a treasure hunt. On every ride, I found somewhere new where I could love being alone: dandelion patches, gardens, sketchy storm drains and Taco Bell. Over the year, I began to recognize faces on my routes. They would smile at me, and I would smile at them, through September, January and April. We wouldn't know each other's names, but we would know each other. One time, I recognized a lady who tried to scam me for $50 three months prior. We caught up. She's doing well.

Now, Baltimore feels like mine in a way that Austin never did. I learned to exist here and learned to love existing without needing anyone else. On these bike rides, which took me outside the nefarious "Hopkins Bubble," my senior year was not just my last year at Hopkins but also a chance to understand happiness outside of the context of family, academics and friends.

Biking was freedom. Not just in the obvious, physical aspect, but also a little bit mentally. I'm a shy person. Like most people, I care too much about what other people think. But after the embarrassing struggle of dragging my bike out of the bike room every afternoon and putting on my large helmet that I was convinced looked stupid all so that I could go loiter somewhere or do something that would make my day better, I started to care a little less. On my bike I rode down to Fells Point to get ice cream, went to The Charles to watch indie films alone, and even traveled all the way to D.C. (after transporting my bike on the MARC).

Obviously, my Walmart bike was not a solution to all my problems. However, it was a reminder that ultimately, I have control over my own life and that a bigger, more beautiful world exists outside of the deadlines and taxes and emails that stress us out.

From my bicycle, I fell in love with this city, and it is going to be the hardest thing to leave behind at Hopkins. If you'd told me this at Orientation Week, after our miserable "Baltimore Day" where we walked around in 90-degree Fahrenheit weather, dehydrated for four hours, I wouldn't have believed you.

I rode my bike every day that I could this year, and I took a picture each time. Here are some of my favorite routes. I'm not saying you should buy a cheap bike and try to recreate these rides to find your own happiness or whatever, but I'm also not not saying that.

To all my fellow graduates: Have a magnificent life. Bad days come and go. But bikes? Bikes are forever (not really, but kind of if you buy a nice adjustable crescent wrench, invest in a solid tire pump and regularly oil the gear train).


Lake Montebello, 15-minute bike ride

  • Very scenic. Lots of ducks and cute families.
  • Route takes you past Giant, so you can get groceries on the way back.



Mount Vernon, 20-minute bike ride

  • There is an excellent Ethiopian restaurant called Dukem here.
  • Fun to explore.
  • Ride through the Rainbow Bridge on your way home!



South on North Charles Street, as long as you want

  • Lots of very cute small businesses on this ride.
  • Well-maintained bike lanes, lower chance of getting run over.



National Mall, D.C., one-hour travel time

  • Ride to Penn Station and load bike onto bicycle car of MARC train.
  • Exit at Union Station and go wherever your heart desires.
  • Renwick Gallery is one of my favorite places to wander through.



Guilford Manor Park, 15-minute ride there

  • Favorite place to ride in circles to just think.
  • Great place to watch the sunset after a stressful day of Senior Design.



Sherwood Gardens (morning), 10-minute bike ride

  • Sherwood Gardens is my most visited location - it's the best place to destress and see normal people.
  • Fall mornings are particularly gorgeous here. The trees look like they are on fire.



Sherwood Gardens (April - tulip season), 10-minute bike ride

  • For obvious reasons, Sherwood Gardens are breathtaking during this time.
  • Even if you do not like nature all that much, it's still absolutely stunning.



Station North, 13-minute bike ride

  • My favorite part of Baltimore.
  • Has a movie theater, McDonald's, the art studio - what more could you want?



Subway on East 25th Street, eight-minute bike ride

  • If you ever want to go to a Subway you have NOT received Rave Alerts about.
  • I really like this intersection - it has cool architecture.
  • Next to Safeway AND a CVS Pharmacy.
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COURTESY OF NEHA SANGANA

Sangana reflects on learning to enjoy time with herself and to explore Baltimore on her own.

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<![CDATA[My ever-changing impression of college]]> My impression of "college" was a place that determined who you would be, perhaps permanently. This idea haunted me, because I had repeatedly been told that I needed to obtain a certain level of college education in order to start my life right. If not, well, maybe that was it for me.

In middle school, I told my parents that I didn't want to go to college. I wanted to be a writer and couldn't imagine what a college could possibly teach me that I hadn't already learned from my books. Then I went to a preparatory school in Pennsylvania and got absorbed into the strong college preparatory culture. It almost felt like a game: looking at different statistics and comparing my performance to previous acceptees. The summer after highschool graduation, however, I felt hollow. I still wanted to be a writer but didn't see the point of studying writing in college. I feared my originality would be stamped out in a classroom setting.

When I finally got to the magical place that supposedly molded you into an adult and set you on a path to be somebody, I soon found out that many were like me: recent overachieving high school graduates, unsure about how they'll use their college degree.

Although most people were not exactly sure about their career path, they seemed to know what major they wanted to (or at least thought they wanted to) pursue and why - "Molecular and Cellular Biology is the easiest to finish pre-med requirements," "I want to be a Psychologist," "I want to go into finance," "I want to make money," "I want to cure cancer," "I want to make a change in the world through XYZ," and so on. It fascinated me: How did they already know what major they would both enjoy and be good at and what they wanted to be?

If my freshman self could be drawn in a caricature, I would have been a big question mark.

In hindsight I actually knew what I wanted to be: a writer. I was just hesitant to study writing in college for many reasons, like haughtily thinking that writing can't be taught and wanting to explore what I didn't know. In freshman year, my primary goal was to try all the majors that I didn't have the chance to learn about in high school. These majors included International Studies, Cognitive Science, Writing Seminars, Psychology, Computer Science and so on.

I eventually chose Cognitive Science as my major and ended up loving it. I am undoubtedly happy with how my college career turned out: I was given opportunities I would have never imagined a couple years ago, devoted my heart's content to my major through research projects, met great mentors and found new perspectives I wouldn't have known prior to studying Cognitive Science.

However I sometimes wish I listened to my gut more - to not doubt myself.

I always liked to think of myself as bold and daring. However, I learned in college that I can just as easily be indecisive and an overthinker. I was afraid of what was at stake when, in fact, it was not all that important.

I now know college is not a place where your life is determined. Now, it seems closer to a place that shakes the roots of your identity, where you merely start to explore what is out there beyond the scope of your previous knowledge. In a practical sense, as students in the U.S. higher education system, our life path is so malleable with the numerous post-baccalaureate programs and career changers. In a more philosophical sense, we are too young, and there are so many unforeseen obstacles and opportunities that can lead us to paths that we would have never thought of a year ago. In short, nothing needs to be set in stone.

Even just over the last four years, I have seen many friends, who once swore they spent their whole lives wanting to be doctors, decide against going to medical school after being disappointed by the U.S. healthcare system during the coronavirus pandemic. I have also seen a friend, who said she was a Chemistry major in the first week of classes but was clearly not interested in pursuing science as a career, drop out of college to become an artist. I have also seen friends who have taken multiple gap semesters to understand who they are and what they want to do in life - including myself who also took a gap semester. On the day of graduation, each one of us will have taken a different path to get there.

If I was a freshman again, I might have considered choosing Writing Seminars more seriously, despite how much I have loved Cognitive Science. I would take more classes I am interested in rather than taking classes I thought would be "educational" or "helpful". Most classes are educational, of course, but the degree of how much information I will absorb depends on how invested and how interested I am in the course material. For example, some of the most memorable and impactful classes I have taken were during my freshman year, and I still remember texts I read for those classes. On the other hand, I don't remember what I learned from a class I took last semester to the same degree because it was not as gripping. I would worry less because I now know that post-college doesn't mean I can't make new choices again.

But all of this is wishful thinking.

To be honest I might end up choosing the exact same path as I did the first time around, even if I somehow time traveled back to 2018. Without the experiences I had, I may not even reach the same conclusion I make today. Perhaps I would have regretted not trying to push myself in other directions if I stuck with just writing.

What I do know now is that, just as college wasn't the ultimate determiner, I will also be able to make new choices after graduation. I am excited to find out who I will become and what choices I will make. I hope I'll be pleasantly surprised.

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COURTESY OF ELIZABETH IM

Im discusses her changing mindset in regards to college as she prepares to graduate.

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<![CDATA[Favorite places in Baltimore from '22 grads]]> For many of us, Baltimore might not have been the first city that came to mind when we envisioned our college life. But after spending four years here, I've grown to appreciate the city and its hidden gems. So, without further ado, here is a list of places in Baltimore that have become favorites for my friends and I:

"It is hard to pick a favorite, but I've had many fond memories at the [C.] Grimaldis Gallery. I accidentally stumbled upon this gallery after not being able to get into a Peabody concert. I ended up meeting Raoul Middleman, who was present at the opening night of his show. As a Hopkins alum, he was as excited to meet us as we were to meet him! It was a surreal experience, and since then, I've always went back and looked forward to meeting more artists and learning about their works" -Alina Pannone, Applied Mathematics and Statistics and Economics

"Taqueria El Sabor del Parque is a portal in the middle of Patterson Park that takes you straight to Mexico. They have a wide variety of common Mexican/Latin street foods, but their main thing is the tacos. They have nopal tacos, barbacoa tacos, carne asada tacos and even more. You can even order many hard-to-find tacos there. Everything is made on the spot and has a great homey yet delicious taste." -Halle Cathey, Neuroscience and Spanish

"Flower Mart - An annual mart that opens right by the Peabody Institute! Mount Vernon gets decorated with vendors for flowers, plants, food and arts. There is live music and everyone enjoys the warm spring weather in addition to a Baltimore classic treat, the Lemon Stick. The Lemon Stick is a peppermint stick stuck inside a lemon that turns into a straw the more you eat it, eventually letting you sip on a minty lemon juice. It's a treat that's been around since 1911!" -Hanna Suh, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Public Health

"BMORE LICKS is a local ice cream place owned by a lesbian couple, and they have the BEST soft serve with a huge flavor selection. Patterson Park is also right across the street, which makes a walk through the park and great ice cream the perfect way to escape from school!" -Cailey Bozic, Neuroscience

"My favorite place is Brody - my other home - because that's where I feel comfortable both interacting with friends while also putting hard work into my academics. With the friends that I have made, I feel that the place embodies the idea of 'work hard, play hard,' as I've made lots of great memories there all throughout my undergraduate career -- lots of sleepless nights and fun times hanging out with friends." -Daniel Kang, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

"The Inner Harbor! There are so many different restaurants, and you can enjoy a beautiful view of the waterfront shops and the aquarium. It's also a short walk from Fed Hill, one of my favorite places to hang out." -Jeff Xing, Electrical Engineering

"32nd Street Farmers Market, The Book Escape, Druid Hill Park or The Charles Theater! There are too many!" -Elizabeth Im, Cognitive Science and Medicine, Science, and Humanities

"Dukem and Tabor. I really like Ethiopian cuisine, but it's usually a relatively niche/unknown thing, so it's great that there are two Ethiopian restaurants in Baltimore." -Audrey Ting, Environmental Science and Public Health

"For me, Federal Hill was one of my first impressions of Baltimore. It is where I made some of my first and closest friends during my time at Hopkins. During pre-orientation with HopkinsCORPS, we climbed to the top and had some fun team-building activities. The details aren't exactly clear but watching the sunset overlooking the lively Inner Harbor surrounded by strangers that eventually became some of my closest friends made for a great first impression of Baltimore. Nothing is quite like Federal Hill for me in the city of Baltimore." -Eric Zhang, Chemical Biomedical Engineering

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COURTESY OF ALINA PANNONE

Pannone and her friends share their favorite places in Baltimore.

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<![CDATA[Graduating early amid a pandemic]]> How do you feel about graduating?

I have been asked this question almost every day for the past couple weeks leading up to graduation on May 22. To be entirely honest, I am not quite sure how I feel. As someone who is graduating early after three years, with COVID-19 sending me home for almost a year and a half in the middle, I have certainly not had the "traditional" college experience.

However, this holds true for many of my friends and peers, and I believe that we have grown an exceptional amount by collectively persevering through these unprecedented times. Even from the perspective of someone who spent a significantly reduced amount of time on campus, I believe that my time at Hopkins has been incredibly rewarding, eye-opening and memorable.

Having primarily focused on academic coursework and research projects during my time online at home in Wisconsin, I actively tried to reach out and be more engaged with campus happenings and cultural and faith-based student groups during the past year being on campus. Internally, I recognized that this would be my final year in college and I sought to make the most of time with my friends and together do activities that I had not had the chance to do in freshman year or during the pandemic. While classes were still the main priority as a full-time student, I came to better appreciate how to establish a balance between a social and an academic life.

I found myself playing football on Friday nights with the boys and exploring restaurants with new friends. Even trips to Brody Learning Commons became something of a social activity (when I didn't have upcoming midterms). I was not explicitly trying to check off items from the proverbial "Hopkins bucket list," but I was consciously trying to explore new parts of the city, give back to those around me and make shared memories.

Helping to form a registered Pakistani Students Association and contributing to the in-person return of the Hopkins Muslim Association and its Ramadan events were incredibly rewarding, and these experiences allowed me to not only make new friends and serve these communities, but to also interact with other various students groups on campus.

I saw this shift in my mindset even in my co-curricular experiences, such as volunteering at a low-income clinic in Baltimore and conducting research on campus. I realized that I was making a concerted effort to maximize the time I could spend contributing to these projects and initiatives, as I was not sure when I would be able to do so in the same way after college.

Having been privileged to be surrounded by exceptional friends with whom I have had some reflective conversations in the past few weeks, I realized that perhaps I more fully live in the moment now. I am generally someone who aims to plan out my work and goals, but after experiencing unprecedented times and enjoying the random spontaneity of college life this past year, I am more willing to live in the moment and trust the process for the future. I am grateful to my Hopkins experience for teaching me that and for allowing me to realize that is what we are here for: to find our individual styles of living and to grow by approaching challenges without fear, learning from them for the future.

So how do I feel about graduating? It is certainly bittersweet, but I hope to cherish the memories and lessons I have gained for the future. I will certainly miss the people I have shared these experiences with, but the memories will stay. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it might be that the world is more connected that we believe and we should preserve and strengthen our connections with one another.

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COURTESY OF MUHAMMAD ABIDI

Abidi discusses the lessons he has learned while planning to graduate in three years.

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<![CDATA[My journey of gender exploration at Hopkins]]> It was late freshman year when I realized I wouldn't be able to pass, nor did I want to.

On the verge of a crisis, I remember sending a series of panicked texts to my guy friend, asking how I could dress and act more masculine. He responded in confusion and afterward listed the kinds of clothes he wore. However I only felt increasingly alienated, as I'd tried his fashion style before - I had already tried the men's button-down shirts but could never really "pass."

To transgender people, the politics of "passing" are always in contention. Passing assumes that cisgender people are the status quo and that cisgender expression is the final goal of transitioning. I grew ever aware that I couldn't pass without hormones and top surgery, and that even with the sports bras I tried using as temporary binders, my chest would cause increasing discomfort in how I presented myself.

I, instead, found comfort in flexibility - in the flexibility of the genderfluid and non-conforming label and in that I can articulate myself how I want people to see me and how I present on a day-to-day basis. If you asked me my freshman year, I would hesitantly say I'm non-binary while absorbed with feelings of self-hatred. I now say that I'm non-binary with pride.

I went through most of my four years as an undergraduate gradually coming out to people with the frustration that I had to "come out" instead of just "be" non-binary and my ideal expression of androgyny. It was a constant battle experiencing cis-normative gender expectations, body dysmorphia and leftover misogyny from those who thought I was a woman.

Even now I've had people come up to me and ask, "Why didn't you tell me you were non-binary?" And while I appreciate the attempt at allyship, it was never their place to assume I was a woman. To be an ally is to actively find that information yourself and accept it instead of question it.

When a group facilitates a pronoun round of introductions because you're in the room and the only one visibly genderqueer, it's as much mortifying as it is liberating. It's one of the drawbacks of visibility, but it has just as much power - I've had people more willing to be upfront about their gender expression when I introduce myself fully in a new space, and I've had people stop me after classes to privately come out to me.

Being non-binary and transgender during the pandemic was a different beast. It became easier to casually come out to professors and classmates. Slip in a he/they or a they/them at the end of the display name (that would get cut off anyways when a professor started sharing their screen). But in my experience, writing your pronouns in parenthesis wasn't enough - it was never enough.

It all comes back to respect and recognition.

When I tried letting people use any pronouns to refer to me to try and escape even the binary of the "third-gender" that comes with solely using they/them pronouns (which would make a whole other article), they were more likely to refer to me in a feminine manner. And just as I've had professors who taught me the whole semester with my pronouns attached to the end of my Zoom name, I'd meet with them without pronouns attached, and they'd resume misgendering me.

They didn't critically engage with what choosing those pronouns and other ways of referring to me actually meant, taking my exploration of gender and my comfort at face value. With graduation, I'll be leaving that in the past.

For anyone who is exploring themself and their gender, these are only some of the challenges I faced. But there's also euphoria and happiness in situations where your loved ones call you by your pronouns for the first time, or when your friends back you up and are allies to you in threatening cis spaces. Gender exploration was what saved me these past four years, and finding people who recognized me for who I am and actively engaged with my trans-ness is fundamental to my Hopkins experience.

Would I say there are institutional issues with how the University approaches trans concerns? For sure. Hopkins Hospital has an incredibly complex history with intersex and transgender youth: Hopkins Hospital's John Money was the psychologist that led gender reassignment research, and the surgeries inspired by his research resulted in countless unethical and dehumanizing medical practices for intersex people. His legacy is still unaddressed. Hopkins also doesn't fully cover gender-affirming surgery for all students, a vital procedure for any trans person.

But are there also gradually better conditions for LGBTQ students? Yes. Before writing this article, I had just attended my year's Lavender Celebration in person after two long years of online programming. Being able to see queer students brought together in celebration was easily the highlight of my month. There's a new Associate Director of LGBTQ Life Abbey Nawrocki, which means a new direction and new agenda for the office.

I also wanted to dedicate my immense gratitude to former LGBTQ Life director Demere Woolway, a close mentor in my journey with gender expression and, to be frank, multiple gender crises.

If you take anything from my reflection of these past four years at Hopkins, it's that even if you're comfortable in your current gender labels, explore and reflect on it. We're raised to believe there are only two genders and that gender is a binary: That whole ideology is flawed. We've been raised to believe that there are only two ways to express yourself: also incredibly false. The system rewards conformity rather than embracing the creativity that comes with transformation and transition.

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COURTESY OF MARVIS GUTIERREZ

Gutierrez reflects on their journey of exploring their gender identity at Hopkins.

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<![CDATA[PUBLIC EDITOR: Yes, believe it or not, journalists are people too. ]]>

In April I assumed the role of Public Editor at The News-Letter. What is that? How does one edit the public? I had similar questions.

Essentially, I report on all things our University's beloved paper touches. Whether it be reviewing how certain issues are covered, investigating the impact of pieces on readers, offering advice to editors or lending an ear to the public, I've got it covered. Through this role I hope to improve the interactions between The News-Letter and the greater Hopkins community.

As a student paper it is The News-Letter's responsibility to communicate with the student body and ensure that it is properly responding and reaching out to the community. In recent years we've seen an evolution of what our community looks like and how we interact with one another primarily through the way students forge communities online.

Naturally, with the intent of listening to students and gathering their opinions, The News-Letter followed this exodus toward social media. Unfortunately, although well-intentioned, the paper's attempts to tap into social media haven't been the most successful with the harassment of student journalists being a large issue.

Earlier this semester, a rebrand of Yik Yak called Sidechat dropped on campus. It quickly became a platform to not only vent about campus tours and sexual frustrations, but also to praise the Crêpe Studio chef (a very valid observation). To access the Hopkins Sidechat portal, students must use their JHED ID to create an account, making it exclusive for Hopkins students.

Surprisingly I did see some funny and wholesome posts:

Many students expressed that Sidechat was a positive space, pleading with The News-Letter to keep the app (as if the paper has the power to take it down):


Under the guise of anonymity, students can post whatever they wish without real-life consequences. However, without any means for accountability, the atmosphere on the app can be incredibly toxic. Hell, even Sidechat users have said that the app is a breeding ground for bigotry and harassment.

Unfortunately, this is a lived experience. Earlier this month a staff writer at The News-Letter, who has been granted anonymity to protect her privacy, attempted to nail down interviews using Sidechat. Considering the popularity of the app and the range of diverse, colorful opinions, it seemed reasonable for student journalists to hop on the bandwagon, especially given the difficulty of finding sources and interviews in person.

Nonetheless, I was very disturbed to find that they were outright harassed and abused through direct messages. The writer stated that she would not be going back to Sidechat, nor would she be recommending other writers to use the app to solicit interviews. In an interview with the outgoing and incoming Editors-in-Chief, it was determined that the paper would likely not use Sidechat in the future given these experiences.

Online harassment isn't new to the media industry and is always a potential threat. It is often forgotten that those involved in news are also people, and as journalists, it's expected that they want to participate in spaces where readers are most actively sharing their thoughts and opinions.

This presents a significant barrier to fulfilling The News-Letter's goals of communicating and hearing from students. When hateful messages and threats are thrown at the staff, who are fellow students as well, it almost seems not worthwhile.

To be clear, the issue is not that jokes were made. The issue was that a student was targeted after presenting themselves as a writer. It is deeply saddening that because of their affiliation with the paper, a student had to endure this experience.

In an interview, outgoing Editor-in-Chief Laura Wadsten emphasized the humanity of student journalists.

"We are people, and [The News-Letter] is something we're involved in and passionate about and want to contribute toward during our time at Hopkins," she said.

The News-Letter is a student organization made up of bright, budding journalists. When you harass a reporter, you are harming a fellow student. When a student journalist approaches you in Brody Learning Commons or outside CharMar, you're able to see them as human. Unfortunately, seeing a profile on an anonymous app does not positively contribute to humanizing our staff in the case of Sidechat.

As the incoming Public Editor, I would like to address this problem in the coming months. Through a series of interviews with our editors, I hope to spotlight the humanity of our staff and forge a better relationship with our readers.

I'll start with myself. My name's Anju Felix, and I'm a third-year undergraduate studying Neuroscience and Harp with a minor in Space Science and Engineering. I enjoy running and hiking trails, trying out new recipes and exploring the city with my dog and friends. I'm very excited to get started in this role and hope you'll help me along the way.

Thank you for reading. The Public Editor would love to hear from readers like you about all things related to The News-Letter and its coverage and practices. If you would like to get in contact with the Public Editor about something raised in this column or anything else, email her at publiceditor@jhunewsletter.com.

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<![CDATA[Protesters demand Hopkins protect the rights of disabled students]]> Hopkins affiliates, including former students, held a protest on the Beach to call on the University to protect the rights of disabled students on May 4. Protesters described their experiences with discrimination and exclusion at Hopkins and outlined their demands for the administration.

The protest followed recent issues with the University's treatment of disabled students, including the dismissal of five disabled students from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at the School of Education.

Alice, a protest organizer using a pseudonym, shared some of these demands in an interview. The News-Letter granted her anonymity due to privacy concerns.

"One of the demands that stand out is the re-admitting of the five dismissed disabled students from the Counseling program, and if they don't want to come back, then refunding their tuition," she said. "Also creating a separate disability office, separate from the OIE [Office of Institutional Equity] and from SDS [Student Disability Services]."

Alice explained that a separate disability office would be better at investigating issues involving disabled students on campus, noting that OIE has struggled to effectively advocate for disabled students in the past.

Katie Anderson, another organizer of the protest, added that another one of the main demands is improving the University's process of granting accommodations to disabled students.

Following speeches presented by some of the dismissed students, protesters handed out masks with the phrase "ableism grows in the dark". They then marched to Garland Hall to present their demands to administrators. Protestors were met with Vice Provost for Student Affairs Rachelle Hernandez, who listened to their concerns.

Protestors hoped to present their demands to Provost Sunil Kumar, but he was unable to speak with them that day.

In an email to The News-Letter, Vice President for Communications Andrew Green described the University's plan to respond to student demands.

"In support of this commitment and as requested by the group, the Provost and the university are working to complete a careful review of the list of demands. The Provost will provide a written response to these important issues and opportunities for enhancement within the next week," he wrote.

According to Green, Kumar and Katrina Caldwell, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, met with the organizers of the protest on May 3 to hear their experiences and demands.

Anderson, who was one of the students dismissed from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, described how her experiences with OIE revealed the University's lack of advocacy for disabled students.

"Ultimately, the school would side with the professors involved, and that's a big part of what we're demanding," she said. "Hopkins should revamp its processes for its complaints with how disability accommodations are handled. I've heard from so many students who are afraid to speak up, and I can't fault them for that because that fear of retaliation is real."

In an interview with The News-Letter, senior Caroline Cerilli, who attended the protest, discussed the importance of creating a disability cultural center, which was one of the protesters' demands.

"[SDS] sort of has the intent of letting you blend in and exist within nondisabled spaces," she said. "The other side of that is through inclusion, which makes sure that disability is not something that is erased from a classroom and making sure that disability culture and community can exist on campus."

Alice emphasized that she finds it unfortunate that students must shoulder the burden of bringing change for disabled students.

"We have to be the ones that show the spine because the faculty have less spine than piles of goo," she said. "Is that fair? No, that's not fair, but we're doing it, because we believe in it. It's a worthy cause, and it's necessary."

While the protesters were not able to present their demands to the Provost that day, Cerilli highlighted that the event brought students together.

"I spent four years trying to get a sense of the disability community at Hopkins, and it's just been this painstaking process of finding one person at a time," she said. "This was really nice just to see a lot of people at once who are all invested in disability equity at this institution."

Cerilli also discussed her personal project, titled Digital Location Maps. The project aims to compile hand-drawn maps created by students that highlight places on campus that inaccessible to students with disabilities, such as pathways and buildings too far to walk to on high-pain days.

She hopes that the project can create a more interactive way to shine light on disability life on campus.

"[The University's disability community has] a lack of attention, and I think a lot of shame is put towards it," she said."It would be really cool to make it visible and make a record of it in a place where it's not really supposed to be made a record of."

Corrections: The original article did not clarify that the organizers of the protest met with Kumar on May 3.

Another quote has also been removed because the information was found to be inaccurate and misrepresentative of the student's claims.

The News-Letter regrets these errors.

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FILE PHOTO

Protesters presented demands for the University to provide better accommodations for disabled students.

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<![CDATA[Students respond to new COVID-19 protocols, testing and finals]]> The University reinstated several COVID-19 safety protocols in an email sent to undergraduate students on May 6, including updated masking and testing guidance.

Undergraduate students will be required to test twice a week and masking will now be required in libraries and study areas, including Brody Learning Commons, given its increased use during finals week. Guests helping students move out of residence halls will also be required to wear masks.

The email noted the uptick in cases came in the wake of student events, including the Meek Mill concert on April 30. On May 10, the campus dashboard reported that 531 students had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last seven days.

Vice President for Communications Andrew Green discussed the University's decision to expand COVID-19 protocols in an email to The News-Letter.

"Given the changed circumstances, we have since reinstated required masking at large (greater than 50 people) indoor events, and now require that food and drink at large indoor student events be served outside or in a grab-and-go format," he wrote. "We are also encouraging masking at smaller events."

In a subsequent email to residential students, the University wrote that it is prioritizing off-campus isolation housing for students most in need, including those who have medical conditions that increase their risk for COVID-19, those who are experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19 or those who live with roommates and are unable to self-isolate. Students who are quarantined in their own rooms can only leave their dorms to pick up packaged meals from designated locations.

Isolation

In an email to The News-Letter, sophomore Katharine Durbin described her experience with the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Call Center (JHCCC).

Durbin got tested on May 4 and received her positive COVID-19 test result the next day. She was told that those who do not have roommates would need to isolate in place.

"I was told I would be emailed about [food and laundry]. However, I have not received one yet so I have just been ordering food for now," she wrote. "Someone else told me how they are picking up their food from the isolation people and so I did that this morning."

She also highlighted the lack of specific information from both the JHCCC and the Student Health and Wellness Center (SWHC).She had hoped that students isolating in place would have received more academic support from the University, as she described that her COVID-19 symptoms made studying for exams difficult.

"Although this level of outbreak is unprecedented here, it would be nice if the resources were made more readily available and the procedures for students in isolation housing were posted somewhere so I wouldn't have to rely on not being forgotten in an email chain," she wrote. "Additionally, more information on how to take care of yourself when experiencing COVID symptoms would be helpful, especially for those of us who have never had it before."

According to Green, students who are isolating in place can pick up a package of three meals daily at a designated time and place, as it does not pose a significant risk to the community.

In an interview with The News-Letter, junior Pranav Samineni shared that he decided to go back to his parents' home after testing positive for COVID-19 to make sure his roommate would not be exposed.

He believes that he was most likely exposed to COVID-19 at the Spring Fair concert. He mentioned that four out of the six people he went to the concert with had tested positive for COVID-19.

"I do think it was a bit odd that the concert was hosted indoors," he said. "The cautious approach might have been to either limit the capacity since we were nearly face-to-face or to host it outside in the stadium, but I definitely wasn't expecting to see so many cases explode out of it."

Green stated that the concert was planned and occurred when there was low COVID-19 transmission on campus. He reiterated that the University operates in line with both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and input from public health and infectious disease experts.

"The selection of the event venue took into consideration already scheduled outdoor venues, the technology and equipment required to provide the kind of listening and production students expected and was planned and executed in full compliance with the University's COVID protocols," he wrote. "Masks were encouraged but optional for vaccinated students, and attendance capacity at the concert was limited."

Testing difficulties and invalid testing

In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Stephanie Rodriguez detailed receiving an invalid test result on May 4 after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.She then obtained a rapid test, where she tested negative for COVID-19.

Rodriguez expressed feeling fearful of a positive test result.

"I had moments of hesitation as I scheduled my COVID test appointment," she wrote. "My fears ranged from having to study in quarantine and having to take make up exams."

Students also revealed that as long as they report having no symptoms after a five-day isolation period, there are no requirements to test negative before being released from quarantine.

Green defended the protocols by citing multiple ways through which the University is ensuring the spread of COVID-19 is inhibited.

"Students are still interviewed. If they exhibit symptoms, they remain in isolation even if they say they don't have symptoms," he wrote. "Lying about symptoms is a conduct code violation."

After being released, students are instructed to continue masking and avoid public transportation until at least day ten after testing positive.

Green added that isolation housing is being prioritized for the most recent cases.

"Residential students in university-provided isolation housing will be released on day 7+ even if they still have symptoms," he wrote. "This will enable us to prioritize isolation housing for students with new-onset COVID infections since people are more contagious two days before on-set of symptoms and the first 3-4 days of symptoms, and significantly less so on day 7+ of symptoms."

He also detailed that the University will try its best to accommodate students who are still in isolation at the end of the semester on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, even if students have not completed the required time in isolation, Green explained that they can leave if they don't take public transport and are cleared by their health care provider upon sharing their travel plans.

Final Exams

With the rise in COVID-19 cases at Hopkins, students questioned the modality of finals, especially for large classes that are major requirements for underclassmen.

In an email to The News-Letter, Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Treasurer Kya Nicholson wrote that in-person finals would be unsafe.

"The University should require all professors to give an online option for students," she wrote. "We shouldn't have to risk our lives and others to take an exam that can be accommodated to keep us all safe."

SGA Senator Sophie Liu started an online petition to make all finals for undergraduate students online, citing the complications for students who are quarantined and for those who have to travel abroad.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Liu detailed how being quarantined after contracting COVID-19 made it difficult to study for her exams while she was symptomatic. Additionally, she found it challenging to schedule makeup in-person exams because she planned to return home right after getting out of quarantine.

She was initially only offered to receive an incomplete in one of her classes and take a makeup exam in the fall, with no online option, before her professor heard similar concerns from other students and moved the exam online.

"I'm just worried that [an incomplete] will show [on] my transcripts even if it does get eventually fixed" she said. "I would not have created [this petition] had I not heard dozens and dozens of complaints from other undergrad students that have very similar issues and concerns as I do."

On May 9, Liu received an email response to her petition from the administration, which she posted online. The response thanked students for sharing their concerns but revealed that the University has no plans to move to entirely online examinations, leaving each exam to the discretion of the instructor.

Liu felt their response was very similar to the University's most recent email on the same matter.

"I just wanted it to be a bit more personalized and something that really addresses what the students' concerns were, and not just giving us an average and what felt like an almost robotic response," she said.

Freshman Aliana Manji, who also tested positive for COVID-19, echoed the same frustrations in an interview with The News-Letter.

"I don't see why they can't move exams online and allow us to move home a little earlier to put our health first," she said. "We're the students, we make up the school. They're not going to put us first when we should be their first priority."

Green stated there has been no recorded COVID-19 transmission in instructional spaces since the beginning of the pandemic and that the University has full confidence in the safety of in-person examinations.

"While there are no plans to pivot to entirely online examinations, a number of instructors have been modifying their final assessments on a class-by-class basis," he wrote. "The ability to make such changes depends on a number of specifics to that course. Instructors have also been reminded of the resources that we've had in place since the beginning of the pandemic for assessing students remotely."

Green added that if a student reaches out to a professor and states they are in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19, professors are required not to seek further validation. He directed students to reach out to their academic advisors or the deans' offices to navigate any issues with professors.

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Students report challenges with isolation housing and in-person finals amid a rise of COVID-19 cases on campus.

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<![CDATA[University plans first in-person Spring Fair since 2019]]> The University held its 51st Annual Spring Fair on the weekend of April 28 - May 1, marking the first in-person Spring Fair since 2019. This was the second Spring Fair planned by the University's Office of Leadership Engagement and Experiential Development (LEED). University administrators took over planning last year in the wake of the Spring Fair Planning Committee's misconduct allegations.

Senior Amanda Fernandes, co-president of WJHU radio, explained the organization's involvement in helping to plan Spring Fair in an interview with The News-Letter. She said that WJHU worked with LEED to present 'WJHU's Spring Show,' which showcased undergraduate and graduate student musicians.

"This is not something that's ever been done at Spring Fair but I had always thought that our school needed a place to showcase student musicians who aren't in registered student groups," she said. "It's pretty exciting!"

In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Christina Fahmy said she enjoyed experiencing the live music performed by student bands and artists.

Other events included lawn games and activities, local food and drink vendors, the Beer Garden, fireworks, the Charm City Songwriters Showcase and an arts market.

In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Liz Peron acknowledged the University highlighting Baltimore-owned businesses.

"I think it's really cool that Hopkins is giving us the opportunity to engage with the Baltimore community," she said. "I loved walking around and exploring the different food trucks and the arts marketplace. I just wish that everything was a little more affordable."

Fahmy echoed Peron's comments saying she appreciated the local vendors and wished the University had invited more local artists, artisans and businesses to cater to a larger proportion of the community.

"The event could be improved if they were to bring in more vegan and vegetarian options at the food stalls, and perhaps a flower mart or something similar to a farmer's market as part of the arts market," she said.

Fernandes added that in her experience in coordinating with the University, she found the administrators to be receptive.

Fahmy also expressed her disappointment that some events, like the Beer Garden, were inaccessible for most of the student body, saying that it made a part of the campus, the Decker Garden, inaccessible to many students who enjoy going there.

Peron expressed that she enjoyed the events overall.

"I found that I really liked how lively the campus was and all of the activities planned for us," she said. "It was a fun way to end the semester!"

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COURTESY OF YANA MULANI

Students took a break from studying for finals to listen to student musicians performing live on The Beach.

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<![CDATA[Hopkins Democrats and Hopkins Republicans speak on the lack of political discourse on campus]]> Representatives of Hopkins Democrats and Hopkins Republicans reflected on political engagement and transparency on campus in interviews with The News-Letter.

In an email to the The News-Letter, former Co-President of Hopkins Democrats Sylvana Schaffer explained that there is not a lot of dialogue among the student body. However, she feels that discourse is encouraged through courses, club events, social media and more.

Schaffer shared how Hopkins Democrats encourages political engagement through speaker events and discussions.

"During election years, we've also held events like debate watch parties and worked to help get more students registered. We also use social media and The News-Letter as a vehicle for responding to hot-button issues," she wrote.

Schaffer highlighted that Hopkins Democrats attempts to maintain transparency in their efforts. According to her, she sends regular emails to their mailing list of over 300 members to solicit feedback and provide updates on upcoming events.

Hopkins Republicans Treasurer Andre Zou echoed Schaffer's comments on political engagement on campus in an email to The News-Letter, where he believes active political dialogue is not promoted on campus.

Zou stated that the Hopkins administration and the student body have clear partisan leanings.

He explained that that there is a bias in favor of Democrats even in official school communications.

"There is a clear stigma against any dissent (be it conservative, libertarian, etc.) against the liberal narrative on campus," he wrote. "Many in the club have had experiences of being ostracized by their peers for expressing their political opinions."

Schaffer noted that she has gotten some criticism from people who dislike the Democratic Party and identify as further left on the political spectrum. However, she has never personally felt excluded due to her beliefs.

"College campuses tend to be pretty progressive, and I've found that to generally hold true here (at least among those who are vocal)," she wrote.

The College Democrats and the College Republicans held a debate on April 14. The debate, which was open to the public, was not recorded for viewing after the event.

Zou asserted that many members of the College Republicans requested for the debate not to be recorded because they have experienced ostracism.

"We try to protect the privacy and personal autonomy of our members," he wrote. "Many of our members feared their quotes in the debate being taken out of context and used against them. Not recording decreases the tension and allows both sides to engage in a more genuine conversation."

Schaffer shared that the College Democrats had no issue with recording at the debate.

"While I personally thought some of our counterparts' fears were unfounded, I respect their concerns and politely agreed to honor their wishes," she wrote.

Concerning future collaborations between the Hopkins Democrats and Hopkins Republicans, Schaffer stated that the clubs plan to continue regular engagement with one another.

"We've been doing these debates annually since my freshman year. I don't anticipate that changing anytime soon," she wrote.

Sylvana Schaffer is a contributing writer for The News-Letter. She did not contribute reporting, writing or editing to this article.

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COURTESY OF CHRISTINA SIA

Hopkins Republicans feel ostracized based on political beliefs on campus.

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<![CDATA[The Maryland Film Festival inspires thought and creativity both on and off the screen]]> The Maryland Film Festival made its first return back in-person after three years from April 27 to May 1, showing over 180 short and feature films.

I've discovered a newfound love for short films in the last year. Despite their brevity, they can pack so much punch, emotion and excitement. Getting to watch about 20 short films over the weekend and experience the festival's comeback really fueled that passion. The films had me laughing, crying, screaming and everything in between.

I attended opening night on a whim because my friend was able to get me a free ticket to the viewing from the Film and Media Studies department. We watched six shorts that night, three of which especially stood out to me.

The first film we viewed was Mass Ave, which featured beautiful cinematography. The film spends most of its run showcasing the complex dynamic between son Macca, who wants to be an artist, and Saidu, Macca's father who wants him to be a doctor.

Smile Little Ladybug captured my admiration unexpectedly. The documentary told the story of Andrea, who works as a clown. She is motivated by her grandfather's torture and escape from Nazi camps to spread laughter and kindness through clowning. On the outside, these may sound like two things that don't go together, but the themes flow beautifully as they detail the life of Andrea and her grandfather.

The final and most hilarious film was F^¢k '€m R!ght B@¢k, which stars Baltimore-based artist DDm. It is about a queer Black rapper who accidentally takes an edible and must maneuver his way out of taking a mandatory drug test. The short is humorous, insightful, colorful and filled with energy.

With hesitancy, my friend pushed me to speak to the director of Mass Ave, Omar Kamara, whose film had me so stunned that I searched up all the information I could find about him right after. I learned that he grew up ten minutes away from my hometown and went to one of my rival high schools. After talking with him and other filmmakers, we found ourselves at one of the Film Festival's afterparties, where we were the youngest people in attendance. Meeting even more filmmakers and listening to their philosophies, ideas and views about the film world was a perfect opening to the rest of the festival.

The next day, I attended the film screening I was most excited to see: Sirens, a feature documentary directed by Rita Baghdadi, a Moroccan American filmmaker. It details the story of the Middle East's first all-female metal band, Slave To Sirens, and the complex relationship between Lilas and Shery, two of the band's members and former partners.

Growing up, I never saw media produced by Moroccans, so I had to honor that achievement on the director's part. Watching the story was like watching a fictional narrative at times; Lilas and Shery's chemistry is so pronounced, often unintentionally, onto the screen.

On the final day of the festival, I attended two short film screenings. The first was True Stories Shorts, a conglomeration of documentaries, and the second was Altered States Shorts, a mix of films that are a bit "out of this world" in my opinion.

Every single documentary short film was beautifully done, but one that especially caught my eye was "The Panola Project" from True Stories Shorts. The film detailed the efforts of Dorothy Oliver to vaccinate her Black rural Alabama town. The film lingers on some moments cinematically while simultaneously highlighting the organizers' great efforts to support their communities when all institutions have intentionally failed them.

From the Altered States Shorts, the most memorable film was My House, Carl. The film is about a man named Pete who takes his girlfriend to his childhood home. When he arrives, he is reminded that his house can talk to him. It's quirky, funny and adds a lovable layer to the film through the dynamic between Pete and his girlfriend.

At the festival, I met so many incredible people, spent time with great friends and gained inspiration by the limitless ways movies can be created and leave an impact. I'll definitely be clearing my schedule to attend more of the festival next year, and I hope more of the Hopkins community gets the chance to explore it as well.

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COURTESY OF LUBNA AZMI

Azmi reviews the Maryland Film Festival, where she reveled in her deep appreciation of film through screenings of quality documentaries, films and short films.

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<![CDATA[Saying goodbye to structure and organization this upcoming year]]>

Checklists, bullet points and post-its cover my notes. Maps and pamphlets are sprawled out on the table. Sitting in Barnes and Noble with a yellow notepad in front of me and a stack of travel books to my left, I rapidly write down ideas for my upcoming trip.

Throughout my whole life, I have loved making travel itineraries. Whether it was for a weekend getaway or a long trip, I would sit down for hours to read, take notes and organize details. Even if I wasn't taking the trip myself, I'd get excited to plan other people's outings, as it would give me the opportunity to learn more about a place and imagine what the trip would be like.

I've always found comfort in organization and structure. When I was in kindergarten, my parents used to send me to school every day with an analog watch so that I could learn how to tell time. Unfortunately for my kindergarten teacher, this meant that five-year-old me was reading out the time every five minutes to remind the class that we needed to keep to our schedule properly.

That same year, my parents enticed me to go to an art museum by handing me a Canon digital camera. With the camera in my hand, I photographed every piece of art in the museum that I saw. Despite how tedious this process was, it helped me learn to truly love and appreciate museums.

As I wrap up my sophomore year of college here at Hopkins, I am starting to feel like there is a looming timeline with things I need to do before the semester ends. Since I am not going to be here over the summer and am planning to study abroad in Spain during the fall, it feels surreal to wrap my head around the concept that when I leave campus in the middle of May, I will probably not be back until January.

I have to come to terms with the fact that the Hopkins I leave may not be the same Hopkins I come back to. Time won't freeze, things may change and I have to accept that life will continue without me.

Nevertheless, I have to contain 'my fear of missing out' and realize that my life can continue outside the confines of Charles Village. Although I'll be far away from the comfort and structure here on campus, I'll have the opportunity to gain a new and distinct perspective, which is both scary and exciting.

I need to say goodbye to the structure and organization of my life and make more room for spontaneity and adventure. I've spent far too long planning and anticipating every single detail of each day when instead I need to live in the moment.

The future is unpredictable; even last month, when I began counting down the days of the semester and stressing out about how much time I had left, I tested positive for COVID-19 and stayed in isolation for nine days. Those nine days were sad and lonely, and I truly missed being outside and seeing my friends. Yet, it also made me further appreciate the people that are in my life and the friends that make my time here at Hopkins so special.

I like to believe that I am becoming more flexible and spontaneous than my childhood self. Yes, it's good to be organized, and I definitely will still be making itineraries for my time in Spain, but I'm also excited to keep some things unknown and explore the world around me with a clean set of expectations. And for now I'm excited for what the present has in store.

Gabriel Lesser is a sophomore from Westchester, N.Y. studying Neuroscience and Romance Languages. His column explores his memories along with his current reflections and the lessons that he has learned.

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