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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.
Just like that, another year at Hopkins has come to a close. Recently one of my friends asked me the following question: “How would you rate your college experience so far?”
It’s crazy how much changes in a year. Last April in a Zoom breakout room, we found out that we would be leading The News-Letter through its next chapter. After over a year of pandemic life, things were looking up — businesses were re-opening, masking restrictions were loosening and we were #vaxxed and ready.
It’s almost spring in Baltimore, and the sun has started to ward away the chill winds. Now, I can sit in Keyser Quad and read my favorite books on the weekends.
Darkness, solitude and the echoes of hyenas shrouded me, trapping me inside the tent where I sat, overwhelmed by the past events of my trip to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It was 3 a.m., and I could not stop scratching my head. I was wearing three pounds of hair extensions that had not been washed in almost half a week. Days of touring in an open-window Jeep gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see wild African animals close up — all while my newly braided hair captured every bit of sweat, sunscreen and dust that came with this experience.
Upon arriving at college, I wasn’t so sure about how I felt living with a roommate — or, in my case, three roommates. Growing up an only child. I had never shared a room or lived with people my age before, and understandably, I was nervous. I have a vivid memory of the first time I met one of my roommates — she gave this tiny wave as she was moving in, we awkwardly introduced ourselves, and she closed the door to begin unpacking. She hates me, I remember thinking.
One thing we can say we have always done together are the firsts. What firsts, you may ask? Well, most recently, making fried eggs in the Fresh Food Café (FFC). In typical Laura-and-Diksha fashion, we managed to score a first experience even during the final stretch of our freshman year. It would not be a typical column from Laura and Diksha if we didn’t share it with you.
It always feels like one of those crossover episodes when my friends in college meet my friends from high school. The friendships, though all very special to me, still feel somewhat unique and separate from one another since they represent very different parts of my life.
I have a complicated relationship with spring. I love it when the tulips shoot like rockets between rowhouses and mansions alike. When the perfumed magnolias scatter around campus, only opening once in their delicate surrender, just to fall to the cobblestones like late March snow. I most love the sunny days when the temperature breaks 60 degrees and everyone’s sprawled out on the Beach.
When my plane landed on Long Island, it felt like spring break had officially commenced. I was experiencing an immense craving for Rosa’s Pizza, a staple of my hometown, but the pizza was going to have to wait. My mother had been hinting at “making a stop” on the way home from the airport. I hadn’t entirely believed that we were off to Babylon Animal Shelter to adopt an elderly German Shepherd until she asked me to check Google Maps and see which PetSmart would make for a more efficient stop.
It’s been a long semester and, apart from sleeping, there was one main thing I looked forward to during our glorious week off: Stardust Video & Coffee.
I have a confession to make. I’ve been truly awful at maintaining contact with my high school friends. Other than a month in the summer when I worked out at Crunch Fitness with a few of them (spoiler alert: I am horrendously out of shape), I have barely talked with any of my old compatriots since graduation.
I’m sleeping on a narrow twin-size bed with one mattress stacked on top of another, holding two thin polyester pillows and a singular bed sheet. The fan above me spins slowly, creating the slightest breeze to ease the humidity, and the morning sun begins to creep in through the reflective windows.
Over a plate of too-salty fried rice and oily bún bò huế, my friend watches me cry. We’re getting lunch at a little Vietnamese eatery after church on a particularly muggy day. The waiter comes by every once in a while, awkwardly refilling our glasses with lukewarm tap water and avoiding eye contact with me. The couple next to us is trying their best not to listen in.
This new year, I made a personal commitment to make a change in my life: Be more positive. Even if this seems simple, developing a positive mindset was something that I always struggled with over the years and never made a priority. Upon reflecting on my 2021 and setting goals for the new year, I realized that cultivating positivity does not have to be a drastic change but rather should be incorporated into my everyday actions and outlook on life.
The Decembers of my childhood shared one constant: a weekend trip to my aunt Dolores’ log cabin in New Hampshire. Years ago, the house was built by my great-grandfather, grandfather and other relatives of mine, and it has maintained its place in the family ever since, hosting many annual gatherings during which all of my relatives pack into the cozy kitchen and living room.
After finishing a rather turbulent first fall semester, the first thing we thought to do for our first article of spring semester was reflect on all the good and the bad. For much of our high school lives we were told that college was going to be the pinnacle of our academic experience, where we make the closest friends of our lives and the place where we discover our passions, learn new skills and plan for a glorious future in the workplace.
After a month-long vacation and my first break since starting graduate school, I am back from India. Last year passed so quickly, I still cannot believe that I am a graduate student.
For the very first time in my life, I am living on a different continent than everyone I have ever known. The more than 5,000 miles between myself and all my loved ones have definitely proven that saying Distance makes the heart grow fonder.