Johns Hopkins University
BackgroundInterview Date:Winter 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Half Asian and half White
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Private school in Los Angeles, CA with a graduating class of about 330 students. There was a strong culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Double Major in Cognitive Science with a focus on Neuroscience and Film and Media
Extracurricular Activities: I’m on the club squash team, I’m in an acapella group called the Mental Notes, I’m in Studio North which is a student-run film production company, and I’m a member of Greek life. I used to be a varsity athlete.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
My acapella group has made a huge impact on my whole Hopkins experience. I came in as a freshman on a varsity sports team, so I only knew athletes. There’s definitely a culture here that if you’re an athlete, you hang out with other athletes and if you’re not an athlete you don’t see athletes. I really wanted to keep singing, so I auditioned for the Mental Notes. It’s not super serious and is really fun. I’ve made my best friends in the group and it’s a great culture to be in an organization that is so bonded. You also get to make friends in other grades and have role models in other grades who can help you out.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for Cognitive Science?
This semester I’m only taking two Cognitive Science classes. The classes are usually exam based and lecture-oriented. There’s some reading, but you could learn everything in the lecture. The reading is more so to help you if you didn’t understand part of the lecture. There’s not generally a lot of homework. There will be really hard assignments, but those will happen once a week or every other week.
Is there anything you feel the Cognitive Science department does especially well or poorly?
My only complaint is because it’s a small major there aren’t a ton of people who can teach classes, so sometimes the scheduling gets out of whack. They’ll drop classes and then add classes, and then you’re in the class they dropped, and then you end up on the wait list for something else. That’s my only complaint, but it all works out and the problem makes up for itself because there’s not a ton of faculty and students the faculty know you well and can help you. So, when the class I was in got dropped, my advisor said he would put me in whatever class I wanted and really helped me out. You wouldn’t get that kind of attention in one of the bigger majors.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I don’t think it’s collaborative, but I don’t think it’s competitive either. I think everyone is on working on their own trying to do their best. People don’t want to sabotage anybody else, and there isn’t a culture of asking people what they got on an exam. When you do have questions, you generally can ask your classmates.
What is your favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
Language and Mind. It’s been taught by other people in the past, but the professor I took it with now teaches it once a semester. The professor was really passionate about it and kept the class engaged. It’s rare for a lecture class to be very vocal, people wanted to ask questions and give answers.
What is your least favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
Behavior and Brain Cognition. It’s an entry-level class so everyone has to take it. I really liked it, but it was just so much content. The professor who teaches it teaches it every year. She just talks so fast and it’s so much information that you have to go back and watch every lecture again at half speed to catch everything, and that’s just a huge time commitment. At the same time, I also understand that there’s really no other way to do it.
How accessible have your professors been?
Incredibly accessible. In one of my classes this semester I don’t really need to meet with my professor. In that class, we’ll write down any questions or concerns we have after the lecture and every day he reviews all the questions from the class before. It’s really great. That’s in a Psychology class called Sensation and Perception.
Why did you choose Cognitive Science? Are you happy with your choice so far?
I came in as a Neuroscience major, and everybody was dying because it’s so hard. It’s a really big major, so the professors don’t know anyone. One of my friends suggested I take Cognitive Science because you’re essentially studying the same stuff, but it’s a smaller, more close-knit major. You can focus on [five different focal areas], so because I was already a Neuroscience major, I’m focusing on Neuroscience.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Wolman Hall with one roommate and one suitemate. It was just three of us sharing a kitchen and bathroom which was so nice.
Sophomore: Charles Commons with one roommate. We each had our own room and shared a common space where we shared a little kitchenette and a table.
Junior: House off campus with four other friends.
What has been your favorite living situation?
I really loved living in Charles Commons because the security is great. You need to swipe into get into the building and swipe into gates to get into the rooms. There’s also somebody always at the desk, so I couldn’t bring in my parents without them signing in.
How was transitioning from Los Angeles, CA to Baltimore, MD?
Every year I forget there’s winter. I’m a junior and I still always forget [laughs]. Also, I’m not driving. In L.A. I’m so used to getting in my car and going wherever I want. I have to take the bus every day here to go to the film center, and I have to chill on the street and wait for a bus. It’s not a big deal, it’s just different.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I personally have never had any concerns about safety. But that’s because I’m somebody who is always on the lookout for my own safety. I don’t wander around by myself late at night anywhere.
Pros and Cons of being in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore, MD?
Pros: (1) It’s in the city, so you have close proximity to movie theaters, supermarkets, and other colleges.
(2) It’s close to the train station so it’s easy to get to New York or D.C.
(3) It’s not too much in the city, so you feel secluded in our own neighborhood/college-towny area.
Cons: (1) We are in our own little bubble. I don’t really think about going out and doing a ton of stuff just because I’m so invested in this little life that I have here. The farthest I go ever is to Station North to hang out and watch movies, and that’s like a mile away.
(2) I don’t have a car, and I definitely don’t need a car as much as I would in L.A., but I still think having a car is nice.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Johns Hopkins?
Now that I live in a house, we will invite people over and hang out with our friends at our house. We’ll drink, chill, do whatever. There’s less of a bar and club culture here than there is at other colleges, and I think that’s because we don’t have bars that are really close by that are chill and college like. There are some people who go downtown on the weekends. I like to watch movies at Station North, and there’s a ton of free movies you can see there. I went to Artscape this summer for the first time, that was fun. I’m also very much a home person, so I’m okay with not doing a lot.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Hopkins?
I’m happy because I don’t really like to go out and there aren’t a ton of going out options, so I’m just like, “Okay, I won’t go out.” I know other people are bummed by it, but I’m personally fine with it.
What have been your favorite times at Hopkins?
I really like the first week before school starts, when everybody’s back and ready to get into the swing of things. There are new freshmen figuring the school out. It’s warm out, and no one’s too stressed yet. I think my happiness is directly correlated with how much stuff I have to do, and I think a lot of people feel that way. That’s just how it works here.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through my acapella group and through doing film projects together. When I was an athlete, my closest friends were other people on my team. Now it’s whoever the school forces me to spend time with that become my best friends. I love my friends, but we would have never met if it weren’t for whatever school stuff we have to do.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think there’s a very clear segmentation between people who are athletes, people in Greek life, and people who are non-Greek life and non-athletes. The Greek life population complains that there isn’t enough going on and that there are not enough bars. The non-athletic non-Greek life people think everything’s fine and they just have little parties and go to bed. That groups definitely a large portion of the school. I feel like there’s a very underrated portion of the school that’s very happy not raging all the time. Then there are the athletes who do their own thing and sometimes interact with Greek life.
To what extent do people of different race and sexual orientations mix socially?
This is actually something I’ve been fairly invested in. There’s like no gay people in Greek people in Greek life. Those who are gay in Greek life are starting this thing called Gays in Greek Life, which is similar to Jews in Greek Life which we already have. Greek life can be so straight and White, which doesn’t represent the actual student body. [About 26%] of the students here are Asian, and there are not that many in Greek life. There should be, that’d be fun. We should have Asian frats but we don’t. I think it will be on the up and up in the next few years and that is because new organizations are starting. I think there is room for much more diversity in Greek life, which will therefore create more diversity in the general social scene.
How would you describe the student body?
I think the student body is very into doing their own thing. There is a ton of school spirit, there aren’t people who are crazy about Hopkins in the sense that people are about Michigan. Everybody is just chilling with Hopkins, doing their own activities with whatever clubs, having their classes, and are very focused. It’s not that everyone is self-centered, people are just focused on their own life and are not that jazzed up about school, partying, or even Greek life. There are definitely some students who are very passionate about certain subjects, like politically oriented kids or environmentally oriented kids, and it’s great, but they’re not radical and crazy. It just feels natural to have people be passionate. In general, I think the student body is more mellow.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of Hopkins by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Hopkins?
Yeah, I think so.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
No, but that’s because I haven’t been trying. My friends who have been trying have been successful and have made good connections through it.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
The Film department does a lot of stuff with the career office. They will organize panels with young alumni who talk to us and help us decide where we want to go and get entry-level positions in the film industry. That’s especially important for the film industry because the film industry is much more about connections.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Hopkins before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that it was okay to ask for help from professors about anything. I feel that I can do that now as a junior, but I could have done that earlier. I could go to the head of the Computer Science department and ask if I can take a certain class. The worst thing she says is no.
What is something a prospective student interested in film may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Just start making stuff. Starting writing and producing your own videos and putting them on YouTube. It’s a really small major, so everyone gets along and has to work on each other’s projects. It’s important just to make stuff with your friends, it doesn’t have to be good. Don’t worry about making stuff that’s good your first year.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
A diner called Tamber’s that also serves Indian food.
Reasons to attend Johns Hopkins:
1) For the community.
2) To challenge yourself academically.
3) To get to feel like a medium-sized fish in a medium-sized pond. One of the things I really like about going here is I actually matter. There’s a lot of guidance here because it’s a smaller school.
Reasons to not attend Johns Hopkins:
1) If you like to go out and have a wild time, don’t come here. It’s just not going to work out.