Johns Hopkins University
BackgroundInterview Date:Winter 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Gay
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in Clarksville, Tennessee with a graduating class of about 340 students. It wasn’t the best high school, but it was okay.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: International Studies and Public Health Studies double major on the Pre-med Track
Minor: Islamic Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m part of African Student Association, Black Student Union, Circle K, Naughty by Nature which is a natural hair club, and I work for the office of Student Leadership and Involvement. I’m also part of Hop In, which aims to help first-gen and low-income students.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Hop-In made a huge impact on my experience here because there’s a summer component. It’s a five-week program the summer before you enroll and you meet all the students in your class who are from a similar background as you, so you build a really close-knit family. That’s actually where I met most of my friends, so it really helped me with that transition to college.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
It differs slightly from semester to semester. Typically, I do take some STEM classes, mainly chemistry, biology, and the accompanying labs. Because I’m an International Studies major, I have to take a language, so I take Arabic, and I also have to take some History and Economics courses. For Public Health Studies, I have to take classes like Intro to Public Health, Research Methods in Public Health, and stuff like that. Typically, I will begin classes at 9AM and end around 4PM, so I have a pretty busy day. In the evening it’s filled up with meetings or studying or extracurricular activities.
Is there anything you feel your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
I haven’t been involved with my majors’ departments yet because I’m still figuring out a lot of things. They send out a lot of emails about various opportunities that one can apply for. This year the International Studies department had a lot of seminars and lectures to learn about various issues. For Public Health Studies, they have good advisors who help you figure out what you want to do with Public Health.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
From my experience, the Hopkins learning environment has been very collaborative. It’s competitive, but I don’t feel that cutthroat competitiveness that this school is known for. Of course, there are times when it’s very hard, but, for the most part, I can count on my friends if I need help with something.
How accessible have your professors been?
They always post when their office hours times are on the syllabus that we get at the beginning of the semester, so through that they are accessible. If I can’t meet them during their office hours, they allow students to e-mail them and send them their availability so they can possibly meet with them. I think they’re very accessible, but I don’t personally meet with them very often.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
When I first entered Hopkins, I wanted to be International Studies and Molecular and Cellular Biology. I changed the Molecular and Cellular Biology because it worked better with International Studies in terms of credits. Now I’m still going through a lot of decision making. I’m thinking of dropping International Studies because at this school it’s not exactly what I thought it would be. There are a lot of other components to International Studies that I was not privy to and those components are not things that I absolutely love, so I don’t know if I want to spend time on things I don’t really love. As of now, I’m pretty content with my decision.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Wolman Hall with two other roommates and two other suitemates. We had five of us in one suite.
Sophomore: A suite just off-campus with two other suitemates. It’s basically on campus.
How was transitioning from Clarksville, TN to Baltimore, MD?
Clarksville is barely a city, so that transition has been interesting. In Clarksville, I have my car with me and have to drive everywhere to get things. In Baltimore there is public transit, so you don’t necessarily need a car, you just have to navigate that public transit system which has been interesting. I also haven’t really gotten a chance to explore the city very much, so I don’t know too much about it.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I think the level of safety is pretty high. I’ve never felt unsafe on or off campus. I’ve always felt safe. I know that Baltimore does have a reputation [of not being safe] due to the riots, but, like every city, Baltimore has its bad parts and good parts. I think the level of safety here is pretty great and I’ve never felt unsafe in the city.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Brown Rice Korean Grill for Korean barbecue. There’s another place in Canton called Sip & Bite that my friends and I try to go to once a month to hang out and relax. I love it a lot.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Probably the Inner Harbor. There is a really big walking path that you can go and walk along. On nice days it’s really nice to go down there and walk and relax.
Pros and Cons of being in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore, MD?
Pros: (1) The Charm City Circulator, which is a free bus system, has a stop at Hopkins campus. It takes you all the way down to the Inner Harbor.
(2) St. Paul Street has a lot of various restaurants of varying cuisines, so that’s a nice plus.
Cons: (1) When you arrive on campus people talk about the “Hopkins Bubble” where people stay on campus without leaving.
(2) The weather. I personally hate the weather because it’s a northern city and it’s too cold for me.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Johns Hopkins?
When I was a freshman, I would go out with friends to frat parties, but I stopped doing that now because that’s not really something I enjoy that much. There are various events in the Inner Harbor that one can go to on the weekends. If my friends and I don’t go out on a weekend night, we usually stay in and watch a movie and eat some food.
What nights of the week do you like to do things with your friends?
Typically, Friday nights and Saturday nights are when my friends get together to watch a movie or just hang out.
How happy were you with the weekend options at Hopkins?
I don’t know, I’ve not really thought about that. I’m content with it. I know there are more options out there if I go out and seek it, but I haven’t gotten the time to do that yet. I’m pretty content with my weekend life. Because of schoolwork I sometimes don’t have the time to go out and seek out stuff to do, and sometimes that’s due to poor planning on my part. Also, the group of friends that I’ve made doesn’t like the stuff that I like to do. I love doing things outdoors, but my friends don’t like to do that with me.
What have been your favorite times at Hopkins?
The Lighting of the Quads or Spring Fair. Lighting of the Quads is in December. All the students gather on Gilman Quad, and the president says a few words about the semester and being part of the Hopkins community, and there’s a firework show where people drink hot chocolate. Spring Fair happens in April and is open to all the Baltimore community. There are lots of food vendors and shows that happen. It’s a nice, lively time and the whole atmosphere of academic stress dissipates.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met them through the Hop-In Program, so we initially met the summer before we enrolled. When we came back in the fall, we got closer because we had classes together and lived in the same residential hall.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
We have an athletic social group, and they usually stick together and have fun together. There are other individuals who have fun at frat parties. Hopkins has Greek life, but it is not as big as other institutions. [In 2016, 27% of the undergraduate population was in Greek life.] There is a people of color group. Because Hopkins is a predominantly White institution, people of color tend to stick together and host their own events and stuff like that. [26.7% of the Class of 2022 were underrepresented minorities. About 7% of all undergraduates are Black.] There are individuals who are more focused on the academic focus of Hopkins, so they stick together and talk about their various research interests and stuff like that. There are also lots of clubs who are focused on social justice and social awareness, and they host a lot of protests, marches, and various other activities. I think those are the main groups on campus.
Has being a person who identifies as gay influenced your social scene at all?
No, not really.
To what extent do people of different race and sexual orientations mix socially?
It happens, but it’s not very common. People of color tend to stick together because there are not a lot of them on campus. There is a strong Asian population here, and a lot of the Asian students stick together, a lot of the South Asian and Indian students stick together, and a lot of the Caucasian students stick together. I don’t see a lot of intermingling, although there are groups for certain demographics and they will organize things with each other.
It’s the same with groups that are about specific sexual orientations. There’s a group on campus that is for LGBTQ Rights, and I don’t see them making plans or activities with other groups, like the African American Student Association. There’s not a lot of intermingling.
How strong is the LGBT community at Hopkins?
I think it’s pretty strong. Hopkins is a pretty safe place for LGBT individuals. One thing I think the LGBT community needs to work on is being more accepting and understanding of queer people of color. I think it’s an issue that queer people of color don’t really have a place on this campus. Overall, I think it’s a pretty strong community. Everybody looks out for each other.
How strong is the Black community at Hopkins?
The Black community on campus is very strong. We all know each other and we have a group chat together. They actively push for agendas of people of color and so forth.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yes, they have. I just did a networking session where I met an individual who had similar interests as mine and showed me various internships I could apply for. The career center also hosts various workshops and seminars to help individuals sharpen their networking skills. I actually attended one of the workshops to help, and I made connections with some of the interviewers that were there.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating was the office to your needs?
Financial aid my freshman year was not the best because I was not sure what I was getting myself into and how to navigate that. This year they’ve been very accommodating. My parents can only pay a certain amount, and they’ve been able to pay for the amount that my parents aren’t able to pay for. Also, one of Hopkins alum’s, Michael Bloomberg, donated $1.8 billion to Hopkins to assist with financial aid, so I think it is going to be more accommodating for years to come.
What is something you wish you knew about Hopkins before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew more about how to navigate the financial aid here at Hopkins. It was not what I was expecting. I also wish I had a better idea of what my classes would be like and what really mattered to graduate. I know when you come on campus you hear that you can explore all your interests, but I feel that that’s a bit of a trap because I thought I could major in all my interests, but that is not the case. I needed to focus on something more concrete and go from there.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Hopkins is ranked [highly] for their dining hall food, but I don’t think the dining hall food here is that great. [Maybe eat in the dining hall and check for yourself.]
Reasons to attend Johns Hopkins:
1) It has really highly ranked programs here and a great medical school.
2) The community here is really great. Students are upright individuals who have a lot of ideas that they want to enact and implement.
3) I think it’s a refreshing atmosphere because you have like-minded people who have ideas on how to better the world.
Reasons to not attend Johns Hopkins:
1) The academic stress and rigor.
2) It’s not the best at undergraduate teaching. Some professors don’t care that much about students because Hopkins is really known for research, so some professors are teaching just because they need to. But, that’s not with all the professors.
3) It’s a really old campus. There are not a lot of new features or amenities on campus.
4) It’s cold, and the weather here is very unstable.