Remembering the Scars of Sophomore Year in – July

An Introduction Paragrah That Un-spun Itself Into An Uncomfortable Wooly Sweater

I have a love-hate-“love” relationship with Johns Hopkins University. In my first year, I fell in love with Johns Hopkins tor the wealth of knowledge they try to pour into you. I love Biomedical Engineering for being a very Eclectic discipline in terms of combining math, biology, and a fair bit of engineering intuition to solve intricate problems and explain phenomena in the human body.

In my second year, I still loved it, but I started hating the intense academic culture the Hopkins Professors and Hopkins Student Body perpetuates. It feels intense in the sense that if you aren’t studying for 6-12 hours, you’re going to be left behind because everyone else is studying those 6-12 hours. At the same time, if you are the ones pushing to study 6-12 hours, people will throw labels at you like “cut-throat” or “pre-med” (It shouldn’t carry a negative connotation, but it somehow does around here). Year round, the culture in Hopkins has a lot of “ego”-measuring competitions to see who can complain more about their coursework of lack-of sleep schedule. In the subsection of the “Premed” culture here, everyone silently watches everyone else for the person gunning down for volunteer positions in Hospitals, research fellowships, design teams, competitions, etc – people will sarcastically jeer and put-down that person in their mind for trying so hard, while silently trying to worm their way to the top as well. The cost of conversations will be minimized to asking for homework help; you want to be above the fierce academic culture by offering help since it seems like the decent thing to do, but it wears at you when you continuously conduct these question-answer transactions that become you’re only connection to people. This hate leads into my other “love” for Hopkins, because this frustration has become a Stockholm Syndrome for complaining. On my good days, I try my best to be real and think, “The try-hard ‘Hopkins Culture’ doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s just a state of mind.” On my bad days though, it infects me and I start to believe it, and I’m stuck in this poisonous equilibrium, oscillating back and forth between exemplifying all the unpleasant qualities about Hopkins students and deriding those qualities; I would scramble to diagnose the illness that I think has loomed over Hopkins, when really it’s just my ill perception of the world. Even writing this paragraph two months later, I have trouble drawing the line of being completely real and being hyper-dramatic. How much of my perception is valid? I’m not sure, but when the school spirit our institution is in the Student Study Center rather than on our football field, there is some truth to my sadness.

For me specifically, I just had a bad semester and I want to dig the salt of the Earth with this post. When you start making appointments to the Student Health and Wellness, maybe the silly, sarcastic grudge you have against this school is manifesting into something actually horrible. When you finally crack and lose your motivation to study before one of your Final Exams and have resigned yourself to failure, you might remember the bad memories just a bit better too.  During the end of my Sophomore Spring, I hated how I hard I’ve worked myself, how much I started caring about what other people think, and how much I started to micromanage my day to the half-hour where all activities are allocated a certain amount of time and breaking my study schedule leads to mental segmentation faults. Maybe my ill perception of Hopkins is all in my head and I’m not thinking straight, however, I saw some of these same struggles in my peers at the time, some took it better, some took it worse, and it’s disconcerting to see how much the academic pressure can bog our minds and corner us to value academic success over our mental, physical, and spiritual health. Sophomore Spring is over, I did OK in the end, but I still feel hopelessly institutionalized, still being able to vividly recall memories two months later as if it were yesterday.

I’m reading this blog post over again right now and I can’t help but laugh. I wanted to write about my summer experience in the Boston-Cambridge area and all the exciting things I’m seeing, but my introduction in explaining my pre-summer mental state spun into a bitter tangent that wants to remember the scars of Sophomore Spring. I didn’t really want to revisit any of more of these thoughts. I’ve hammered them enough in my own Amygdala, triggering a bottomless cocktail of anxiety, fear, and stress, however I’ve already written this much, so I might as well get my thoughts into something physical on WordPress, and maybe I can let this moment pass. Some of my thoughts might be over the place, but I don’t feel like I have the authority to provide a systematic, analytical breakdown, since everyone has a different experience, and I don’t want to perpetuate cycles no’ mo’. Some of my thoughts might also be spurious and it ironically perpetuates “The Hopkins Culture” by complaining, but at that time, it was what I felt and it was real to me.

My experience in a nutshell.

What Went Wrong

Um. Not sleeping enough, not exercising enough, having unhealthy relationships, falling behind in my routine and then not respecting some of my classes. That’s about it.

It Wasn’t Really That Bad

Sophomore Year made me an emotionless husk of the person I used to be, but I still had a lot of new positive experiences.

I’m really glad I met Andy Tsai, who made programming hella fun, and taught me the importance of finding value. We would spend countless hours programming only small UI improvements, making 3 AM cheese steak runs and scouring Princeton and MIT CS lectures, and it was all worth. He has a blog here, but it’s kind of bad so you might want to stay on this page.

New groups I joined such as Hopkins Christian Fellowship and Stepping Stones Ministry through Michael Good and Andy helped reforge my relationship with God, and I realized my flesh and soul can only go so far without being empowered by the Spirit. Academic groups such as Engineering World Health made design teams fun, serious, and thought-provoking for me under the tenure of Adarsha Malla. I also grew closer to the people in Eclectics and CSA, however, they are honestly too caring and friendly, and the way they empathize and make me feel warm irks me to a great deal. When I am around them, I remember that existing can be beautiful.

That all goes away when I hang out with my rag tag friend group, “307”. That’s what we call ourselves, since that was the dormitory where everything happened in Buiding A, freshman year. Dank memes were shared, drinks were spilled, furniture was broken, gossip was spread like the plague, and it was pretty glorious. No one gets a shout out though.

Conclusion

This might be the closest entry I’ll ever write in summarizing my Hopkins Experience. I’ve learned some of the coolest, most niche areas of study in biology, I’ve learned how to complain,  I’ve learned what it means to fail and suffer, I’ve learned that failing will happen again in the future and its OK, I’ve also learned how to not complain, I’ve developed a thick outer core that makes me bitter and sarcastic and a small inner core that just wants to dance to “Elastic Heart”, and I’ve made strong friends that’ll last a life time. That is Hopkins in a nut shell. So, eh? It’s OK so far.

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