Summer in Baltimore is in full swing. The temperature pushes 90 by 10am, and the humidity is at a consistent 80%. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, so I am no stranger to the Mid-Atlantic heat and humidity, and the oppressive heat is almost comforting as I spend my first summer outside of Virginia. I never went to summer camps as a kid, as I always tethered to my own town by a rigorous swim schedule, and as I grew older I filled my time with a series of summer jobs. This summer, however, is different. Rather than a repetitive and routine summer job, I’m spending my time at what my professor affectionately calls “Camp Organic,” and it has been both exciting and challenging to say the least.
For whatever reason, I’ve planned on taking Organic Chemistry during the summer since before I came to college. It is a pretty common thing to do, (we have somewhere around 200 students in our class!) the theory being that taking it over the summer A) gets the class out of the way and frees up semester time down the road, and B) allows you to focus all your energy on mastering the stereotypically difficult subject matter. I’ve always enjoyed chemistry, so I figured the fast pace and challenging material would be manageable and interesting. Now that I am 1 week from finishing Orgo 1, I’ve definitely developed a routine, but I’m surprised at how different summer at Hopkins is than during the semester.
One of the obvious differences is simply in the pace of the summer courses. By nature of the summer semester, a typically 14 week class is compressed into a 5 week sprint. Although this means 2.5 hour classes 5 times a week, and I’ll admit, there have been days where I’ve had a hard time staying focused for that long. But luckily, our professor really emphasizes a strong understanding of the material, and knows that lecturing for 2.5 hours straight isn’t the best way to feed us information. Instead, Dr. Falzone really emphasizes in-class problem solving, and we always have a 10-15 minute break that helps break up the monotony of the class. I really enjoy this teaching style, and the in-class questions are so helpful for really knowing what information our professor considers important. Furthermore, Dr. Falzone provides us with all the resources we need to be successful, such as practice problems and previous exams to help us prepare. I should also note that my hexagon drawing skills have improved dramatically!
Another major difference isn’t so much in the classroom environment, but rather my living situation. Hopkins offers on-campus housing options for students taking classes over the summer, but many students choose to sublet a room in a house or apartment to save some money. This is what me and many of my friends decided to do, and this has introduced a new level of independence and ~adulthood~ into our lives. Gone are the days of meal swipes and Meals in a Minute, now, we actually have to buy groceries and cook ourselves if we want to eat! This is one of the things I was most excited about coming into the summer semester. I am a terrible cook, but learning alongside my friends has made it much more enjoyable. Though many days I stick with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and dinner, our forays into broccoli chicken casseroles, chicken salad, and misadventures with our grill have been variable in success, but nevertheless exciting.
Other than taking orgo and feeding myself, I’ve been clocking some research time down at the med campus. It is a really exciting time, as I’m beginning to start my own experiments, and though I am always worried about messing something up, I’ve found this to be such an incredible learning experience. Learning science in a classroom can only teach you so much, and if you want to really understand and apply concepts learned in class, working in a research lab is the way to go.
This summer has already been rewarding, but it is far from over. Right after orgo 1 wraps up, we go straight into another semester of electron pushing and mechanism drawing – and I couldn’t be more excited.