Name: Melaku Arega
Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology, Neuroscience
Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
What’s your favorite memory since you’ve been at Hopkins?
The first week of school when I found out there’s an Ethiopian restaurant called Dukem in Mount Vernon. Dukem was home away from home. I still go at least once a month; in fact, I’ve made friends in the restaurant. I can’t wait to introduce my family to Dukem when they visit Baltimore for graduation.
What’s your biggest struggle right now?
My family lives in Seattle, WA and my sisters go to school in Hanover, NH. Now that I’m in the middle of deciding where to go for med school, my biggest struggle is making the decision to move back closer to my family or staying on the east coast.
What puts a smile on your face?
I’m a TA for Chemistry Lab. Last fall I had a student in my section who was essentially failing the class. He had a D. Before the second exam, I asked to meet with him for an hour to discuss strategies. I gave him any piece of advice but more importantly, I just talked him. He told me the struggle of being at the top of his class in high school and now feeling mediocre, something almost every freshman at Hopkins feels. I shared with him my background: my family, adjusting as a freshman at Hopkins, and my future goals. It was nice to see we had many many similarities. Throughout the rest of Chem lab, I kept an eye on him. The highlight of that semester for me was when he messaged me saying “B MINUS IN CHEM LAB!!!!! I really thought I was going to get a U.”
What’s something you discovered lately?
There is an underground tunnel from Krieger hall all the way to Mudd Hall!
What’s something you wish you got involved with?
Baltimore City Refugee Youth Project (RYP) provides mentoring programs for more than 300 students from 17+ different countries. However, I did not know about RYP until much later at Hopkins and didn’t have a compatible class schedule to volunteer my time. Being involved with mentoring at RYP would’ve been very meaningful because I am a recent immigrant from Ethiopia myself; I moved to the US in October 2009.
What’s something interesting you learned in class?
The happiest countries also have one of the highest suicide rates. Why? It would REALLY suck to be depressed in a nation where everyone around is happy.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever been?
Israel. I had the opportunity to go on a free trip to Israel during my senior year Intersession. As an Orthodox Christian, I couldn’t pass up on such an opportunity. I was able to visit many of the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. The fact that I was at the site where Jesus was crucified and later resurrected is still unbelievable. Then I spent a day in the West Bank and visited Ramallah, the capital of Palestine. I learned so much about the current conflict between Israel and Palestine and have been voracious to learn more since the end of the trip.
What’s a piece of advice that you would give to an incoming student?
Make upperclassmen friends quickly. They have wisdom. Also, make friends across all years even when you’re an upperclassman.
What do you do when you’re not studying?
When I’m not studying, I lend my time to Jail Tutorial Project (JTP). JTP is a tutoring program that provides free lessons for Baltimore City detainees. Since joining freshman year, I have been going to the Baltimore City Detention and Intake Center (BCBIC) on Saturday. For the last two years, I’ve been leading a sub-group that tutors in the Special Needs Unit of BCBIC. Lessons can vary from math, biology, current events, and poetry to detainees diagnosed with various mental illnesses.