It’s remarkable just how much can change in a year.

Going into this semester, I was sure that I’d be through the worst of the sophomoric culture shock by the time boot season hit campus. I’d get used to the comparative lavishness of Charles Commons, my high-stakes classes, being an Alpha Phi sister in the fall. And, for the most part, everything is going according to plan. Not that I’ve started taking anything for granted – I’m happy to report that I still have those surreal moments, often when walking down the steps of Gilman, of “holy-moley-is-this-real-am-I-actually-at-Hopkins-what-is-this-life.” But I’m comfortable here now. In my routine. And my old freshman life in the AMRs seems farther and farther away.

But this past weekend delivered a healthy dose of déjà vu, Freshmen-One-Act-style. For a moment, I was catapulted back to the beginning of my first year as a Blue Jay, once again nervous and a little out-of-place, on the day of my first FOA tech rehearsal. I was so desperate to find a theatre family at Hopkins and terrified that I’d gotten my hopes up way too high, that my expectations were laughably unrealistic. For those of you who’ve loyally followed my antics, you’re familiar with my FOA experience, which warranted a trademark online gush-fest. For those of who haven’t, (Shame. Shaaaaaaaaame.) I’ll give a brief summary: My hopes weren’t too high. My expectations? Totally realistic. I had the time of my life, and was officially bitten by the Barnstormer bug then and there.

Throwback to some FOA family fabulousness.

Throwback to some FOA family fabulousness.

That small taste of theatre on campus clearly wasn’t enough to satisfy, so now I’m here. Vice President of Studio Productions on the executive board, somehow managing to produce four of the six shows we pull off a year. It’s been a whirlwind, and not always in the best way, but it’s the defining aspect of my sophomore year thus far. And the Freshmen One Acts marked my first go at an intensive, well-established show.

I really didn’t know what to expect going into the process. To be honest, I was too prematurely terrified to make any sort of predictions. Newsflash: I’m an actor. I’ve had exactly zero experience with any sort of technical theatre outside of having a microphone attached to my body. And the statement that accompanied this attachment almost always had something to do with how the microphone cost more than my life. I was overwhelmed with the logistics of light design, sound cues, and set transitions. The idea of failing not only myself but an entire cast of eager freshmen had me in a little self-doubting pile on the floor. I ate about three pints of ice cream in the days leading up to tech week.

Some of my fears were founded. There were moments where I’d be asked a question I didn’t know how to answer and feel embarrassingly incompetent. Every problem that arose became mine to deal with, and their solutions often pushed me well out of my comfort zone. I’m not going to lie to you – it was every bit as stressful as I’d imagined. But there was something really, truly beautiful about the incredible sense of familiarity I felt throughout the entire process. Watching the performers come into their own on stage, always bolstered by the support of their directors, was incredible to witness because I’d been exactly where they were now. It took me back to one of the most important firsts of my college career, and I’m so grateful for the reminder that the way you feel about something doesn’t have to change if you don’t let it.

So, for the very first time, I was on the other side of the process, learning how the other half lives. And, I have to tell you, it’s a much tougher life than I anticipated. I value all the moments I’ve had on stage so much more now after experiencing firsthand how much it takes to actually get you up there. Most importantly though, I’ve reconnected with some of the joy I left behind when Hopkins stopped feeling brand new.

My FOA father, who can always be counted upon to remind me of that joy.

My FOA father, who can always be counted on to remind me of that joy.

So much changes in a year.  And I’m proud of how far I’ve come in those past 365 days. Once again, I have the FOAs to thank for that.