With the year coming to an end and my sophomore courseload/activities list already being compiled, I feel the need to shine a spotlight on the real MVP’s of my freshman year. By some strange stroke of tri-coincidence, they’ve ended up falling into three subsections: Classes, Campus activities, and Casual jaunts around Baltimore. Did I force the “C” thing? Let’s roll with it.
While I’ve gained valuable insights in all of my classes this year — everything from my documentary class on public health to my current semester-long crash course on European history — three in particular had me gushing to whoever was willing to listen (friends, family, thank you/my apologies).
a. Introduction to Fiction & Poetry Writing I is one of the first major pre-requisites every Writing Seminars major has to complete before moving on up to the “cooler” classes. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I thought IFP I was pretty cool in itself! Each week is essentially half-analytical reading, half creative writing (to put it as simply as possible). You’re assigned to read several stories or poems out of the hallowed pages of Norton’s Anthology ((ALL HAIL)), analyze the various modes of creative writing those authors/poets use in their craft, and then apply them to your own work in whatever ways happen to inspire you. Yes, it’s relatively terrifying to be critiqued on your own short stories or poems — some weeks, by the entire class — and especially when you did little to no “creative” writing prior to taking the course. Still, it’s easily one of my favorite Hopkins classes to date, partially because of how scary/interactive it could be. I was forced to use a particular creative muscle that I hadn’t before, and it’s proven to positively influence other areas of my non-fiction writing in ways I could never have imagined. In addition, the whole “introduction” part to the title means that there will likely be some non-Writing Sems/humanities majors in the course. Maybe I’m the only one who sees this as a plus, but it often led to really interesting class discussions, given the different kinds of analytical backgrounds everyone came from. Conversations would inevitably move from purely craft-based to something grand and psychological, and the varied classmate perspectives made the experience all the more enriching.
b. Slavery in Cinema came out of the cut my freshman fall as one of my most memorable classes at Hopkins. We delved into the intersection between various slave histories and the commodification of those histories in the film industry, past and present. Beginning with D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation — a jarring but necessary starting point — we moved through the entire 20th century “slave film” repertoire as well as the few that have been made in the past decade or so. We discussed in detail the ethics of Hollywood’s representations of slavery, how they related to the socio-political climates of their release dates, and what sorts of influences they have on more recent films, namely Twelve Years A Slave and Django Unchained. Moreover, we began each discussion from a historical starting point related to our readings for that week, some of which came from the highbrow shelves of academia and others from online publications concerned with current perspectives on race in America. One week, we discussed the concept of “social death”, the idea that slavery internally and externally changed a person to the point where they lost their true selves, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of society. We explored both sides of the argument, first with the works of Orland Patterson (the concept’s main proponent) and then of Vincent Brown, who used multiple examples to state that rather than lose their identities in a “social death”, slaves cultivated new ones that fused both their free and unfree selves and sought refuge in the broader slave community. This entire discussion then related to our viewing of the film Beloved, which uses social death (or the lack thereof) as one of its major themes. In summation, Slavery in Cinema was a shoo-in for real MVP
c. Introduction to Fiction/Poetry Writing II — maybe this is a cop-out. I’ll keep this one short. I just regaled you all with my IFP I experiences, and aren’t they pretty much the same thing? Yes and no. Yes, the format is the same, but generally, with the next level of IFP comes a new IFP teacher. Last semester, my teacher, Jenny Xie, was a fiction writer, and just generally a cool person on the whole. The fiction unit was her jam, and I learned a lot about the intricacies of the craft from her lectures. This semester, however, my teacher is a poet, which has definitely influenced the movement of the class; somehow, it felt like our poetry unit took up the majority of the course, even though it’s technically supposed to be a 50/50 split between poetry and fiction. But I’m totally fine with it! In fact, I’ve loved it. In addition, the whole “different majors diverse discussions” thing still applies in spades.
2. CAMPUS ACTIVITIES
a. Student Admissions Advisory Board: you know what it is. We blog, we brainstorm about better ways to connect prospective students to Hopkins, we FOHOP, we SOHOP, and we generally just have a grand old time doing the lot of it. I remember almost being late to my interview/sweating profusely throughout it, not knowing then what a rewarding experience I would have with my fellow SAAB-ers. The opportunity to share my Hopkins experience with people has been an integral part of my time here thus far, as it gives me a way to not only connect with prospectives all over the country, but also to document my time here in a way that’s in tune with my love of writing. It allows for a specific sort of personal reflection on the various ups and downs, ins and outs, etc. etc. of what it truly means to be a Hopkins student, and how that relates to me individually. I’ve met some wonderful people, had some one-of-a-kind experiences, and blogged about it all; needless to say, it’s an honor to be on SAAB, and I’m excited for all the shenanigans yet to come.
b. Throat Culture, the best and only sketch comedy group at Hopkins, has been one of the best parts of my college experience by far. It’s where I met my best friend (HOLA NOEL), where I first tapped into my inner Tina Fey (FINALLY), and, most importantly, where I’ve made some of my favorite memories of all time. Whether I’m writing my own sketches and casting my friends in them or collaborating with them on a random idea, I always walk out of our meetings/rehearsals/shows feeling this weird sense of fulfillment that can only be equated to what I felt when I first learned to ride a bike at the ripe old age of 6. The internal monologue goes something like this: “I can’t believe I just did that ! So cool ! It was terrifying, but let’s do it again !” There is nothing better than performing to a packed Arellano Theater on a Saturday night with your favorite people on the planet as your castmates, or standing backstage and hearing someone guffaw at a sketch you wrote (there’s always that one person in the audience with a crazy-sounding guffaw). TC is the absolute best, and I’m not quite sure where I’d be without it.
c. Arts & Entertainment at the JHU News-Letter has been my first platform for arts writing at Hopkins, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities it gave me to explore Baltimore on my own and, simultaneously, have my pieces published for the whole world (my parents) to read. Each week since spring semester started, I’ve gone into the neighborhoods of Baltimore to cover this, this and various arts oddities in between, all of which have helped me cultivate a better sense of what I actually want my direction as a Hopkins Writing Seminars major to be. In addition, it’s put me more in touch with the Baltimore community itself, which has become a vital component of my Hopkins experience on the whole. More on that in a minute. Getting involved in arts writing on campus doesn’t immediately come across as the easiest thing in the world, but the Arts and Entertainment section of the News-Letter has proven to be a solid jumping-off point for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunities it’s afforded me.
3. CASUAL JAUNTS
Station North, Baltimore’s arts district, will forever be one of my favorite places in the history of the existence of places. This is not an exaggeration. I’m not even doing two more examples for casual jaunts, because this place takes the cake for my freshman year. It’s easily accessible from campus — a FREE 10 minute JHMI ride away — and filled with some of the coolest, most interesting people/places/things in all of Baltimore. Neighborhood residents intermingling with MICA students intermingling with professional artists, Hopkins students, and various others: this is but a simple swatch of the diverse community that one comes across on a casual jaunt through Station North. Old warehouses-turned-galleries are on every street, surprise murals on alley walls, The Charles Theater, the RESTAURANTS — I’m going to stop listing things now! This section will mostly be pictures, because there’s just no other way.
Thus ends my Real MVP’s list for freshman year at JHU. I’m blessed to be here at Hopkins and in Baltimore, and this compilation proves it. J’Hops, Balti, you da real MVP’s! Molly out.