Name: Aishwarya Rajagopalan
Year: Class of 2013
Hometown: Newtown, PA
Intended Programs of Study: Public Health (Natural Science emphasis) and French
It’s only six in the morning and it’s already thirty-two degrees Celsius with close to sixty five percent humidity, I rush down the stairs, my feet carefully dancing from step to step as to avoid awakening any other members of the family, the narrow window of opportunity to check my class schedule for the fall is slipping away quickly, and the thought of losing the chance to eagerly compare schedules with classmates almost tenses me. Upon arrival in the kitchen, I am accosted by a horde of mosquitoes, hungry for my anxious blood, yet I am unfazed by this revelation, my goal has yet to be attainted, I must manage to do what has not been done in several painstaking days: I must connect to the internet. For a girl who can typically adjust to the summers in India where internet connection is few and far in between given the hectic schedule of visiting relatives in all corners of the country, of running to yoga class then to the shopping district to pick up clothing to wear for impending poojas, of darting in and out of temples across Tamil Nadu in an effort to seek the blessing of ancestors and Gods alike for my first fall away from home, this summer is different. I am the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family, and the idea of sending a young girl even two hours away to study is a concept that is both foreign and frightening to my grandparents, who have scheduled visits of many varieties to community elders and spiritual leaders alike to seek the best wishes of these influential forces as I prepare to embark on my four year journey at JHU.
As I quickly open my MacBook, I can’t help but wonder if today will be like yesterday, where a power cut due to the lack of monsoon rain will interrupt my quest to confirm that I have a French class in my schedule, and that I can in fact double major in Public Health and French, or at least contemplate such a thought while planning to be Pre Med. At the same time, I hear the ruffling of sheets in the next room, and the air conditioner has shut off. I wipe the single bead of sweat off of my forehead and greet my grandmother who offers both breakfast and advice simultaneously as my laptop struggles to obtain Internet signal. “Ammu”, she starts, smiling at me as she turns on the stove, “today you can go get blankets for your college. You can also go look for some nice things for your room. I have already gotten you a statue of Ganesha for your desk.” I turn to the kitchen counter to face my grandmother, and I can’t help but notice the expression of pride on her face; sending a granddaughter to JHU means the world to my grandparents, and the fact that they have been able to be a part of the ritualistic process of finding those items that will remind me of home comforts them. Victory! Internet connection is established, and I brim with a newfound sense of accomplishment.
Today will be the first day of my official preparations for college life. As I take note of my courses: French Conversation and Composition, Intro to Public Health, Calc I, Freshman Seminar: The Hospital, and Expository Writing, I try to imagine studying in a real dorm room. Once again, I am met by my biggest weakness, my nervous self-talk. I have yet to learn where I will be living, I am not sure if my roommate and I will share similar interests, the uncertainty about the difficulty of the work alarms me, and I worry about being able to stay in shape so that I can continue to perform as a Bharatnatyam dancer when I come home on breaks.
Even the thought of picking majors in the future scares me; have I picked courses that reflect my ever-changing interests? I know my goals have undergone a significant transformation from the time I mailed out the last piece of my application, my dance tape, on October 17th, 2008. Was it enough to do one summer of research to know that I have an interest in Public Health? Am I choosing to study Public Health because I actually enjoy the subject matter-and it combines all of my strengths, like writing and Biology- or am I taking this path with the ulterior motive of getting into med school? Is the fact that I write my diary in French enough to know that I love the language with an intense passion? Do I even have enough time to figure out what interests me outside the scope of my studies? I know that I will have the support of my parents, my peers, my professors, and the administration at JHU, but I have yet to recognize my potential to succeed. This inherent insecurity makes the idea of living away from home daunting, and I have the utmost hope that I will not allow myself to succumb to stress.
For the time being, I try to focus on the positive aspects of this fresh change; college is a chance to prove myself, to set myself apart both intellectually and personally, and I welcome the challenges that lie ahead. I eagerly await the emotional development I will have to undergo, but I still worry about seemingly trivial matters, such as finding enough Indian food to reconcile the fact that I simply cannot expect to be eating “mom’s cooking” every night, accepting that I will have to adjust to being part of a class of more than one thousand, as compared to the class of thirty nine other women that graduated alongside me just a month ago from our small Sacred Heart school, and- of course- embracing the long nights spent studying, the social life, the friends, the craziness, and the general newness of college life that my reserved personality has not quite fathomed at this point.
Now it’s six fifteen, the heat is starting to pick up, and I fear that the Internet connection will fade out any minute now, but I feel myself starting to become increasingly nostalgic. I remember December 15th with the same sense of fear and fondness I had that very same evening, as I clicked the refresh button with intense fury hoping that I would receive an email in any of the four accounts I thought I had used on my application. I could have sworn I used my school email address, yet, the clock approached 6:30 and no decision letter had arrived. My dad quietly walked into the computer room to check his email for work, only to find the letter that sealed my fate. The solitary word “Congratulations” had my typically stoic father erupting into a loud roar of joy that still makes me smile today.
I remember what it felt like to walk on the Hopkins campus for the first time in February of my junior year. I turned to my mom and said “I think I might apply Early Decision here.” It was my first college visit, and I subsequently visited perhaps twenty other colleges, but when it came down to making a choice in late August, I knew where my heart was. Between December and the present, I have accumulated two sweatshirts, maybe five t-shirts and plenty of other Hopkins themed items that have adorned my locker back in high school, my car, my parents’ cars, and the walls of my room. College seems so close, but I still feel like the little girl that joked about never leaving home, simply out of a desire to remain close to my family. I don’t feel any more mature than I did when I started the college hunt, but I know that I have a lot of growing up to do in the next few years. The novelty of this experience conjures feelings of anxiety and joy at the same time, almost as though I have butterflies just thinking about what I am about to do.
It’s six twenty five now and I should probably consider giving my sister a turn to use the computer so that I can get ready to go pick out my first comforter for my extra long twin bed, and perhaps even find some posters to adorn the walls. I simply cannot wait to meet the other members of the Class of 2013, and I am certain that everyone shares in the plethora of emotions I am grappling with at this moment.
(1) My mom's side of the family, Chennai, India, July 2009
(2) My family and I, Graduation, June 13, 2009
(3) Georgia and my sister, Chennai, India, June 2009
(4) My sister and I hold a copy of the acceptance email, December 15, 2008
(5) My cousins on my Dad's side of the family, Georgia and I, Bangalore, India, July 2009
(6) Being silly with my new Hopkins sweatshirt before the flight to India, June 2009