Before arriving at Hopkins as an international student, one of the things I knew was important to me was celebrating my culture. Initially, I wasn’t sure how that would manifest at Hopkins.  

On campus, I found plenty of avenues like culture affinity groups to celebrate my background. A huge benefit of the diverse student population at Hopkins is it’s easy to find activities where you can embrace your identity. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, the first big Chinese festival of the school year, my friends and I attended an event held by the Chinese Student Association. Since this was my first time living in a foreign country, I didn’t realize how comforting it was to be where everyone was speaking Chinese. It felt like a piece of my home was brought to Baltimore. We played various games for prizes. Some of them included guessing Chinese songs or picking up small items with chopsticks. In the picture below, you’ll see there was also a tree created for students to hang their wishes on.

Tree of wishes from the Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration

My favorite holiday growing up was always Lunar New Year. It was my Christmas, but instead of presents, I got money from red packets. My household always observed it with so much fanfare. At Hopkins, the Lunar New Year Gala allowed me to experience that same amount of excitement. Even though my family wasn’t there, I was able to replicate that special dinner with my closest friends. In China, there’s a tradition of watching the annual Chinese New Year program on television each year. At the gala, I was also able to continue that custom through watching performances by the dance and acapella groups on campus. If anything, I enjoyed the show even more because I was supporting my friends and watching them celebrate their cultural identity.

Lunar New Year Banquet

Another amazing opportunity I had was celebrating and learning about other cultures. After hearing my friends’ stories about how they loved the dance floor at their first ever Diwali celebration, I regretted missing it due to a mock trial competition. However, these cultural exchanges don’t just happen in these events; they can happen over a simple dinner. During the semester, my friend’s dad brought an array of Indian food for us to enjoy. I think food is such a central part of cultural identity and, through this dinner, I tried new Indian dishes that I will be ordering the next time I go to restaurants around campus. I was so grateful my friend shared such great food with us and a part of her culture.

These explorations of identity can also come from more unexpected places. At the end of my second semester, I attended a poetry reading organized by Blue Jay Poets. Listening to the poetry written by students was another great window into diverse voices and experiences.  

Whether it’s through formal programming, student affinity organizations, or friendships, Hopkins gave me the opportunity to celebrate the diverse identities of the student population. I believe university is a pivotal moment in forming your sense of self. Being at Hopkins has allowed me to shape my worldview in an environment that empowers my cultural roots and opens the door to so many other wonderful identities. It’s fulfilling to not only be uplifted in a place but also see others around me getting to experience the same feeling.