Hopkins Insider met with Hopkins alumna Juliann Susas, ’19 to learn about her Hopkins experience and how it has impacted her post-grad life. 

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

What have you been up to since you graduated from Hopkins?

I graduated from Hopkins in 2019, where I double majored in history and international studies. Right now, I’m in my last year of law school at UCLA. After graduation, I’ll be working at a big law firm in Los Angeles.

From the time you started Hopkins to the time you graduated, how did your academic and/or career interests evolve?

A lot of things changed, and I think that was the trend for most of my Hopkins friends. I don’t think anyone went in knowing exactly what they were going to do and then left doing the same thing. 

I started at Hopkins knowing I wanted to focus on the humanities because I enjoyed history. In high school, I took classes like AP Government and knew I liked social sciences, so I explored similar courses in my first year. By the end of second semester, I decided I wanted to major in international studies.

The major offered the opportunity to dabble in different subjects—like political science, history, language, and economics—and I liked the flexibility of that. I later added my history major because I really loved it.

I was interested in a lot of things, so I took classes I never thought I would take since I wasn’t sure if I would ever be in school again. I took Introduction to Fiction and Poetry, Oral Presentations, and an improv class; things that seemed random, but I thought I would enjoy. I’m glad I did that instead of just trying to fit a minor in.

Regarding career goals, I didn’t enter Hopkins knowing I definitely wanted to go to law school—it was always something at the back of my mind.

The thing I really liked about Hopkins, especially in the humanities and social sciences, was how the curriculum is centered on research. Through different research projects and classes, you learn how to gather evidence, create your own argument, and present or defend it in a classroom setting.

These experiences made me realize I might enjoy law school. After graduating, I put myself in a legal environment to see if it resonated with what I liked about my classes at Hopkins. And it did. I worked as a paralegal at a law firm for two years in between college and law school, which solidified my interest in law.

What were some of your proudest achievements at Hopkins?

As a history major, I had to write a sophomore thesis and a senior thesis, both of which were a lot of work.  

My sophomore thesis was about The Spanish Civil War and examining it through music from that time. I was passionate about looking at popular culture during times of war and revolution and seeing how the average person made sense of what was going on in the world. It won an award and was published in an online magazine, so that was really cool. 

I’m also proud of my senior thesis. It was at the peak of the Marvel fandom, so I decided at the last minute to change my topic to superheroes. I wrote a ~70-page paper about Iron Man and Captain America, which sounds random but it was interesting to me, so I really enjoyed it.

Originally, my senior thesis was also going to look at the Spanish Civil War, but with a focus on popular culture and women as a natural continuation from my previous thesis. Then over the summer, everyone was talking about the new Avengers movie coming out and I thought—that could be cool!

My final paper ended up being about how Captain America and Iron Man operated as foils of one another and the depiction of how difficult it was for Americans during the 1960s to grapple with what was going on. 

Hopkins was flexible with the last-minute change, and I even got funding to hire a research librarian at another school that had the original manuscripts and drawings from Stan Lee’s collection to find and scan things for me.  

Since you graduated, how have you stayed connected to Hopkins?

Not to be cliché, but the friends I made at Hopkins are still my “ride or die” friends. Most of them live on the East Coast so I don’t see them every day, but I visit them all the time, and we still keep in touch. Two of my Hopkins friends are getting married this year, so I’ll be flying back east to go to both of those weddings. Some of my Hopkins friends might even come to my law school graduation.

What are some of your favorite memories from Hopkins and Baltimore?

One thing I miss is being in the same place as all my best friends. I think that’s something I knew I was going to miss when I left but definitely took for granted. 

I also miss the Charles Village area; it was so walkable and there was always something to do. I could go to the library and then hop down Charles Street to grab something to eat. It sounds so simple, but it’s those little things I wish I could do, like sit on The Beach with my friend and read a book. Those small moments are some of my favorite memories. 

I also enjoyed the neighborhoods surrounding campus. I loved Hampden and went there often. I used to love going to Golden West Cafe for brunch and Dangerously Delicious for pie. My friends and I also used to venture down to Fells Point all the time for weekend brunch and exploring. 

Academically, I just miss being around really intelligent people. Now that I’m in law school, I’m still around lots of smart people, but what I miss about Hopkins is the diversity of what people were passionate and curious about. And there was always something going on, like an event or a lecture, and so many different kinds of classes available. I think that’s something unique to undergrad learning in general; you don’t necessarily have that flexibility in grad school or in your career.

What about your Hopkins experience had the greatest impact on you?

I knew Hopkins would be academically challenging, but I think I took for granted some of the benefits of that environment. Being surrounded by intelligent, hard-working, intellectually curious, and passionate people naturally brought things out in me I didn’t realize were there and pushed me to reach a potential I didn’t realize I had. From spending time in such an academically stimulating environment, I approach things differently and have a stronger work ethic.

There are a lot of great schools out there, but what I found to be unique about Hopkins was the research focus in the humanities. Had I not taken classes with research requirements, I wouldn’t have realized how much I enjoy digging into things and ultimately chosen to pursue law. 

How did your Hopkins experience help prepare you for your career?

My research experience was a big part of it, but my Hopkins connections have also been very helpful. The Hopkins network is really supportive; people have always been willing to help me with my next step. 

I don’t come from a family of lawyers, so I had no idea what I was doing. In my senior year, a Hopkins friend in her first year of law school connected me with other Hopkins alumni to discuss and demystify the process. Those connections made a real difference; they helped me learn how to apply to law school, what goes on in law school, etc. 

Did you have a favorite professor and/or favorite class at Hopkins?

I want to give a shout out to Professor Martha Jones. I took a class with her on Law and Social Justice, and another called History of Women and the Vote. The classes covered interesting topics, but she was also an incredible professor. She has a legal background so the way she ran her seminars was influenced by that.

I also liked Professor Deudney in the Political Science Department. He teaches about some of the coolest things that seem kind of out there and unlike traditional political science. I took a class with him on the Politics of Outer Space that was cool. The class was about political theory, but we talked about Star Wars and what goes on in space.  

I also took a class called The Politics of Transhumanism, which was about humans upgrading themselves as robots and the ethics of AI and other issues. It’s very topical now with ChatGPT, but at the time it seemed crazy to think about. I really enjoyed that class. 

When I start to practice law, I hope to specialize in technology. That interest was born from that class; I didn’t realize it existed until I took that class, so that had a profound impact on me. 

What has surprised you most about your field?

A few things. Many people think law is always clear cut, but it’s not—I’ve learned it is super complex and tricky.

I also didn’t realize how much studying law would lead me to care more about what’s going on in the world. Learning about how certain events occurred because of how the judicial system works, how laws are passed, and how courts have handled previous cases adds a different dimension to my understanding. Law affects everything from elections to what music is available on TikTok; I didn’t anticipate how I would see things through a legal lens and how they would resonate with me in a different way.

Why would you recommend studying at Hopkins to students interested in your major(s) or career path? 

The research opportunities at Hopkins are unparalleled. I don’t know if I would have been able to do the things I did at Hopkins at a different school. Receiving funding for a librarian to look at Stan Lee’s manuscripts is not something that happens at your average school.

Hopkins is also supportive of students exploring their passion projects. Other history departments may have heard what I wanted to research and said, “Why do you want to do that?” Hopkins encourages you to explore your unique passions.

Hopkins’ location in Baltimore is also undervalued; I really loved it. Initially, I thought a place is just a place, but I discovered there’s a lot that goes into choosing a place where you’re going to spend four years, find community, and make a second home. Hopkins is nice because you get that city life but you’re not in the middle of downtown. There are charming neighborhoods around so it’s an easy transition for someone who hasn’t lived in a city.

You also have proximity to a bunch of essential places if you’re interested in social science, political science, and international studies. Washington, DC, the hub for those topics, is right there, and you can easily get to New York and Philly by train. 

Lastly, for anyone interested in humanities and social sciences, Hopkins offers a wide array of options. You can take classes in so many different areas, many of which are unique and probably not offered at other schools. It’s especially great for someone who isn’t sure what they want to study because you can take classes in disciplines that are so different from one another. I think that was something I didn’t appreciate going in. Even classes offered by the same department are radically different, which is really cool.

Do you have any advice for students considering Hopkins? 

If you’re thinking about it but you’re not sure, do it! I was that student. I knew Hopkins was a great school but initially didn’t realize what a great match it would be for me. I have a few tips for students thinking about attending Hopkins:

  • Do your research and look into the departments you’re interested in because you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. 
  • Visit campus if you can. Choosing the right school can be tough since there are many factors to consider. What sold me was when I visited campus, looked around, and thought, “Yeah, I could see myself studying here. I could see myself going for a walk here and hanging out with my friends there.” 
  • In addition to tours and events, spend time walking around campus on your own to see if you can picture yourself there. Don’t be afraid to talk to people to ask about their experience. 

For students who are new to Hopkins: be super open-minded. I’m glad I was; it led me to take classes in departments I never expected and try things I never thought I would. 

Especially in your first year, push yourself to join student organizations that interest you, go to the Student Involvement Fair, and meet people because you never know how those connections could help you. Now that I’m at UCLA, there’s a surprisingly decent-sized Hopkins alumni population, so just getting to know the people around you is valuable.

Hopkins is a great place to explore your passions; don’t be afraid to try things you might like!