By Astha Berry
Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin for 2014
On a dark and probably freezing day in snowy suburbia in Wisconsin, there sat a girl contemplating how to handle moving to the heart of Baltimore in the faraway land of “the East Coast”, where she did not know a single soul. Okay, you caught me – that girl was me. Now this girl sits in a much warmer climate on a beautiful campus with some of the most genuinely beautiful people she – I – have ever met. See, Distinguished Young Woman gave me a multitude of opportunities and experiences, helped me with scholarships for college, and allowed me to meet the most amazing friends, including the lovely Distinguished Young Woman of Lee County in Alabama, but I normally just call her Vicki, my roommate.
But back to that dark and freezing day – I was sitting on my laptop doing a very important job – scrolling through Facebook. No really, I promise it was super important because it was time to look for roommates. I had two options – try my chances with a random roommate or look for one myself via Facebook. I decided to try the latter (spoiler alert – it worked. Disclaimer – this doesn’t work for everybody! I know random roommates that have also come to be best friends.)
Sitting on my bed, I was thinking about how excited I was for the upcoming future – graduation, National Finals for Distinguished Young Woman, and then college. I didn’t know what to expect, but I did know that going forth I wanted to keep my motto the same: Be Your Best Self.
At this point, I had a mini middle-of-halfway-through-Senior-year-spring-semester crisis. It’s like the mid-life crisis, but lesser known and far more consuming. It is at that point when you need to find a roommate and write a post in the roommate search that you step back and think to yourself, “Gosh, who even am I???” I stared at the screen for at least half an hour, beginning to type out words and then instantly going back and deleting everything. I would start typing again and then delete. I wanted a great roommate with whom I would feel comfortable and become close friends, but how could I just say that? How could I portray myself honestly and accurately so that I could find just the right person? I pondered.
I texted my friends and I asked them, “Who am I?” One of my best friends from my state program said that I was a Distinguished Young Woman who loved Nutella and baking and making people’s day. Okay, but I wanted to figure out some more.
I thought about it some more and I realized that a few of these words do not make up who you are. Simplifying yourself down to a short paragraph can be incredibly difficult, but I did know that I wanted to find a roommate with similar values. Somebody who valued schoolwork (studious), would go on walks with me to exercise (healthy), would love extracurricular activities (Involved), was motivated (ambitious), and would be a responsible roommate. Notice a pattern? Yes, it’s the pillars of “Be Your Best Self!” I wanted a roommate that tried to be her best self, but would also encourage me to do the same, and I cannot believe how lucky I got.
Just for you, dear reader, I went back and found my post on the roommate search – it was rather long and honestly quite quirky, but it was honest and I wanted to be myself. I mentioned the things stated above but I also said things like, “I enjoy long walks on the beach….or to the fridge. Or the library you know, whichever. I just really like walks.” (Luckily a lot of my friends here at Hopkins do too! So we get plenty of exercise and deep talk time while exploring the beautiful campus!) And also “Frozen Yogurt = life. Also Nutella is swell.” (See? I did include it!)
For some reason a few people messaged me right away, including this one girl named Victoria. She saw that I had Distinguished Young Woman on my Facebook page and mentioned that she had also done the program. We talked some more, but long story short, we found out that we had a lot in common and as Distinguished Young Women, we had a lot of experiences to which we could relate and valued a lot of the same things. Within the hour, she asked me if I wanted to be roommates and we sealed the deal.
By the time that Nationals rolled around, Victoria, who was from Alabama, drove several hours to come and support myself and the Distinguished Young Woman of Alabama at the National Finals. I was absolutely ecstatic to meet her and we talked almost every single day leading up to move in day. Once we did move in, we were inseperable throughout orientation and every night we would come back to the room and talk for hours on literally any given subject. As the year progressed, we became lab partners in chemistry, joined the Hopkins Hosting Society together, and went on numerous adventures over the weekends from Girls’ Night Outs to the mall to music festivals and concerts to a Haunted House. My days were certainly brighter with someone so full of light and energy and I am so happy to be able to call her my roommate.
When I got very sick a few weeks into school she was there for me to take my temperature and make sure that I got rest. Then, when she got sick I was able to help her. To me, that was far more of an embodiment of a Distinguished Young Woman than anything I would see her do on stage. Yes, her push-ups are amazing and she plays the piano beautifully but those aren’t what make her distinguished. She is there to help me when I get stuck on a Calculus problem – it’s not that she knows how to solve it, but that she knows I’m struggling. It’s not that I couldn’t get tea myself, but that she showed the kindness to help me out.
She encourages me to be my best and together, I think we can take on Hopkins together in a distinguished manner – as anyone can! We have a whole group of friends called World War II. We each have an assigned country because one of our friends is a history buff. Every single person on World War II – guy and girl – is distinguished to me. They reach out and encourage us to reach out every Thursday for our personal Deep Talk Thursdays. On our group chat, we make plans to work out together nearly every day and try healthier options at the café. Every night, we all get together to be studious – answering each others questions and solving problems together. Each of them tries to be their best self and be distinguished. Being distinguished is not reflected by a medallion, but by actions exceeding expectations not because you have to but because you want to.
Astha Berry is a college freshman at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland majoring in Neuroscience and Writing Seminars. Originally from Franklin, Wisconsin, Astha was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin for 2014. Learn more about Astha here!