After 18: Danielle Hopkins

Opening night

Danielle Hopkins and the cast of Dreamgirls. — Courtesy Danielle Hopkins

Every year The MV Times asks four recent high school graduates to write about their experiences during their first year after graduation. Danielle Hopkins graduated from MVRHS this spring, and is attending Barnard College in New York City. This is Danielle’s third dispatch.

As I take a break from studying for my Spanish final with my friend and hallmate Emily in the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, I realize how quickly this semester has come to an end. In a week and two days, I will be finishing up my last final and heading home for my three-week-long winter break. The time between the end of Thanksgiving break and now was just a blur of preparing for my show, finishing up the courses I had been taking all semester, and preparing for my finals.

Going home for Thanksgiving break was an interesting experience, to say the least. I spent the entire break sick with the flu. I thought I had done everything right, making sure to get my flu shot, wash my hands, and use hand sanitizer whenever I touched anything, but I guess it didn’t stop me from becoming infected. My entire floor got sick, and I had a bad feeling that it wouldn’t pass over me and my roommate, and I was right. I guess if I had to be sick at any point this semester, it happened at the best time, since I actually got the chance to rest and not worry about rehearsal or school for a couple of days.

Being home with my family was oddly pleasant; I didn’t realize how much I missed being with my parents, and dare I say, sharing a room with my sister. Don’t get me wrong, I love my roommate Shirley, and we have a great time, but sharing a room with Kristine was just something I had grown so accustomed to, it felt nice to experience it again. I might not be feeling this way when we share a room for the longer winter break, but we will see.

Catching up with all my friends from home was also amazing. They are all doing such incredible things in college, and it makes me sad that we aren’t having these new experiences together. Being sick made it hard for me to spend as much time with them as I would have liked, and the time we did spend together, I mostly spent blowing my nose and coughing.

Once I got back from Thanksgiving break, there was no time to rest. With only a few weeks left in the semester and even less time till my show, I felt like I barely had any free time. I had about two weeks left of classes after Thanksgiving break, with the second week being the week that we performed “Dreamgirls.” These two weeks were filled with lots of rehearsals. During the last week of classes, I spent every evening from 5 to12 in tech rehearsal, and even with all of this rehearsal time, there were some scenes we had only looked at once. Before performing, we never got to do a full run-through of the show.

To say I was stressed out is to say the least. To add on top of that, I was working on a research paper for my writing class that was 40 percent of my final grade, and on a final Spanish presentation. Somehow everything worked out, though, and the show ended up being amazing.

Opening night was a little rough, because one of the main actors had lost her voice, so she acted while someone read the lines for her. This was our worst performance of the three, and the show my parents attended, which I was pretty upset about. We had worked so hard all semester on the show, and that performance was not reflective of our work. The next night, however, we all pulled it together, and it was amazing. It was by far our best performance, and I had so much fun doing it. My friends bought me flowers, and it was a great night.

The day of the last show really made me realize that the semester was almost over. We had just one more day of classes, then reading days and final exams. “Reading days” are just three days before final exams start where we don’t have classes and our professors technically are not supposed to assign any work, so we can study. I luckily only have two real exams, since one of my classes had a research paper and the other one just had three “midterms” throughout the semester. The latter is my political science class, where yesterday I took the last of those three exams. The professor told us that he was going to drop our lowest exam score, so that only our two highest grades would count toward our final grade in the course. It was the best news we had heard all semester — all 400 students in the lecture room started clapping and cheering at 8:40 in the morning. Some students even left, because they had gotten A’s on the their two previous exams, and were going to just drop this exam grade.

Looking back, I am amazed at what I accomplished this first semester of college. The timing of the play couldn’t have been more perfect. With my classes over, and no longer having rehearsal every day, I can spend this time studying for my exams and enjoying the city. I am excited to explore New York and find new places to study with my friends. Tomorrow I hopefully will get off campus again to go study in a coffee shop downtown. On Friday night, as a Christmas gift, my grandmother bought me tickets to go see the Nutcracker with my friend, who has been doing ballet for the past 13 years.

During the semester it became harder and harder for me to find time to go off-campus because of rehearsal and my class schedule. So I am trying to make sure I utilize this time I am in the city before break to see the wonders of New York around the holidays. I think one of my New Year’s resolutions is going to be to get off-campus more. It can be easy to stay in the “Columbia bubble” and forget that I live in one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world.