Ben Hopkinson Zooms in from his London apartment or, as the British would say, his “flat.” Hopkinson is a dual citizen, with an American mother and a British father. Born in the U.K. and raised in suburban Massachusetts, Hopkinson, now 22, has been in London since September of 2020. Prior to his move to the city, he attended the University of Oxford; he graduated in June of last year with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics.
Since graduating amidst the pandemic, Hopkinson has begun working in the risk department of PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC. “It’s been entirely remote, which is quite a weird way to start a job,” Hopkinson said. Despite the strange nature of his work at the moment, it has still been able to provide Hopkinson with a valuable introduction to the business world, which is what he was aiming to get out of this position.
At PwC, Hopkinson helps public and private companies manage, quantify and mitigate any risks that they have in their business models. While Hopkinson doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do in the future, he would like to pivot from looking at risks within corporate bodies to looking at geopolitical risks. He plans to stay at PwC and in London for a while longer, though. Next year, he’ll be starting a part time masters in conflict studies at the London School of Economics, while still working at PwC.
Hopkinson is hoping to visit the U.S sometime around Memorial Day this year. If he can’t get back then, he’ll have to put off his trip until Christmas. At that point, it would be a full year since he last saw his sister Elizabeth Hopkinson ’23, a WKND editor for the YDN. That would be “the longest we’ve been apart, I suppose, since the year and three weeks that I was alive before she was born,” Hopkinson mused. He and Elizabeth are close, and from traveling around the Baltics to taking a train across America, they’ve definitely had their “share of adventures.”
Hopkinson was home from university when Elizabeth received the news of her college acceptance. He recalls her continuously saying that she couldn’t believe she’d gotten into Yale — but he could. “Deep down, I always believed that she’d go on and do great things at university, so it wasn’t actually terribly surprising for me that she ended up at such a great university,” Hopkinson said. Though a small part of him thought it would have been cool if she’d gone to Cambridge while he went to Oxford, fulfilling the “Oxbridge” name, he believes that she went to the place that was the best fit for her, and he’s without a doubt impressed by and proud of her.
Markus Nel is native to Stellenbosch, South Africa. He has lived there his whole life and, unlike his older brother who is in his first year at Yale, wishes to stay in the country until he at least goes through university. “The people here are very calm and very nice to interact with,” Nel explained.
Currently 16 years old, Nel plans to eventually study medical sciences in university and go on to become a neurologist. His grandfather and mother are both doctors, and he has a great interest in the brain and how it aids the human body in its functioning. He doesn’t really have his eye on any school in particular, but he’s thinking that he’ll either end up at the Stellenbosch University or the University of Cape Town.
From collecting trading cards to reading fantasy novels and biographies, Nel has a wide range of hobbies. He only picked up an interest in trading cards during the COVID-19 lockdown when there wasn’t much else to do, but it’s become something he greatly enjoys and is an activity he can do with friends. Additionally, with Afrikaans as the language spoken in his household, reading books written in English has also allowed him to greatly expand his English vocabulary.
Nel also enjoys fencing and playing rugby, and his family’s land gives him plenty of room to partake in those activities. Nel and his family live on a small farm where they grow olives. He helps in the collection of the olives, which are then taken to a family friend who presses them into olive oil. It’s primarily just a hobby of his parents, but in addition to using the olive oil in their household, they sell some as well.
With his older brother having just recently left for college, Nel said that it’s still a bit of a “sore spot.” He said that “it’s really boring to walk to school now,” and explained that the two of them used to walk together every day. While they make an effort to keep in touch, the six-hour time difference can make it difficult. Although, Nel’s not quite alone, living with his parents, two younger siblings, two dogs and a cat, though the cat is technically his sister’s.
At only 16, Nel has already gathered a bit of timeless wisdom, which he shares with readers: “The grass is always greener on the other side — that’s something you learn very quickly.”
Sydney Branham, who is 23 years old, calls in from Chicago, Illinois, her place of residence as of August 2020. After graduating from the University of Virginia, Branham worked as a server for a year before entering her current profession and making the required move from Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, she works as a user analyst for a government agency that pays retirement benefits; in this position, she helps test the systems which pay out the annuities. “I’m still trying to figure out what my dream job is, but I really like this place,” Branham said.
When Branham was in high school, she thought she was going to be an astrophysicist. After taking physics in college, though, she discovered that she didn’t click with the subject, so she made the change and ended up majoring in government and English. Upon graduation, Branham found that she didn’t have any grand plans for what to do after college. “Even though I don’t have any big goals right now or I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, I am really just trying to genuinely enjoy my life, and I think that’s something worth pursuing,” Branham said. In her current job, she feels that she gets to do work which both helps people and is mentally stimulating, so she sees herself staying in this position for the foreseeable future.
The pandemic hasn’t given Branham much of a chance to explore Chicago yet, but she’s hoping that once everyone gets vaccinated, that will change. Branham has still been able to enjoy other hobbies of her’s though, such as running and reading. She generally enjoys realistic fiction, and is currently on “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath.
Branham is the oldest of three, with a younger sister and brother. Growing up, her family moved around a lot for her dad’s work, which she feels created a strong bond between the siblings. “I’m really proud of my younger siblings and I hope that I was a decent role model for them growing up,” she said. She explained that the three of them don’t keep in touch as much as other siblings might, but that she still feels close to them.
Branham’s youngest sibling, her brother, is a current Yale first year. She would offer readers the same sisterly advice she would offer him: “I know this is a really hard time right now, and just focus on your mental health and taking care of yourself.” Additionally, as a word of reassurance she has gathered from her own life, Branham said that “if you don’t have any big dreams, don’t worry — you’ll figure it out. Life is really messy.”
Seventh-grader Aletheia Yu is proud of her brother, but she finds him annoying. She facetimes from her home near Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her parents and formerly with her older brother, Isaac Yu ’24, a staff writer at the News — he has since relocated to New Haven.
“He just teaches me a lot of stuff,” she says. “It’s so funny.”
It turns out that Yu might, like many younger sisters, find her older brother annoying, but they seem to have a lot in common. A penchant for architecture, which Yu says she wants to study in college, and a love for music (Yu plays the bass guitar at her school’s jazz band) are just some of their similarities.
Her fascination with architecture stems from visiting model homes and watching HGTV shows about home renovation. She finds it interesting and noted that she is always blown away by the way houses look and are built.
Yu also said that middle school is made out to be worse than what it really is in movies, calling it, “not that bad.” She did, however, note that her next goal is to go to a “good college.”
Yu pointed out that when she’s practicing, her older brother will often give her pointers about her music, which can turn into hour-long sessions of practicing and discussing their music together. When he’s back at home, he also picks her up from school. Her favorite memory with him is fighting with him when she was younger — her parents would be convinced that she was too small to do anything, so she always got away with bothering her brother. She called him “naggy,” before begrudgingly admitting that he used to bring her food from his job at Starbucks whenever he came home, which she admitted “was really nice.”
Annabelle Janssens, who is 22 years old, is a senior majoring in journalism at the University of Maryland, as well as an older sister. A New York City native with a love for storytelling, Janssens always knew that she would study journalism in college. Her time as a broadcast journalist on campus, in extracurriculars and in internships further proves that.
“It was definitely the right choice for me,” she says.
Aside from journalism, she loves television — with “Shameless” and “City On a Hill” being her current favorites — reading and podcasts. Her current read, “Woman in the Window,” is set to be adapted to film soon, which she is excited about.
When she’s in New York City, Janssens loves walking through Central Park with her brother Cam. She says their relationship has deepened since leaving for college.
“We’re super close,” she said. “We text all the time when we don’t see each other and we FaceTime often… We’ve definitely gotten closer.”
Janssens also noted that while she might consider going to the West Coast after graduation, she loves New York City and would inevitably come back.
She hopes people’s first impression of her is as someone trustworthy and approachable. “Just good vibes,” she joked.
Ángela Pérez and Annie Sidransky | firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com