By Jonah Fisher || Contributing Writer

To start off our first-year spotlights this year, I wanted to stay a little closer to home and introduce the F&M community to one of my favorite people sharing the 3rd floor of Bonchek with me. Johansen Vargas (he/him) brings a unique and almost-unwavering enthusiasm to everything he does, especially when it comes to meeting new people. He was one of the first people in Bonchek who actually wanted to have a conversation with me, and you really will find few better than Johansen on campus.

Johansen grew up in the Dominican Republic, and amongst the wild stories he’s told me about his family, he seems to have found his place in his family. They moved to Brooklyn, where Johansen really came into his own over the last 10 years, donning many hats from Michael Jackson impersonator to baseball star (ask him for his baseball picture if you get a chance, it’s amazing!). Johansen has also been lucky enough to attend a school that presented him with great opportunities (named MESA, if you’re interested), to the point that he even went to council meetings to defend the institution as its doors closing became a more likely reality. Don’t worry, the school was funded, and the speech he gave was truly moving when he showed me a small portion of the recording.

I sat down with Johansen maybe a bit too close to the deadline for the article you are now reading, where I got the chance to ask him some typical, and a couple out-there, questions. Of course, we started with the ever-present “Why F&M?” As a person who valued community over the last few years, I found Johansen’s answers to be really relatable. He referenced the fact that the school’s total size, along with the small class sizes, were what he believed to be best for him and how he learns, and that he really hoped that these factors would allow him to connect with the other students in the college house (Bonchek best house!) and in his classes.

I wanted to know, given all the many things he is interested in, what pulled him to F&M? He replied, “It’s a liberal arts school so there’s a lot of opportunities to figure out what you really want to do.” I knew from previous conversations that he found computer science to be one of his favorite topics, so I also wondered what made studying technology a big part of his life. I found out that Johansen actually started a coding club at his old school, and we lamented over the dreaded Javascript while discussing some of his favorite projects in the obviously superior Python. There was no bias there, I swear.

We briefly discussed, too, how Johansen wanted to go to a D3 school for the sports he wanted to participate in because he really didn’t want to compete with others at his school just to participate in sports he loved. These currently include rowing and baseball!

I wanted to hear some of Johansen’s experiences so far as well. He called F&M, and I quote, “interesting.” We discussed how, as first-years, it can feel as though cliques and friend groups have already formed, and to “invade” those cliques is now an act against social norm. But, Johansen also really loved to talk about the people he has had the chance to meet. I think he’s beginning to find his place, especially when it comes to finding people like him. Johansen shared with me how we all might hear the acronym PWI and not think much about it, but as an outsider looking in, he discussed how truly scary that can be. He’s now finding people who really share his experiences, while also meeting fantastic people he never would’ve expected. I think some of his favorite moments have been meeting international students, who all come from vastly different places and have these different experiences that he really likes to engage with.

But where might you meet Johansen this year? Well, he is getting involved in a variety of ways around campus! As mentioned, he’s participating in the rowing team which he’s enjoyed so far, and he’s signed up for the ASL organization on campus along with Mi Gente Latina. He shared that he’s really excited about learning ASL, as he sees it as learning a new way to communicate while also bridging a gap that he had rarely considered before coming here. I’m sure he would have signed up for more, had he not been iconically sleeping during the Involvement Fair. For reference, Johansen is a self-described “nap god” and you only have to see the man once after he’s woken from the depths of slumber at 3pm on a Saturday to know that he really can just pass out whenever. He’s insane.

Other than that, Johansen is starting a band on campus! We (yes, this is a plug from both of us 🙂 ) will be playing at the Bonchek Multicultural Festival on Friday and on Hartman Green October 14th. If you are interested in learning bachata or merengue, two Dominican styles that he loves to play/listen/dance/vibe to, I’m sure he’d love to teach you. He’s really passionate about his music, and it really is so much fun to play. Besides that, I think Johansen is ready to get involved and make an impact on campus. 

Whether it’s through his band, possibly a new club, working to involve more voices as a student advocate, or any range of things in between, Johansen will bring his all to anything he commits to and I can’t wait to see what he can accomplish!

Jonah Fisher is a freshman and contributing writer for The College Reporter. His email is: