Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 22, 2024

Student group aims to pop the Hopkins bubble

By Ian Yu | March 28, 2012

"No Bubble" is a new student initiative that encourages student exploration of different Baltimore neighborhoods, challenging students to break out of their bubble of Charles Village and the Inner Harbor. It is currently seeking submissions by Hopkins students to share their adventures and spark interest among other students.

"There is a lot in Baltimore, which we can do, that is outside of the Inner Harbor," Adhiraj Goel, a sophomore Mechanical Engineer major, said.

According to Bill Tienfenworth, director of the Center for Social Concern, the "No Bubble" initiative began at the Better than Good summit. He sat in on a group of students, including Goel, who felt that Hopkins students isolated themselves from a large part of the city and the Baltimore community.

"Even if you go out to Fell's Point or the Inner Harbor, that's only a small part of what Baltimore is about," Tienfenworth said.

Based on the submissions he has received so far, Tienfenworth has encountered a positive reception among students. "The ones that have been submitted have been very thoughtful and very positive," he said.

Zhen Lu, a junior Molecular & Cellular Biology major and part of the group behind No Bubble, believes that the obligations that students have to their academics, research and work detract from their ability to understand the importance of reaching out to the community.

"We can change their mindset and make them see the bigger picture and understand our relation with each other and the community," Lu said. "I think that this will augment our successes in academics... To be able to see more than just what we see every day will be beneficial."

Strengthening a sense of community at Hopkins is one major goal for No Bubble. Tienfenworth explains that the importance of breaking out of the bubble lies in strengthening the ties between Hopkins and Baltimore. "You feel better connected not only to the campus but to the greater Baltimore community," he said. "We're an urban campus and President Daniels has said on a number of occasions that the fate of the University is intrinsically tied to the fate of Baltimore City."

Goel also sees this strong bond pays off for the sense of community in Hopkins.

"I feel like the Baltimore community offers a lot of opportunities that help us become a better community," Goel said.

Part of what might discourage students from exploring Baltimore is a sense of fear because of the city's crime statistics. According to Goel, an overemphasis by students on lessons regarding safety can keep them from taking time to explore someplace new.

"There are things we should be worried about, you shouldn't let our guard down, but I feel like sometimes it's a little overhyped and there's a lot that people can still experience if they get over that fear," Goel said. "With these submissions we hope to tell their stories when everything was fine."

Through "No Bubble", Goel also plans on sharing his own story of overcoming fear when a flat tire forced him to stop at a gas station with an uninviting appearance but rather nice employees. "I think it was my initial fear that sort of got me worried, but it was okay and that was the sort of stuff that we want," he said.

Lu also shares a similar view on how initial fears have kept students somewhat hesitant about exploring unfamiliar parts of the city. He believes that more students will get out into the city by going in a group and with new initiatives.

However, it is also difficult for students who lack a method of transportation to travel to less readily-accessible areas of Baltimore. "Without transportation it becomes a huge nuisance to go anywhere," Lu said.

To overcome this obstacle, "No Bubble" plans to get student groups to offer Zipcar vouchers or gift certificates to restaurants in other parts of Baltimore instead of Chipotle and other nearby establishments.

"We were hoping that people can sort of use that as an initiative to branch out away from Hopkins and see Baltimore a little bit more," Goel said.

Tienfenworth also discussed the idea of creating a bulletin board within the Mattin Center advertising events throughout Baltimore and denoting each neighborhood.

While it is certainly important for students to enjoy the outdoors, there's much more to get when exploring Baltimore.

"It helps your time here a Hopkins. I know that here at Hopkins it can be really stressful, and that sense of community can help that stress," Goel said. "I know we have a beautiful campus but getting out of Hopkins can do a lot as well."


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