This summer was the first summer I have ever spent in Baltimore. It was also the first summer where I lived by myself away from home. I got a job not too far from campus and lived in my apartment from the previous semester. I had a whirlwind couple of weeks when I went home after an incredibly hard semester, and when I walked into the door of my apartment in Baltimore in early June, I was overcome with the feeling that I was betraying my home by living somewhere else.
I felt that I associated Baltimore too much with school and not with home. My couch was where I did my studying and reading, not lounged around and watched TV. Restaurants were places where I could get take out before I did work at night.
Thankfully, that changed more than I expected this summer.
One of my favorite things to do was to try different coffee shops after work. You feel a huge sense of freedom when you are able to have the night to yourself, when you have no one to please but yourself, your plans are your plans and you can wander into a cafe because it looks cool. Now, I have many favorites and can go to them if the mood strikes and time permits.
Without a time crunch, I was able to explore other parts of Baltimore and neighborhoods I wish I had known better. I took advantage of the free transportation in Baltimore, especially when my cousin came to visit. My personal record of free transportation in succession was when we took the Charm City Circulator to Penn Station, the JHMI to Homewood and the Blue Jay Shuttle to Hampden after a day of sightseeing.
The highlight of my summer, by far, was Artscape. Like Spring Fair on campus, Artscape is the most wonderful time of the year. It is the largest free arts festival in the country and attracts an insane amount of people and artists from all over.
It took over the area surrounding Penn Station. There was live music for most of the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday coming from three band shells in different parts of the festival. The booths were diverse, as many social action groups used this festival to reach out. The art that was sold was original and very high quality. I am used to street fairs that sell the same stuff every weekend. The food was standard festival food, but some of it was gourmet and most of it was local to Baltimore and its surrounding areas. Needless to say, I was down there all three days.
I tried a trendy restaurant in a converted factory in Harbor East. I finally went to Gertrude’s for dinner. I sat and looked at the boats in the harbor. I revisited my favorite museums. I went to a Charles Village festival and met people from the neighborhood. I saw movies at the Charles Theatre. I joined an ultimate frisbee league that practiced in Catonsville. I spent a few days getting to know Washington, D.C. as well.
I left Baltimore a couple of times to go on my normal trips with my family and to visit friends in other states. I managed to get to BWI on a poor college student’s budget. It is actually quite easy — from Penn Station you can take a MARC train to the BWI Airport stop and a shuttle takes you to the terminals.
I will say that it would have been helpful to have a car so I could reach the places that are hard to get to, like Patterson Park or even to Annapolis or the beach for a day trip. While limited, I was still able to see a lot of Baltimore I had not seen and revisit the places I liked.
I recommend that anyone who goes to Hopkins, especially those who are about to graduate, spend a summer here and get to know this quirky city. When you live alone anywhere, you grow as a person, and especially in a place like Baltimore, you have a great time.