Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 20, 2021

A changing perspective after one year in Baltimore

By ARIELLA SHUA | May 3, 2018

Baltimore has nothing to offer me.

Before arriving at Hopkins, this thought constantly passed through my mind and was one of the main reasons that I was dreading the beginning of college.

I had spent years hearing about the amazing quality of the college town. Even though a college may be in the middle of nowhere, the town that springs up around it is perfect for young adults to enjoy. Or it may be a beloved, youthful city, busily swarming with students and with plenty of options for entertainment.

The majority of my high school friends were heading to one or the other of these college town options. 

I felt alone, thinking that Hopkins didn’t really have either one.

It made matters worse that my parents were not thrilled with the fact that I was Baltimore bound. They warned me to watch my back, to stick to safe neighborhoods close to campus, and to travel either with friends or during the day.

So you could say that I wasn’t too excited.

Looking back now, with only a few weeks until the official conclusion of my freshman year, I can’t believe how much my perspective has changed.

I now know that Baltimore is nothing short of amazing.

It took me more than an entire semester to realize it, however. During my first months on campus, I was the typical freshman, playing right into the Hopkins bubble stereotype. I stuck to Honeygrow and Chipotle for “fine” dining, and the only times I ventured far off campus I hit up the most touristy spot around, the Inner Harbor. If I was having a night out, it was probably at a friend’s apartment or sometimes at a frat house.

Over winter break, I decided to actually start living in Baltimore — not just physically, but by actually becoming a member of the City.

So I began to explore.

If you’ve gone off campus and looked around, you probably learned a while ago what it took me so long to realize. Baltimore is a city of personality.

Everyone talks about how Baltimore is split into different neighborhoods, but I didn’t realize how true it is until I began to see it for myself. Taking a ride on the (blessedly free) Charm City Circulator shows just how different Charles Village is compared to Mount Vernon or the Inner Harbor. Visit Hampden or walk through Wyman Park, and the atmosphere will feel different once again. And these are only a fraction of the neighborhoods Baltimore has, I still have many more to venture through.

Once I stopped being so wary (But, don’t worry, Mom. I’ll still say something if I see something.) I began to enjoy Baltimore for what it is — a city of neighborhoods, each with their own histories and stories to tell.

Two favorite spots that I’ve discovered couldn’t be more opposite from each other. One is Station North, south of campus. The entire area has an artsy feel to it, and I especially love the Charles Theatre, which feels antique in a way that no movie theater at home can replicate.

My other treasured location is Sherwood Gardens, a 15 minute walk north of campus. Free for all, its tulip garden is a perfect, serene haven from hectic school life.

I went from barely being able to walk down North Charles alone once the sun had set, to enjoying my stroll through the relative peace and quiet of a weeknight, as well as the excited energy of the weekends.

Even though none of us really seem to think of it as a college town (except, to my surprise, Wikipedia), Baltimore is our home while we’re here. I hope to continue taking advantage of being here while I can. It took me a whole semester to learn how to escape the Hopkins bubble. Hopefully I’ll be able to make up for the lost time over the next three years.

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