COURTESY OF ALYSSA WOODEN
Took found a home in Baltimore after getting involved in the community.
When I’m in Baltimore, I say I’m from Texas. When I’m not in Baltimore, I say I’m from Baltimore. Texas is a good place to be from, not a good place to be.
There aren’t many things I miss about Texas. We have beautiful sunsets. I love sitting down in any restaurant and getting a sweet tea. I wear cowboy boots and I say y’all (with relish). But growing up in a deep red state with unbearably hot summers and an unhealthy obsession with high school football, I was quite excited to get out.
I didn’t apply to a single school in Texas. I didn’t visit Baltimore when I made my college choice, but as far as I was concerned it wasn’t Texas, so I was happy to make the move. My journey to Hopkins is a long story, but suffice to say it was not my first choice.
Disenchanted after failing to secure a spot in my dream school, I didn’t know what to expect from Baltimore and, frankly, I didn’t care. I planned to be in and out in four years. At least I was getting out of Texas.
And for the first few months, I didn’t let myself settle down. Baltimore wasn’t home, but Texas wasn’t home, either. I made no effort to explore the city and, as much as I missed my mom and my dogs, I didn’t particularly want to return to Texas during breaks, either.
But in the spring of my freshman year, my mom decided to move to Kansas.
And that move made me realize that as much as I suffered through high school, as much as country life doesn’t suit me and as many reasons as I have to hate Texas, I have a lot of nostalgia for the state.
I miss the park where my friends and I would go when we skipped class. I miss Mr. Chopsticks, our favorite restaurant. I miss driving through endless pastures blasting old Lady Gaga and feeling the wind in my hair. And those memories remind me that Denton, the town I was so ready to leave behind, will always be my hometown.
Of course, I left all that behind when I came to college. I never planned to go back. But I never planned to put down roots in Baltimore, either. That changed when my mom moved.
Leaving Texas, I had a choice. I could either call Kansas home or reconsider Baltimore. And suddenly the city I didn’t care much about, the city that I didn’t plan on settling in, took on a new importance to me.
When I started talking to my friends about Baltimore, I realized how many people are loath to settle in the city. They are here for school. They go home during breaks (sometimes even on the weekends). When they graduate, there is no question that they will move away, whether home or somewhere unknown.
And I started to realize that many Hopkins students don’t care about the city. Hopkins students are poised to do a lot of good helping Baltimore, a city which has some undeniable problems.
I’ve seen students and community leaders come together to energize people and create real change. But a lot of students miss out on that, sheltered on Homewood where they can ignore the city around them.
I started to question how I could live in this city for four years and engage so little with its community. How could I not be enraged by Baltimore’s corrupt police force? How could I not want to help give a voice to the city’s underrepresented communities? How could I sit back and watch Governor Larry Hogan destroy the city?
So I started to call Baltimore home. I registered to vote and started paying attention to Maryland politics. Through reporting for The News-Letter, I met local organizers and other community leaders. I learned more about the city’s history and about the current issues important to residents.
The problems Baltimore has are not the reasons I love the city. I love Baltimore because it has such vibrant character. Baltimoreans are resilient, creative, determined and warm, welcoming people.
I love exploring the city’s neighborhoods, meeting its residents and learning more about its past and its present. It’s called Charm City for a reason. It really saddens me that so many students miss out on that.
And when I think about the reasons I love the city, all the memories I’ve made here and all the ways I want to help Baltimore, it’s hard to believe that two years ago the city meant almost nothing to me. Back then, I planned to leave in four years. Now, I want to spend my life here.
For better or worse, Denton will always be my hometown. It’s where I grew up and where I made my first lifelong friends. I don’t plan to move back, but I look forward to going back and sipping a sweet tea while I watch the sunset with my friends from the patio of Mr. Chopsticks.
But Texas isn’t my home anymore. And Kansas isn’t my home, either. I don’t even know my mom’s address. On breaks I don’t “go home,” but instead I “go visit my mom.” When I go, I stay in a guest bedroom.
I didn’t want to at first, but eventually I let myself settle down in Baltimore, and that was the best thing I could have done to make me feel more at home in college.
This city has so much to offer, so much more than you can find taking an Uber down to Inner Harbor. Please, follow a local newspaper on Twitter. Find a new café to study in before finals. Yell angrily about what the Mayor is up to these days even if you aren’t quite sure what that is (probably something shady).
And Baltimore may not become your new home. But you might be surprised by what you find and by how your college experience changes when you embrace the city. You’re here for at least four years, so you might as well make the most of it. Baltimore is my home, and I would love to share it with you.