As an undergraduate student at Hopkins, it becomes far too easy to get stuck within the Hopkins bubble, going weeks without leaving Charles Village. As a first-semester freshman, I made it my goal to do something off campus at least once a week so as to not fall into this trap.
As the semesters passed, however, it became increasingly difficult to find the time to explore the city while going between classes, extracurriculars and other on-campus commitments. To help solve the problem, this semester I enrolled in a class called Exploring Nature. Although it’s a required course for my major, I chose to take it because of an increasing pull I’ve felt to get away from campus.
One of the most unique features about Exploring Nature is the required weekly trips to green spaces around Baltimore. Students choose where and when to go out into the city’s parks during the week. Each class focuses on a different component of nature.
For the first week, I went to Patterson Park. I chose to go on a very rainy day (which may have been off-putting for other people, as the park was practically empty). I went with a friend, and we walked around the park for a while before finding a gazebo to sit under.
I wasn’t expecting to feel much different while in the park than in other parts of the city, but I was surprised to find a sense of solace. I couldn’t hear the cars going by or see any people around. The rain fell in buckets around the gazebo, but inside it was peaceful and calm.
This past week, I stayed much closer to campus by visiting Wyman Park Dell. One of the dell’s unique features is how it’s recessed into the landscape around it. From the large park at the bottom, you can’t see much of the street above or the buildings that surround the tiny park. It’s not as quiet and secluded as Patterson Park, but the geography of the dell does create somewhat of a sound barrier to the city outside. One of my favorite features of the dell is its popularity as a dog park for the residents of the surrounding Charles Village and Remington neighborhoods. On any given day you can go to the park and see multiple dogs running off leash and playing with each other in the open space.
My list of favorite green spots in the city includes some other locations as well. Federal Hill has a beautiful view of the Inner Harbor and the City of Baltimore, and it’s a great place for picnics. Its surrounding neighborhood is also home to many unique restaurants and interesting shops to explore.
Green Mount Cemetery may seem a bit morbid to visit on a sunny weekend, but it is rich with Baltimore history. If you go, try to find the graves of John Wilkes Booth and Johns Hopkins, both of whom are buried there. I recommend going with a friend.
With a bit of extra time on your hands, you can go to Fort McHenry, another historic location. One of the battles that took place at the fort was the inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner!
If you’d rather stay closer to campus, you can visit Druid Hill Park or the Baltimore Arboretum. Both have trails to explore and a sense of quiet you can’t find in most other parts of the city.
Next time you’re stressed with midterms or have five papers due in one week, think twice before burying yourself too deep in the library. Take a few minutes to go outside, get some sunshine and take a break. Your brain will thank you for it, and you’re likely to be more productive when you get back to work.
Spending at least an hour away from the Hopkins bubble every week as a freshman improved both my mental health and my view of the city. I wish that I had given myself the time to do it more over the past couple years, but there is no time better than today to get back out there and explore. That’s my goal for this year, and maybe it can be yours too!