After finishing a rather turbulent first fall semester, the first thing we thought to do for our first article of spring semester was reflect on all the good and the bad. For much of our high school lives we were told that college was going to be the pinnacle of our academic experience, where we make the closest friends of our lives and the place where we discover our passions, learn new skills and plan for a glorious future in the workplace.
About 50% of that happened. The first semester of college was nice, of course, but we wouldn’t say it was breathtaking or filled with glorious experiences. Rather, it was fraught with some anxiety, stress and hard lessons. However, being the consistently incapable people that we are, it was no surprise that we ended up learning some of these hard lessons in the funniest, weirdest situations.
Neither one of us is from a place that usually uses public transportation. In fact, both of us started driving as soon as we were legally able, since that was the only way we could get anywhere interesting (also known as anywhere that was not the inside of our houses). We still aren’t sure why we thought ourselves capable enough to independently venture out to areas of Baltimore via bus.
On the rare occasion (or really the singular occasion) that we managed to finish our work on a Friday, and Diksha didn’t feel absolutely fatigued after her chemistry lab, we decided to discover new areas in Baltimore. However, if Hopkins has taught us anything over the first semester, it’s that trying something new is almost always more fruitful than you ever think it will be.
That’s why this story finds us, very spontaneously, hunting down a Charm City Circulator on the TransLoc app while frantically going through the TripAdvisor website to find the best places in Baltimore to feasibly go on a Friday night. Fells Point seemed like a nice place after we evaluated it using the normal guidelines: having a nice picture on Google and taking no longer than 20 minutes to get there. We realize now that those are not great guidelines, but in the spur of the moment, it seemed like infallible logic.
We quickly ran down the street by Busboys and Poets toward the bus stop. With two feet between us and the stop, the bus came to a halt, pushing us to run harder while flailing our arms and yelling unintelligible sentences. Finally, we reached the doors of the bus and walked up the stairs. Laura looked toward the bus driver, confused, expecting to pay, but to her surprise he simply told us to take a seat. As we sat on the bus, watching the scenes of the familiar streets fade away, we whispered to each other about the new wonders of free public transportation.
After the amazement slightly wore off, we realized that we had no knowledge of how buses worked. When were we supposed to get off? How were we supposed to get off? Hoping to gain some understanding, Laura stared at Snapchat maps on her phone, yet this proved to be no help.
Diksha, confident in her ability to guide us, pulled out her phone and carefully tracked the route to our intended destination (our first mistake). After careful examination of the route, Diksha declared which stop we had to take in order to arrive successfully (she was wrong but really confident about it, which is something to be admired).
After failing to stop the bus due to our inability to simply ask the driver to stop or tug on the yellow cord, we found ourselves at the wrong stop (what a surprise!). We confidently got off the bus, thinking that we had made it to the right place, but realized that the view of the Inner Harbor on our left was strangely different from the Inner Harbor that we had seen when getting off at that stop before.
At this incredibly astute observation, we questioned our knowledge of Baltimore (are there two Inner Harbors?) before realizing that, no, there is only one Inner Harbor and we were three blocks down from the proper stop.
Getting to the new stop was a mission in and of itself. It was dark, and all Diksha could do was annoyingly sing Taylor Swift. Laura was about to act on her sentiments of murderous intent.
Finally, after walking a block in the wrong direction, realizing that we walked a block in the wrong direction and then desperately trying to turn around and find the right direction, we found a bus stop. The problem was that we didn’t know if it was the right bus stop. Diksha said that it was, but that probably means that it wasn’t (she isn’t known for her sense of direction).
However, at this point the Taylor Swift singing got to be too much, and Laura stormed onto the nearest bus, praying that it was the right one. It turns out that this method worked better than the TransLoc app, and we ended up getting to Fells Point safe and sound! Despite this, Diksha suggested that they walk down a different street that led in the opposite direction of Fells Point.
This story might not seem at all interesting or momentous or even worthy of an entire article in our column. However, it was a fundamental experience of our first semester in college (a semester that started off weird and definitely ended even weirder).
There is no other way to explain it. This experience allowed us to develop an understanding of how to travel in Baltimore and how to trust each other in new situations. But more importantly, it showed us our strengths and weaknesses while allowing us to make sure that we take advantage of the opportunity to explore the city we now live in.
Here’s to more adventurous and compelling journeys in the future! We hope to bring this energy into our second semester at Hopkins, where although we are bumbling and tripping through everything more than ever, at least we kind of know how to catch a bus (albeit not the JHMI shuttle just yet).
Laura Salem is a freshman from Tolland, Conn. studying Psychology and History. Diksha Iyer is a freshman from Dearborn, Mich. studying Public Health and Neuroscience. Through their differing perspectives, Laura and Diksha stumble their way through their college experience, one step at a time.