This fall marks the University’s first fully in-person semester in three years. Along with this change comes the revival of classic college traditions and the process of adjusting to a repopulated campus. It’s both an exciting and scary time for all of us, even the ones who have been at Hopkins for a few years now.
As with any new school year, the freshmen will be going through the biggest changes as they navigate an unfamiliar environment and start to find their place in the community. But they’re not alone — with the relaxing of pandemic restrictions, we’re all getting used to a campus that feels a bit different from the one we roamed just a semester before.
The streets are a little busier, Brody is a little louder and lecture halls are packed tighter. Some underclassmen and upperclassmen alike are experiencing their first Zoom-less academic schedule since 2020. Class introductions are no longer about our most recent Netflix watches or forays into bread-making; now we’re hearing stories of cross-country road trips, family reunions and other unique summer activities.
There’s a lot to be excited about this semester. So far, no class is reaping the benefits more than the freshmen, who are enjoying parts of the college experience that many of us missed out on.
With Orientation events that include class-wide Rec Center seminars and an ice cream social on the quad, the freshmen will hopefully feel a stronger sense of unity. Dining restrictions are gone, too, so First-Year Mentor (FYM) groups and friends have been able to eat together in Hopkins Cafe. And with a fully in-person Student Involvement Fair this Friday, freshmen can complete their college onboarding with the classic club recruitment experience of being bombarded with flyers and candy in a hot, sweaty gym.
Other things for all of us to look forward to are the upcoming O-Show — with performances from groups like the Barnstormers, Entertainers Club and more — and the opening of new restaurants in Charles Village, after seeing some beloved businesses close during the pandemic. In the storefront left vacant by PekoPeko, we now have Kajiken, a mazesoba and ramen restaurant; across the street, we welcome the arrival of a juice and smoothie shop, Pure Green.
While the beginning of the semester is an exciting time, we know it hasn’t been smooth-sailing for all. Highly infectious COVID-19 subvariants are sweeping across America, and dozens of Blue Jays have already felt the impacts: Over 80 students tested positive for the virus in the first three days of class. As in-person classes and activities resume, we recommend students continue to take advantage of the free PCR and rapid tests provided by the University.
Despite a new semester, some things about Hopkins haven’t changed. The freshmen, still getting accustomed to their lofted beds and shower shoes, may already start to feel the effects of the Hopkins bubble. The phenomenon describes students’ tendency to stay within the bounds of Homewood Campus and Charles Village. Though the creation of the bubble was no accident — years of segregation and redlining have divided Hopkins from lower-income, majority-Black neighborhoods — we encourage new students to pop it.
Take a CityLink bus and explore a different part of the city with your friends. Read up on how the University impacts the local community. Many of us will call Baltimore home for four years; we should take the opportunity to get to know the city, advocate for it and explore all it has to offer.
One of the best ways to explore Baltimore is to support local small businesses. Whether you’re after a quaint bookstore or a bowl of vegan mac and cheese, we bet you’ll find what you’re looking for at one of Charm City’s various mom-and-pops.
There are also plenty of ways to get involved through community service. Stop by the Center for Social Concern to learn about student groups like the Tutorial Project or opportunities like the Community Impact Internships Program.
Though sunbathing on the Beach is always a nice option, Baltimore is constantly offering ways to shake up your weekend routine. Check out the Banner Planner or our own Leisure section for inspiration.
This semester is already proving to be an exciting change of pace from the past few years. Before the quizzes and deadlines pile up, we encourage you to spend your Labor Day weekend exploring a Baltimore neighborhood or trying one of the city’s many delicious restaurants.
Wherever the semester takes you… Good luck, Blue Jays!