Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 23, 2024
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COURTESY OF ISABEL VELOSO

Veloso shares what inspired her to start @jhufreestuff and what the future holds for the account.

At this point, it’s not really a secret anymore, but, for those who don’t know, my name is Isabel, and I started @jhufreestuff on Instagram. To be honest, part of the reason I wanted to write this article was because of the theatrics (not surprising if you follow the account). The other reason was that I wanted a chance to reflect on what it’s been like to run this account for almost four years, which I can’t really do in one “face reveal” post on my Instagram story.

Usually, the first question people ask when I tell them I run @jhufreestuff is “How did you come up with the idea?”, so I’ll address that first. It’s pretty basic — in the fall of 2019 during my freshman year, I noticed that there were a lot of free giveaways on campus but no centralized way to hear about them. I would see an organization giving out donuts or get random texts from friends saying that “CharMar has free ice cream”.

I didn’t have any other social media experience other than my personal Instagram account, but I felt that there was nothing to lose with an anonymous social media account dedicated to free stuff. So, I made the account, found an image of Mordecai from Regular Show and started following anyone with “Hopkins” in their bio. If you scroll back far enough, you’ll see that my first post wasn’t even really about free stuff; it’s a post about the now-defunct Sterling Brunch at the dining halls. I really don’t know why I posted about it. I think I was just excited to have slightly fancier food. 

Running this account is definitely a little selfish. I had always wanted to be a celebrity or influencer-type person growing up, but I’m far too lazy to actually put effort into starting a YouTube channel. The account allowed me to become a “personality” without an actual talent, and the audience is guaranteed because who is going to pass on hearing about free stuff? So, thank you to everyone who follows for feeding my delusions of being a celebrity — I truly felt like Hannah Montana. 

Something that I’m happy about that I didn’t originally intend is that the account was able to promote different clubs! As a member of various clubs (most notably, Inter-Asian Council), it’s pretty hard to promote your events to the student body. We used to do Facebook events, but no one even uses Facebook anymore — the generational gap between Class of 2023 and 2024 is wild. Having a student-run account that’s not official but still widely followed made learning about events more accessible. 

Though some of the things I reposted weren’t free or didn’t include giveaways, I feel that I had an obligation to use my platform as a Hopkins student to support the other organizations on campus. By assisting clubs or departments in publicizing their events, I believe that this account has helped knit the social fabric of the Homewood campus, at least in a small way.

I want to emphasize — at least, compared to the people I know at other colleges — we get so much free stuff. I have enough free Hopkins merch for a whole new wardrobe. It might be because I actively seek out these kinds of events, but I have been well-fed and dressed these past four years. So, take advantage of it! And not just to get the free trinkets but also to indulge in the unique sense of community that a college campus provides. From outdoor trips to speaker series to tote-bag decorating, all these events are created for students specifically, so I highly encourage you to take a break from Brody for an hour and check out what else is happening on campus. 

I’ve truly had a lot of fun running this account. It gave me the opportunity to see campus from a broader perspective because I wasn’t focused on one specific niche (other than free stuff). I got to learn about clubs and community organizations I hadn’t heard of and interact with students I otherwise may not have met. Again, thank you to everyone who DMs us, shares stories or has post notifications on; I really appreciate the account’s not flopping! 

As for the future of @jhufreestuff: A lot of people have asked me about whether the account will continue. I “hired” a co-admin last year, so they will be continuing to run @jhufreestuff for the next couple of years! Shoutout to them, they know who they are. I might also stay logged into the account — if only to keep an eye out for more free food. 


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