Eating around a table of good cuisine has been the setting of some of my favorite moments at Hopkins. I have built and deepened bonds over plates of food. The highlight of my day is walking into the dining halls and spotting a familiar face, taking comfort in knowing there’s a space for me to share all the joys and troubles of my life.  

From my experience, grabbing a meal with someone is one of the most fool-proof methods to create and maintain friendships. During Orientation week, lunch and dinner were when we could break from the busy schedule and connect. My group had conversations that went beyond the simple name, major, and hometown. I remember us bonding over our online school memories. Despite our different backgrounds, we all found common ground when discussing past Zoom classes.

When I got a new roommate in the middle of the semester, it was lunch at Hopkins Café that pushed us to open up to each other. That lunch was the beginning of our friendship. Now, we get meals together and frequently check in on each other every day. Maintaining a comfortable relationship with your roommate is important because I always know there’s someone in my room I can turn to immediately.

Another way the dining hall creates community is through the food itself. One of my fondest memories is the Spirit Lunch during finals week. The decorations and great food encouraged me and my friends to take a moment away from studying to share a meal and relax. The dining hall was filled with balloons, dessert platters, a charcuterie board, and bagel spreads. The Lunar New Year dinner was also memorable. The dining hall was decked out in a Lunar New Year theme and there was even a performance by the lion dance troupe at Hopkins. My friend and I discussed how much the potstickers reminded us of the ones we would eat at home. I was also impressed they were able to replicate the sauce of the steamed fish. These festivities allowed me to experience a taste of the celebrations I was missing from home.

Lion Dance at our Lunar New Year celebrations
Potstickers from Lunar New Year

The dining halls are also sources of spontaneous connections. Once I was in Hopkins Café and venting to my friends about my hard study session. Two strangers sitting at a separate table joined in on my complaints and offered me resources for the class I was struggling with. Through this out-of-the-blue conversation, I felt incredibly grateful to be a part of a community that was so supportive. I’ve found the dining experience is essential to the community because it’s the environment that encourages us to take a breath during our hectic days and connect with the people around us.

As I navigate the complexities of college life, the simple act of dining together remains a powerful tool for building community and forging lasting bonds.

Some of the food from Spirit Lunch