The summer before starting my first year at Hopkins was a period of familiar uncertainty. As a serial overthinker, I was constantly questioning whether I was going to be ok in a new country, surrounded by folks from drastically different cultures, in an unparalleled academic environment. I knew this transition would be hard, especially without the comforts of home (with its evocative languages and correctly spiced meals). I prepared for every social eventuality my brain could think of. To my (grateful) surprise, I was greeted on Homewood by a group of individuals placed together by pure luck. Throughout my first year, we became a tight-knit family I could now never live without; these were my hallmates from Baker Hall in AMR II.  

If you’ve read some of my previous work or had the (unfortunate) experience of listening to my endless stories, you’ve probably heard me speak about the (appropriately termed) shenanigans we got up to on the second floor during our first year at Hopkins. These seven pairs of randomly grouped roommates (and the floor friends we made along the way) created something magical almost every night, and always gave me something to write home about. I take immense pride in sharing those stories. Not simply because they were enjoyable experiences, but more so as proof that you can create a familiar familial setting for yourself, given the right people with similar goals, and an assist from Hopkins Residential Life!  

One of the best parts of this residential experience was how easy this all came together. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly daunting at the beginning; the residential life survey for random roommate pairing was probably one of the most thought-out forms I’ve ever filled as I laid my trust in a mystery algorithm. During the summer, given the time difference between Baltimore and Bombay, I woke up one day to the warmest of introductions from my future roommate. All was right with the world, and my anticipation to get to campus increased ten-fold. This excitement carried into Orientation week, which served as a time of exploration, both of unconventional physical spaces in AMR II and budding personal relationships with the new kids on the block. I’ll never forget how an impromptu, innocuous session of playing Bananagrams in the hallway on day one of O-week, complemented by an interesting choice of music, drew the attention of everyone who lived on our floor and led to the first of our numerous midnight conversations.    

To give you an idea of what daily life was like in the colloquially termed ‘social dorm’ on campus, I’d budget in half an hour before my self-imposed bedtime to catch up on everyone’s day. On your average Tuesday night, I’d take the long way around so I could drop into different people’s rooms to say hello, join important de-stressor dance parties, or stay longer and have a deep conversation with someone who needed it. If I stayed out too late, studying or otherwise, I’d get phone calls from my fellow residents. They knew to check up on me if I wasn’t in bed by 11:30 p.m.  

I felt heard in that hallway, and it taught me to always lend an ear. I also felt seen, as none of the fourteen individuals that lived there looked alike. Everyone came from different communities, cultures, and countries, spoke a different second language, and brought a piece of home with them. I learned so much about how people thought, how our identities stem from our backgrounds, and how to have conversations with those who may fundamentally disagree with your worldviews. It wasn’t always a bed of roses—there were significant ideological disagreements that tested the strength of our friendships, but ultimately, we always learned to move on. The hallway served as a microcosm of the world for me and made me feel comfortable in my skin.  

Before this becomes another one of my endless romanticization of physical spaces, I think it’s best we move on to the promised descriptions of shenanigans from before. We took great satisfaction in confusing many Resident Advisors as they walked through the second floor on Saturday nights. I aspired to have at least one unofficial organized community event a month.  This ranged from living out our childhood dreams of turning the entire hallway into a massive blanket fort, to putting up someone’s bedsheet and renting a projector (for free) from the Digital Media Center for some pre-final movies and karaoke sessions. There were nights when my friends were brave enough to survive a lecture on the history of India at my behest; we started strong at the year 1600 and I only lost them at 1922 (which is still 322 years more than I expected them to sit through). Amongst countless other gatherings, we had community potlucks, league cricket, and Just Dance nights galore. When we got too loud, I even put up a noise complaint board outside my door to track our progress as a group. My tally would reset every time one of our fellow AMR II residents thought we were being too loud (and rightly so!). I don’t think we ever made it past four days! 

Baker Hall’s shenanigans!

All in all, I think the ‘hallway’ (the physical space as well as the people) really molded my first-year experience. It gave me the comfort and the room to settle into a completely new environment, feel confident about myself, and gave me the love I needed to grow as a person. Hopkins has a way of helping you find relationships in the places you’d least expect them. The residents of Baker Hall, AMR II are still some of my closest friends in the world, and I couldn’t imagine life without them.  

Baker Hall’s sophomore reunion!