When leaving my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I didn’t know what to expect from Baltimore. Little did I know, Hopkins’ location in Baltimore would turn out to be one of its greatest highlights. 

Early in the fall semester of my first year, I received a lunch invitation from some strangers in a scholarship network I’m a part of called Coke Scholars. We sat down at R. House, a food hall near the Homewood campus, and told each other our life stories. I spoke with two individuals who moved to Baltimore because of what it offers; neither of them was affiliated with Hopkins. They came here because of the city—because of its opportunities, culture, and community. They were the first of many locals to fondly tell me about “Smalltimore” and its vitality.

Visiting Mount Vernon Marketplace for lunch with some friends.

Recently, I connected with a Baltimore native, Megan. We sat down at Bird in Hand, a local coffee shop, where we spoke over decadent matcha lattes and ube bread her husband made. I met her at the 32nd Street Farmers Market during a field trip with my First-Year Mentor (FYM) orientation group. Her stall at the market uses stories as currency, an element of her Recipes for Community initiative. When my friends and I visited, we told her about our different upbringings and decorated a wooden seed to represent our first visit to the market. Megan told me about her connection to farmers markets; they have acted as anchors to her local communities wherever she has gone. We discussed the value of this “third place,” where people are free to simply exist and enjoy each other’s company. For Megan, this farmers market provided a sense of belonging in Baltimore.  

Baltimore’s artistic vibrancy also contributes to its unique culture. Through Hop Art, I had the opportunity to attend a performance by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO). I was hesitant about going to the concert because I’m not typically a fan of classical music, but the experience was nothing short of magical. There is something special about sitting in a hushed auditorium and hearing the first note of a piece play. There is also something beautiful in the collective harmony of dozens of instruments playing together. The concert not only offered me a newfound appreciation for classical music, but it also unveiled a new element of Baltimore’s culture. I have since learned about the BSO’s 108-year history and its community engagement initiatives.

At the BSO with the Hop Art program.

Baltimore’s arts districts also house rich culture, something I learned before classes started. I attended the Digital Media Center’s Baltimore Through the Camera Lens pre-orientation program, where we were shown around some of the city’s most picturesque scenes. These field trips included locations like the Rawlings Conservatory and the Remington neighborhood, but I especially loved the day we visited the Charles North and Station North neighborhoods. Walking through Graffiti Alley and learning about Motor House’s monthly poetry nights showed me some of the city’s creative gems. Though I haven’t had a chance to go back since classes started, I have connected with some of the city’s poets and hope to return and share some of my own works.  

Freshman formal in Washington, DC.
Snowball fight outside AMR II, a first-year residence hall.

Engaging with Baltimore through service has further connected me to the city. Over Halloween, I volunteered at the Maryland Zoo in Druid Hill Park. Dressing up and handing out candy to kids served as a fun break in the semester’s intense workload, and it introduced me to Snug Books, a local bookstore that works with Baltimore’s independent authors. Since then, I have also become involved with Repair the World as a Service Intern. Working with the nonprofit has led to poetry-based service initiatives on campus and community events off campus, rounding out my Hopkins studies with Baltimore engagement.  

Watching the solar eclipse with friends on campus.

Choosing to move over 1,000 miles from a suburb to a city was not an easy decision, but it was one of the best choices I have ever made. In only a few months, I have found community both within and beyond Hopkins. As I continue my education, I want to keep learning outside the classroom and even my school, and Baltimore offers the perfect home for this growth.