What to Expect

Rachel, Blake, Mara and I at a minor league baseball game! Our team is called the Richmond Flying Squirrels...I wish I was kidding.

Some of you will be homesick. Some of you, like me, will be so caught up in the newness of college life that you’ll forget to be homesick. Some of you will gain weight (It happens, don’t freak out). Some of you won’t (And we all hate you). Some of you won’t think to bring rainboots (Try walking on marble steps in flip flops after it rains. Do it. See what happens).

You’ll pay $15 for a cab to Penn Station // Towson // downtown until you realize (or your RA kindly informs you) that you can get there for free. You’ll drink questionable hot chocolate at the Lighting of the Quads and then wonder if you missed it (…but actually). You’ll be nervous that they won’t let you into Maxie’s. You’ll brag about your weekend and wonder why the upperclassmen keep shooting you disgruntled looks as they pass by.

And at some point, you’ll inevitably start to feel a little lost. It might be right away, like when some small Asian girl is far too enthusiastic about being your PA during Orientation Week (sidenote: if you’re a freshman reading this and are in my PA group, THANKS FOR EMAILING ME BACK NOT), or when it’s the first day of classes and you don’t know where Olin Hall is (don’t worry, nobody does). Or maybe it won’t hit you until you’re halfway through the semester and things start to get real, solidify into the beginnings of an experience that is less about making mistakes and more about making memories.

DIY skull cutout tee

I know what you’re thinking. With summer winding down, your thoughts are playing a disorienting game of racquetball against the inside of your head, ricocheting from one state of disbelief to the next. You can’t wait to leave. You can’t believe you’re leaving. You direct all of your listlessness towards a picked cuticle, gnawed and red; disguise any feelings of nostalgia as fondness for a particular article of clothing. Your questions seem all wrong: How did you get so old? Why do you feel so unprepared? Does anyone else feel like this too, or is it just you? Is everything ending, or just beginning?

Top: Anselm Kiefer at the VMFA // Bottom: Notes in my sketchbook

The good news is that this feeling never quite goes away. I’ve still jammed more printers in the library than I’ve managed to print from, and the thought of registering for classes on ISIS makes me need a latte.  Sometimes, I don’t know what pleases me more – the fact that I can nab a cubicle during finals week or that I always somehow manage to eat half of my weight’s worth in snacks on C-level without detection. I’m never dressed appropriately for the Baltimore weather, and I still order the same thing from Tamber’s every time.

And when all is said and done, I’m still lost – not in mishaps or even memories, but in moments. This one: a sharp intake of breath, the sudden dilation of thought and sound.

These last few weeks of summer are just the quiet before the storm.  It’s like leaping off of a swing set – propelling into thin air for a brief, heady second – whether you’re a freshman or a senior, this temporary lull leaves us all a little disoriented, a little lost.

So, Class of 2016 – expect all of this and more. Expect to return to this feeling of nostalgia and anticipation again and again. Expect the unexpected, enjoy the rest of your summers, and I’ll see you in two weeks!

 

 

Jumbled Emotions of a Rising Sophomore

Long hair, don't care? I'm pretty sure that's the #YOLO equivalent to not getting a haircut.

Well, I’ve come to an extremely unwelcome realization: I need to get a haircut. What this means, of course, is that it’s time to stop acting like a hippie, stop substituting paint parties and road trips as an effective use of a day (for the time being), and once more become a contributing member to society. Whether it’s the knowledge of classes on the horizon or the gradual departing of my high school friends to their respective schools, I’ve finally begun recognizing that summer does indeed have an expiration date and that responsibility isn’t going to kindly wait for me to welcome it back into my life. It really been a much-needed summer of both relaxation and epic times with friends though. If you’re afraid about losing touch with your friends from high school, I can attest to now being even closer to my friends this summer than probably ever before. Be it narrating the olympics with ridiculous dialogue, surprising my friend on her birthday with a face full of potentially-stolen cupcakes (out of love of course), rocking out to Childish Gambino in the middle of Tennessee, or just sitting around talking and laughing about who-knows-what, I can’t help but say this has been a pretty awesome summer. But along with the realization that I need a haircut comes the understanding that there are more exciting things in life than half-price milkshakes at Sonic. That is to say, while summer may offer ease of mind, going back to Hopkins means that I can spend my time doing things of a much more significant nature.

Why? Call Me Maybe dubstep remixes, that's why.

However, it’s not entirely necessary to rid myself of relaxation, but rather it’s time to tack on what I expect to be an amazing sophomore year. I’ve grown comfortable, if not complacent, with my laziness in St. Louis and so I’m ready to go back to Hopkins for all of the reasons that drew me there in the first place. I’m ready to learn more about modern art history and theory. I’m ready to, in one of my more exciting classes, examine a collection at the Walters Art Museum and learn about the installation of non-Western art. [I think] I’m ready to add another minor, this time in Entrepreneurship & Management, to focus on the administrative and marketing side of the museum. I’m ready to curate. I’m ready to contribute to the community through arts programming and community service, and just as ready to explore that community, food included (and in most cases compulsory). I’m ready to plan trips to D.C., New York, and who knows where else. I’m ready to apply to study abroad programs and accept that this time next year I may be packing my bags for France instead of Baltimore. Maybe more than anything, I’m ready to reunite with my friends with whom ridiculously fun nights and more unforgettable moments are just around the corner.

So is this a worried  post, an inspiring post, an anxious post, etc? I don’t really know, to be quite honest. I suppose it’s more of a “dear freshmen, don’t feel like you’re unwarranted in feeling the way you probably do” post, because lately I’ve been feeling similar fits of being ready to go (back, in my case) to Hopkins, sad to say “see you later” to my friends once again, and anxious to see how this year turns out. I’m essentially in a glass case of emotion. I am a little apprehensive in all honesty to start out the semester with 18 credits, one job, one internship, and extracurriculars on top of that, but if I let fear stop me from getting ahead, I’m in no position to succeed. In the end, all I can do is recognize how great of a summer I’ve had and accept that it’s time to buckle up my seatbelt, get that loathed haircut (overreaction, maybe?), and prepare for another semester of giving it my all at Hopkins. Class of 2016, enjoy your time at home as it slowly comes to what may seem like an end, but don’t be afraid of things changing forever. You have a lot, seriously, to look forward to, but you’ll always have the comfort of home to fall back on as well. I look forward to seeing you all on campus in just a few short weeks, get ready for an unforgettable ride!

Some Things Won’t Change

Since reading all the submissions for the summer blogging contest, I’ve been reminiscing about last summer before I left for Hopkins trying to conjure some advice for any anxious pre-frosh. I remember that at this point last year every conversation with friends and family seemed to remind me how much would change in the next year: how I would be living across the country from my hometown, how I wouldn’t know a single person my first day, how I would be living in a dorm without the comfort of my mom’s cooking and cleaning. Needless to say, these things weren’t exactly comforting when I secretly had anxiety about these things and more.

So to any 2016ers reading this, I want you to know one thing. Everyone this time of year is reminding you how much changes when you start your life at Hopkins, but what everyone fails to mention before you leave is that some things won’t change. Soon enough you’ll be moving to an entirely new place, testing the limits of your academic preparation and having the time of your life with the most amazing friends. But before you experience all these wonderful things, calm yourself down by remembering that among all the excitement college brings comes the familiarity of things that won’t change while you’re away.

So despite all the change that accompanied my first year at Hopkins…

I know that my brother Matt is always down for a trip to the beach.

I’m certain that my dad loves when we visit him at the firehouse.

I’m certain that no matter how old we get, I can always count on my amazing cousin Lily for a fun night of monopoly in our jammies.

I’m sure that my mom will vacuum my room incessantly even though she knows it drives me nuts.

I’m certain that my car will always smell like crayons.

I’m positive my dad will tease me for how many consecutive hours I can sleep.

And I’m sure that no matter how many cooking lessons my mom gives me, I’ll always call her to ask, “can you refrigerate lemons?” and “how much garlic do I put in the stir fry?”

 

I recognize that a lot has changed this year but I also realize that with all those changes remain the familiarity of some things that will never change.

I hope this blog calmed some anxiety for you 2016ers! Can’t wait to see you during move in!

As always, thanks for reading.

All my Hopkins Love,

Erica

 

 

Missing Crickets

One of the valley dudes who changed my life this summer

It has taken me exactly 29 hours, 3 minutes, and 46 seconds to adjust to life back in the city. The moment of realization? Enjoying my first sip of a banana chai freeze in a vegan cafe while writing this blog and listening to Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out. (Incoming freshman: where can you find this experience? One World Cafe! A short walk from the freshman quad).

I’m not going to lie, my first few hours back in Baltimore yesterday made my head spin. I have spent the past three months climbing trees and playing with kids, where the loudest noise I encountered was the hum of the weed-wacker by a field of grazing cows. When I laid down for a nap after work in my friend’s apartment my first day back, a few questions began looming: how had I forgotten how noisy the city is? How long would it take me to exchange crickets and quiet nights for the jazz music and sharp laughter the city sidewalk produces?

Not to mention a few other things: my time at the valley is over. And this doesn’t only mean my time forty feet in the air surrounded by leaves and spiders and fields, this also means my time part of a loving community with many people who made this summer the best one of my life. (Not to get TOO sappy…). Of course, it is not really over. I will be working odd weekends during the fall as a facilitator for Genesee and will stay in touch with many of these great people. Plus, as cheesy as it may sound, what they have taught me will carry through into my life at Hopkins.

My last day hanging out at the valley (with my family!)

And speaking of my life at Hopkins, the creeping feeling of “it is great to be back!” did in fact overcome me in fewer than thirty hours, for there is something about Hopkins kids and this city that is undeniably unique. I am working my job as a pre-Orientation director for the next eight-ish days (can’t wait to meet all you pre-o kids!), and it is hard to explain the value of a Hopkins-nerd in an office setting. Computer problem? You can bet there’s a dude next to you who speaks Mac better than the Apple Store folks themselves. On top of that, I have missed the random idiosyncracies of Baltimore-ians and the convenience of the city itself. Starbucks within a block? This is always a pro.

Though it has been a crazy turnaround, I can say these past hours have left me happy with where I am now. I get to wake up every morning, walk through a city I know and love, and hang out with some pretty awesome people all day. This upcoming semester is looking better all the time, and who knows? Maybe I’ll hear crickets outside of Charles Commons sooner than I know.

 

Wendy and the Lost Boys

Last Friday afternoon after work, I meandered to my mailbox and examined my camper list for the following week. My jaw almost hit the floor as I scanned the page: the list consisted of eleven adolescent boys. A lump of anxiety grew in my stomach as I considered the assortment of braces, acne, bad attitudes and raging testosterone that would approach me in two short days… How could I ever handle these  ”young men”? As far as I was concerned, 14-year old males were an entirely different species.

My younger campers completing nitro

It turns out that I wasn’t entirely wrong. The boys arrived on Monday morning, and after explaining some rules I took them to their first activity: a low element called “nitro.” The younger campers generally love nitro because of its simplicity; the goal is to get the entire group standing on a 3×3 ft wooden box by swinging over to it on a rope swing. When they are all on the box, they have to sing me a song to complete the element. Sounds easy, right? Nitro takes the younger kids about 30 minutes to complete, depending on their coordination. My boys were a different story. After half an hour of fruitless attempts (mostly because of their larger size), I aided them by allowing three hands to be on the ground in order to get everyone on the box. It wasn’t a pretty picture, but at least the boys were able to sing me a rendition of Call Me Maybe before we moved on.

Our first few moments as a group, I definitely felt like Wendy watching over a group of foreign lost boys. Yet as the days went on, our attitudes started changing. Inappropriate stories and cuss words began making their way into every conversation. Our schedule for each day soon became more like fluid guidelines for me and the boys. By Wednesday, I found myself rocking skater shorts and a backwards baseball cap while sprinting around the property playing an intense round of capture the flag. After the game, with my shirt soaked through with sweat, I came to a startling realization: Wendy had officially become one of the lost boys.

My boys' aided completion of nitro

There is something fascinating about the adjustability of leadership. On Friday, my sister came by to hang out with my group and commented: “How can you put up with them? They’re so crazy!” to which I responded “I actually think they’re pretty cool.” Though leadership is sometimes composed of strict enforcement and rules, it is more often than not reliant on fostering subtle connections so that people can have a good time. In other words, I think the week was more successful for me and the campers because we were buddies just playing around. After all, isn’t that the goal?

So, a couple of things I’ve learned in the past week: 1) adolescent men love Taco Bell more than anything on the planet, 2) high school nap time should definitely become a reality and 3) apparently I look like Justin Beiber when I wear a backwards baseball cap. I’d just like to thank those dudes for a really fun week and all of you readers too! I’ll be back in the fall with some more posts, but for now I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!

 

Everyone is Weird and So Are You

My midterm in Modern Standard Arabic was a little over a week ago, and since that time I’ve been to a wedding, gone to a bowling alley on the 4th of July, and just got back from camping in the Empty Quarter.  I have a little over two weeks left in Oman before a period of 24 hours where I will be flying almost nonstop.  In my last post  I talked about the difficulties of identifying yourself and how from Hopkins to the Strait of Hormuz the way you choose to identify yourself will never tell the whole story.  As move-in day for the Class of 2016 draws ever closer, I remember one of the biggest worries on my mind this time last year was that I was really weird compared to my new classmates.  I wondered if I was going to leave my high school environment and come to a place where I wouldn’t fit in because I came from a weird town and I looked fourteen and I really, really liked watching dubbed Disney movies.   But as I met more and more of my fellow classmates, I noticed something: everyone was both very interesting and very interested in their new classmates.  There was never a quiet moment at meals or in our rooms as we tried to learn everything we could about our roommates, suite-mates, hall-mates, classmates, and de facto Chipotle-deliverers.  Things I thought would be considered strange were barely questioned, while things that were normal to me raised some eyebrows (and I’m not talking about “Vegas normal” here where slot machines in grocery stores make sense.)  I said that my family didn’t decorate with wreathes on Christmas, and my roommate confessed that she really loved opera.  There was a mutual respect in the fledgling Class of 2015 and the established Hopkins community that let you realize two things: 1. you did some things that other people thought were weird 2. everyone else did really weird stuff as well but it was just so interesting.

In a way this experience has repeated in Oman.  Even before we board our plane from D.C., thirty Americans ranging in age from 18 to mid-thirties had to quickly get to know each other.  Even within the same country we’re all so different, so weird, and so wonderful.  ”Why are you calling a soda a pop?”  ”You lived in Morocco for how long?”

When we landed in Oman and met the university students who would be speaking to us every day to improve our Arabic, the questions continued.  ”You live in Maryland?  Is that the same as New York?”  ”What is supposed to be fun about an Easter egg hunt?”  The questions always made you think about things you’d never thought about before, like why on Earth people hide eggs on Easter and make small children hunt for them in some strange Hunger Games-esque competition to win the egg hunt and eternal glory/a chocolate bunny.  We also got to ask our own questions, like “What do you do for fun?” “What’s the deal with all this frankincense?”  We were asked to describe things (in Arabic naturally) about ourselves, our hometowns, our families.  In turn, any questions we had about Oman were answered.  Things I’ve learned since coming here:

 

Camels are the leading cause of traffic accidents

There are no napkins, only tissues in boxes.

In Arabic you don’t play the drums, you knock on them.

There are two types of dates: young dates (called rutub and I’ve never seem them before in the States) and older dates (caller temer and better than any I’ve seen before in the States).

It is common to signal “Wait a minute” by pinching your thumb and other fingers together and beckoning by moving your wrist toward yourself repeatedly.  This is not at all the same gesture I’ve ever seen used in America (where you put  up a finger or a hand.)

Western pop music is huge here., which lead to an Adele sing-along en route to the Empty Quarter this past weekend.

 

"Spicy tomato sauce" is salsa. Also the tortilla chips were Doritos.

 

Things by Omani friends have found strange:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches.  They do not even sell grape jelly in supermarkets (they do sell rose jelly, though!)

The concept of tortilla chips and salsa.  There is a sauce they serve with rice that is exactly like a thin salsa, but tortilla chips are pretty scarce.

Tanning.  In general Omanis find pale skin attractive, so much so that most beauty products have whitening agents built into them.  Several of the girls at the university were shocked to hear that Americans will use-self tanners and lay out on the beach in order to get darker.

British accents.

Maple syrup on pancakes.  They have honey but it’s just not the same.

Swag.  Swag certainly exists in Oman and is exhibited, most notably by one of our professors, but any attempt to accurately define “swag” is complex so we have taken to just saying “swag” at every applicable circumstance in the hopes that the word will be as etherial in meaning and as overused as it is in English.

Me in an abaya and hijab after a traditional wedding we attended.

While my previous blog talked a lot about changing identity, I think it’s also important to realize that even if the way you identify yourself changes you’ll still run into situations where you think things might be strange.  Maybe it’s your first day at a new office, maybe you just moved, or maybe you mispronounced a word and ended up being driven to a post office instead of a beach.  It’s going to be awkward at first to try to interact with people when you think you might not have a lot in common, but I think everyone (not just the Class of 2016, although this advice will be helpful come Orientation) could benefit from both recognizing their own weirdness in the eyes of another person and being genuinely curious about the different habits of others.  In a diverse group like CLS Arabic or Johns Hopkins Class of 2016 it’s bound to be awkward at first, and there will inevitably come a time when you can’t wrap your head around something (like “swag” or being handed a box of Kleenex at a restaurant) but as long as you keep an open mind you’ll learn some interesting stuff and hopefully make a new friend or two in the process!

 

I was walking out of lunch when one of the students at the university approached me.  She’d been sitting at the table next to me and asking the American students about American colloquialisms because we’d been asking her about Omani dialect compared to Modern Standard Arabic.  As she drew level with me, she told me that one of the Americans had taught her Janoobi (Southern) American Dialect and that she thought it sounded awesome.  As a West Coaster descended from two New Yorkers, all I could do was tell her that it was very different from my accent/dialect (I didn’t want to get into an explanation of that beloved West Coast adjective known as hella) and I felt like I probably wouldn’t know enough about Southern accents to really understand what she was saying.

She smiled back, stuck out her hand, and said, “What a’ do?”

It was weird.  It was wonderful.

 

 

 

Packing Heat

Pre-power outage // reunited for the weekend!

This past weekend, I took a spontaneous trip to Baltimore to visit Sonu and Joy, who had just finished the first session of summer Orgo at Hopkins. To clarify, I love spontaneity but spontaneity doesn’t always love me. In retrospect, booking a train ticket for 6 a.m. was probably a little overly optimistic, seeing as I missed my train not once but twice (…oopz).

Regardless, I pulled into Penn Station around noon on Friday, after spending an hour sitting in the Richmond train station and another three hours being anti-social in Amtrak’s Quiet Car (I prefer to travel sans screaming toddlers and middle-aged women gabbing away on their cell phones. You know how some truly great love stories start with a guy and a girl meeting on an airplane or train? This might explain why I’m still single).

A few hours later, a quasi-monsoon hit, and all of Baltimore was drenched in darkness. So much for a celebratory weekend, right? I think this was Baltimore’s way of saying, “Congratulations, you survived Organic Chemistry! Now die in a pool of your own sweat.” With no electricity, hot water, or AC in 105-degree weather, it’s truly a testament to the company I was in that I didn’t dissolve into a puddle of bratty desolation. And while I am fully aware that all of this warrants a very big #firstworldproblems, I found that on a scale from one to watching any of the Twilight movies, braving the heat in the midst of a massive power outage wasn’t as miserable as I thought it would be.

With one of my favorite Desi gurlz – Love ya Sonu!

(Sidenote: This is coming from someone who has a notoriously low threshold for pain or discomfort – which is both good and bad. Like, for example, extreme cases of torture for classified information, piercings, tattoos, childbirth, shots at the doctor’s office, and/or fighting to the death in a wilderness arena against 22 other teenagers. Think about the first person that dies in every single horror movie you’ve ever seen – that’s me. On the bright side, you guys will never have to worry about me dying in a tragic cliff-diving accident.)

They say hindsight is 20-20, and I’m guessing this mantra was supposed to be applied to things like dysfunctional relationships, eating a giant tube of cookie dough at two in the morning, and other similarly poor life decisions, but I’m going to go ahead and use it to shed light (…too soon?) on surviving a weekend without power in B’more.

Survival Tip #1: Candles. Technically I think candles are considered contraband // possibly a weapon of mass destruction by the Housing Office. At best they are “strongly discouraged.” Anyways, my advice would be to blatantly ignore that rule and stock up in the event of another power outage or emergency.

Survival Tip #2: Use this opportunity to explore other well-lit, air-conditioned parts of Baltimore. Like Maxie’s (Kidding! Sort of). Unfortunately, half of Charles Village was closed – no Subway, Unimini, Starbucks, Chipotle, or Ajumma’s. So Jane, Joy, Sonu, Will and I went downtown Saturday night and enjoyed dinner at RA Sushi, which was thankfully open and had power (see: AC).  We hit up Fell’s Point for a bit and met some interesting locals who made us laugh // forget about the lack of power back at Hopkins. You’ll probably have to eat out for at least a couple of days, so I took advantage of the situation and went to Carma’s and Donna’s (Turkey burger and sweet potato fries til I die), which I missed immensely while I was away.

Yummy sushi

Survival Tip #3: Oil-blotting sheets. While I know that an extra sheen of sweat pretty much kills any aesthetic motivation, invest in some of these. Unless you want to look like the BP oil spill happened on your face, blotting sheets will tide you over until you can take a decent shower. Which brings me to my next point…

Survival Tip #4: Get used to cold showers. It builds character.

At RA with my APhi loves. Did I mention there was AC?

Survival Tip #5: Eat everything in sight. So this might be more of a personal life philosophy (ALL I DO IS EAT EAT EAT NO MATTER WHAT…loljk) than a survival tip, but chances are that most of the food in your fridge is going to spoil within 48 hours – especially if Maryland state authorities are saying it could take up to a week to completely restore power. Before eating out, try to salvage what you can! By Sunday morning, Joy and Allison (our lovely hostesses!) looked so dejected and miserable that Jane and I ran to Eddie’s and Barnes and Noble to get them healthy, non-perishable food and cold drinks as a parting gift (to be honest I think Jane and I were responsible for at least a quarter of their drink revenue in two days…no big).

We were going to buy them a consolation cake before remembering that cake technically has to be refrigerated...oopz.

Survival Tip #6: Be grateful. If you live in the tri-state area and had power this past weekend, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hate you. However unbearable the heat, we still had clean running water and a roof over our heads, which is more than the 1.4 billion people living under the poverty line around the world. From a less dramatic perspective, the only thing worse than being constantly sweaty is being constantly sweaty and surrounded by people you hate. Luckily for me, I spent the entire weekend with a really great group of people who still managed to be as ridiculous and fun as ever.

Happy 4th of July!!

What? Planning for School Already?

Yes. This week, my suitemates and I have started planning for the new school year and basically brainstormed a list of all the essential and absolutely necessary things to bring for sophomore year! So far, our list consists of hair dryers, a coffee machine, a pink fuzzy rug, every Disney movie known to man, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a hammock chair, and a waffle maker. We’ve clearly sorted out our priorities. I’m actually really excited to be living with close friends this year; it’s going to be like one giant sleepover! I mean, school? What’s that?

Suitemates (and Chipotle!) on The Beach!

In planning for this year, I quickly found everything to become incredibly reminiscent of planning for my freshman year! It was actually around this time (more like mid-July) of last year that I got my roommate and housing information via email. I still remember the excitement of finding out my room number and being very eager to meet and get to know the two randomly selected people that would soon become my roommate and suitemate. We contacted each other right away, finding each other on facebook and posting on each other’s walls within minutes of getting our housing information! Soon, everyone was posting on the 2015 facebook page and looking at the dorm floor plans trying to figure out who their neighbors were. No joke, I think that entire day was spent on the facebook page figuring out who I was living near and friending everyone!

A week later, we started planning for freshman year, brainstorming a list of things to bring, much like what I’m doing right now. And even though I was planning for dorm life with two complete strangers, we were just as excited and enthusiastic as my friends and I currently are!

I even remember some of the brainstormed items! I know there is a lot of decision making involved in deciding what to bring to college, sometimes from multiple parties including yourself, parents/guardians, your roommate, even extended relatives, etc. One of the greatest dilemmas I had last year was deciding whether to bring a fridge or not. I decided against it (which was a mistake) but luckily, my roommate let me share hers! Here are some things from my freshman year list that I strongly recommend getting based on my experience:

  • A fan. If you live in the AMRs, a window fan might be convenient. If you live in the Buildings, it would be a good idea to bring a small desk fan for the winter. In my experience living in the Buildings, although it was temperature controlled, sometimes they would heat the buildings way too much in the winter. A fan definitely came in handy! I got the O2 Cool Portable Plus 5″ fan at Bed Bath and Beyond for $10.

  • Shower Shoes. There are some really nice fancy ones out there, but I just used flip flops from Old Navy. They are pretty inexpensive as well as waterproof, so they will last the full year!
  • A mini-fridge. We used this item on the list the most! My roommate rented a micro-fridge from the school and our suite shared it. If you rent from the school, it’s about $180 for the micro-fridge and about $140 if you want just the fridge. Many people split the cost among suitemates and share a fridge for the whole year. You can also find great deals elsewhere and bring your own!
  • A mini vacuum cleaner (along with other cleaning supplies). If you live in the buildings, you don’t have carpeting, so it’s really important to clean the floors frequently since they can quickly gather dust. I got the Dirt Devil Power Air Stick vacuum cleaner from Target at a sale price of $20. I did my shopping in mid-August when a lot of the back-to-school sales take place!
  • A Brita Filter water bottle. It’s not absolutely necessary since the tap water is clean and drinkable. In fact, my roommate and suitemate just used a regular water bottle. But if you are super paranoid like yours truly, you might as well invest in a Brita bottle! I got mine at Bed Bath and Beyond for $10.

Of course, there were a million more things on the list; however, these were some of the items on my list that I consider super important. They definitely came in handy throughout the year!

I hope this is somewhat helpful when time comes for you to plan for freshman year! That time is coming up soon, for it’s almost mid-July:) But until then, spend your time watching fireworks, singing patriotic songs, and having a great 4th of July!

Baltimore, Vicariously through the News

While I miss my friends and classes at Hopkins like crazy, I’ve really found myself to miss the charm and opportunity that lies in Baltimore as well. In order to supplement my St. Louis summer with the spirit of B’more, I’ve been keeping up with what’s been going on around the city through the news.

Baltimore Opens Its Walls to Street Art (The Huffington Post)

I really like this article because it shows Baltimore’s commitment to the arts, especially in Station North, the major art district in the city. One of my favorite parts is the picture at left, showing a building-turned-workspace for street artist MOMO, because that building is actually Gallery CA, a contemporary art gallery where I’ll be interning in the fall while working with the current Curator-in-Residence, a MICA grad student in the Curatorial Practice program. Not only does Baltimore draw in artists from around the city, but also internationaly-acclaimed artists, such as John Ahearn who definitely made a statement at New York’s Frieze Art Fair. Baltimore is surrounded by New York and D.C., a few of the art capitals of the U.S., but it is evident that it is becoming a landmark of its own, made even more clear by the efforts of this year’s Open Walls Baltimore. (Click on the title link to see a few dozen more examples of recent and amazing Baltimore street art)

Baltimore Museum of Art receives major gift of works by artist Morris Louis (Artdaily)

With the Baltimore Museum of Art getting ready to reopen their modern and contemporary galleries in the fall, (I’M SO EXCITED) they’re also acquiring new works through their In a New Light campaign. Morris Louis is one such artist whose works are being accessioned by the Museum, which is fitting seeing his long history with Baltimore, being both born in the city and graduating from MICA. In working in the curatorial offices at the BMA all last year, I actually got to attend a pre-accessions committee meeting in which the BMA contemporary curator showed us the works she was looking to acquire, among which were works by Louis, straight from his estate and still in the crate. It was an incredible experience to see the art in such an environment as the BMA vaults, and I know that the acquisition of such works will make the efforts of the BMA’s reinstallation even more incredible.

Baltimore: Crabcake-Topped Burger at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Serious Eats)

I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to food blogs; so, when an entry comes up about Baltimore, I’m eager to read it. One of the recent articles is about the “Camden Giant,” a new crabcake-topped burger available at the home of the Orioles. The crab and old-bay featured in the burger, staples of Maryland cuisine, make this one tempting dish, and as a burger junkie, it may prove hard to resist if I find myself at a game. During my year’s Orientation, there was a trip to Camden Yards, so if that goes on again this year, Class of 2016′ers, you may have to take one for the team and try it out.

Burger City Guides: Duff Goldman’s Favorite Burgers in Baltimore (A Hamburger Today)

Yes, I follow a blog called A Hamburger Today. No, I’m only slightly-ashamed of it. The blog recently put out a guide to burgers in Baltimore as chronicled by Charm City Cakes‘ chef Duff Goldman. (Fun fact: Charm City Cakes, the bakery in Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, is only a few blocks away from campus. Swag.)  Coming in at #3 on Duff’s list is Kooper’s Chowhound Burger Wagon, a food truck that frequently comes around the Homewood campus with some pretty tempting burgers. I’ve yet to have free time to try one myself when they’re serving up burgers right outside of Charles Commons, but it’s definitely become a priority for when I head back to Baltimore in the fall.

As you can see, Baltimore is a busy and constantly-changing city, and if you get out to explore it, there’s a lot to be seen. Class of 2016, get excited, because come the Fall you’ll be living in one of the best cities in the country, and even being 750+ miles away in St. Louis for the summer hasn’t made me a stranger to the Baltimore charm.

Adventures at the Valley

Me and some fellow counselors (after showering...)

Imagine this: you are on a lacrosse field overlooking a beautiful valley at dusk, armed with a pool noodle. Your group of campers is behind you eagerly (and rather unsuccessfully…) erecting a tent. Soon, you see a few silhouettes crest the hill on the opposite side of the field. Their faces are stained with mulberry juice as they approach you and  your campers– arms outstretched and moaning like zombies. Your fellow counselors are honing in on your campers quickly, and your heart rate increases as you chase after them and whack them with your noodle.

Such is a typical experience at the valley. My first week of counseling summer camp is over, and though my legs are bumpy with mosquito bites and I have reached a level of exhaustion unknown to me, I cannot wait for Monday to come again. For though we are “in charge” of these kids, it is quite the opposite that makes me come back each morning with a smile on my face. As evidenced by my enthusiasm running all over the property reenacting a zombie apocalypse, I am just as much of a kid as the campers I am watching over.

But there is more to this job than playing games and goofing off, which I have learned from how much I have grown as a leader over the past five days. Most of you know I am a ferocious planner and a perfectionist. However, this past Monday I began co-leading with a counselor who is the polar opposite of me: in the moment, willing to bend the rules, and completely free in spirit. As the days went on, his style of leadership wore off on me and culminated in one specific moment: the day when I pushed a kid off the big zip and dip.

The big Zip and Dip; the red circle is the sending platform!

I waited on a platform 40 feet in the air as one of my campers ascended the tree staples to join me. His anxiety was apparent as he sat down next to me and I explained some rules of zipping into the water. I unclipped him from the tree and told him he was free to scoot off whenever he was ready. No movement. I crouched next to him and tried to coax him into going for it. Still nothing. Minutes turned into more minutes, and the kids on the ground awaiting their turn began chanting his name. Soon my co-lead shouted up to the platform, “Just tell Zoe she has permission to give you some help!” I knew what it meant. Everyone knew what it meant. The camper’s wide eyes looked at me in fear. A few minutes later, with one hand on his tether and the other death-gripping the platform, the camper closed his eyes and said in the shakiest voice I have ever heard, “I give you permission, Zoe.” And that was that. I pushed the kid off the platform, and he had the best ride of his life.

Last week, chances are that I would have had that camper belayed back down the tree and he wouldn’t have conquered his fear. And neither would I! For though this child went rushing down a zip line from a tree two stories in the air, I also did something crazy: I adjusted my outlook on leadership and learned so much in the process.

I cannot wait for next week because of the fun games, the challenges, and the beautiful outdoors. As my fellow staff members and I constantly say, we have the best job in the world. But maybe the real lesson here is to not feel that I “cannot wait,” but rather to enjoy this cup of coffee in my breakfast room as I write this blog. Because maybe what the valley is really teaching me is about truly being present while calmly moving on to whatever life’s next adventures will be.

In the mean time while I learn this lesson, I am thrilled for my next foray into zombie survival or opportunity to help someone (or myself!) out of their comfort zone. I hope you are all enjoying whatever adventures this summer is throwing your way. Until next time!