So you’re stuck in a rut.
A rut? you ask. Like being bored? How could anyone ever feel bored on a college campus? There’s a thousand things going on every second–club meetings, theatre productions, intramural sports–really, anything you can name. And that’s totally true. There’s never a lack of anything to do at Hopkins; it’s just that sometimes, you might have a hard time realizing that fact.
Generally, it goes like this. About halfway through the semester, you realize you’ve settled into a bit of a routine. You’re no longer clutching a map and scrambling to find your classes, but are instead walking across campus confidently while cramming to read the last few pages of your American Lit homework. You’ve stopped going to the FFC in a huge pack with your entire floor, and instead grab meals with a small group of friends. You go to the Recreation Center and work out a few times a week, and then after you shower off and head to a club meeting or two. You study from Monday-Friday in the same cubicle on B-level, and then on the weekends you throw on some random themed attire and traipse across Charles Village to your favorite frat houses. After spending your Sunday feeling miserable in bed and watching Netflix, you dust yourself off and do it over again.
And is there anything wrong with that? Nope! Life is built on routines, and hey, that’s a pretty sweet schedule in anyone’s book. But sometimes, the prospect of doing the same thing over and over for the entire semester seems a little…well, boring.
Luckily, you don’t have to resign yourself to a mundane existence. The first, and often the most important, step to getting yourself out of a rut is to pretend that you’re not in one. It’s easy. Set your alarm for twenty minutes earlier than usual (it stinks, but it won’t kill you, I promise) and take a cold shower. When it’s time to get dressed, ignore the lure of the hoodie. It may be comfortable, but remember, we’re faking it here, and nothing screams “put-together” like an actual outfit. Here, I’ve even figured it out for you: dark jeans, white t-shirt, dark blazer, comfortable shoes. You’d be surprised with how many people will instantly be more impressed with you if you look like you’re putting a little effort into your appearance.
I’ll keep it short and easy and just tell you to get your butt to class; even if you’re not wow-ing your section with thought-provoking questions, the professors and TA’s notice who shows up, and a lot of the time that may be the deciding factor in determining whether you get a B+ or an A-. After class, don’t head back to your dorm and take a nap (this is tempting, I know, I did it like every day last year). This is probably the single biggest potential time-sucker in your daily schedule. Instead, march yourself over to Brody, order a Dirty Chai Latte (Grace-Endorsed), and wait in the cafe for about ten minutes listening to peoples’ conversations until it kicks in.
Then, take another second to think about where you usually study. If you find you’re doing well with the routine you currently have, then stick with it. But if you find you’re wasting hours talking to your friends on A-level or feeling depressed from the silence and the fluorescent lights on C, it’s probably time for a change. A weird thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to exclusively study in Brody and MSE (the library, for the uninitiated). It’s like no one has any clue there are tons of other study spots on campus, ones which are often quieter and cozier. The Hut in Gilman is almost silent, has awesome leather chairs that are perfect for sinking into, and is flanked on either side by the Writing Center and the Learning Den. Levering is similarly cozy, and it also has the delicious Daily Grind coffeeshop to help you stay awake.
Not that you should be staying up too late. Seriously, try to get to bed at a reasonable hour, or your sleeping schedule is going to get majorly thrown off. And if you’re one of those people who feels guilty about leaving the library when there’s still more work for next week to be done? Sign up for a Rec Center fitness class at night. That way, you’ll be forced to get out of the study zone, and you’ll head home feeling contentedly exhausted instead of wired and weary.
This advice seems like common sense, but you’ll be surprised at how many people don’t take it. I’ve gotten to points (midterm week comes to mind) where I actually had to remind myself to sleep because I was so caught up in the constant cycle of class-homework-party. And when I let my body finally rest, I was totally thrown by how worn-down I really was.
Speaking of partying and other social activities, there is fun outside Homewood Campus. I assure you, friends, the world will not stop just because you missed some frat’s “Bolshevik Babes and Freedom Fighters” party, even though I’m totally proud of coming up with that because it sounds like a lot of fun. College is the last place where your social life should feel limited, but it often does, especially as an underclassman. My solution is to get on the JHMI shuttle or hail down a cab and explore other parts of Bmore. In my opinion, the easiest way to do so is through food. Trust me, you will be ravenous after eating for the FFC for too long, and there are few things more fun than going out for dinner with a group of friends. Some of my favorites are RA and Sotto Sopra, and I’ve heard great things about The Ambassador, Woodberry Kitchen, Miss Shirley’s, and Dogwood. Too expensive? Here’s a secret: Baltimore food is actually way cheaper than that of other major cities. I’m from near Philly, and I was astounded at how inexpensive everything is in Charm City. If you’re still ballin’ on a budget (I am so sorry for that reference) you can hit up Baltimore Restaurant Week, which happens once during the summer and once over Intersession.
If you’re not obsessed with food like I am, there’s still plenty to do. The Orioles tickets are dirt cheap, and they’re always having student discount nights. Walk around Hampden and oogle at thrift shops or stop in Fells Point for gelato or just drop in on a random night at the Baltimore Soundstage and watch whatever band is playing. Chow down on great hummus at one of our fifty hookah bars. Stroll through the Inner Harbor, eat at a really cheesy chain restaurant, and try to guess where the tourists are from. Get yourself out of bed early and go to Pete’s Grille for freakishly-good breakfast and a potential Michael Phelps sighting. God, I just realized I’m still writing about food. Whatever–the best bonding moments happen when you’re pigging out anyway. And, wherever you go, invite some friends. They’re probably stuck in some sort of rut too, and they’ll likely appreciate the gesture.
Of course, some ruts can’t be cured with taking a shower and eating Italian food. If you suspect you’re feeling crappy because of illness, I urge you to go to the JHU health center. It’s not my favorite place in the world, but the sooner you figure out what’s wrong, the sooner you can feel like yourself again. And if you’re seriously down, or just want to talk to someone, hit up the JHU Counseling Center. There’s no shame in going; in fact, I think it’s really cool that we go to a school with such extensive resources available to help us out.
But I digress. This is long, and you guys deserve a medal for getting through this one. Just remember: Hopkins is an awesome, awesome place, but everyone feels like their life is a little “eh” sometimes. Luckily, I can’t think of anywhere else where it’s so easy to get back on track and feel excited again.