Name: Rena Barch
Hometown: Hillsborough, NJ
Current Residence: Baltimore, MD
After saying good-bye to all of my friends and coming to terms with leaving Hopkins, perhaps the hardest part of graduation was packing up. Last month I finally moved out of my senior year apartment, and doing so required going through a lot of stuff that has accrued over the years. Since I’m spending the next year in London getting my master’s degree, I had to go through it all and decide which of it I definitely was going to take with me and what would stay behind. In the process, I discovered that my bottom drawer became home to every free t-shirt I’ve received over my time at Hopkins. These shirts sort of tell the story of my college experiences.
One of the best tips you’ll learn as the leader of an organization is that if you offer free stuff you’re likely to drastically increase the attendance to your event. From your first day on campus, you will receive dozens of shirts: orientation t-shirts, Dorm Wars t-shirts, service day t-shirts, HOP (Hopkins Organization for Programming) tshirts….and so on. I actually got rid of most of my Orientation and Dorm Wars t-shirts, and still had a whole drawer filled with Hopkins t-shirts.
I suppose, then, the best place to start would be with my debate team t-shirts. I was member and later on the board of the Woodrow Wilson Debate Council, the parliamentary debate team on campus. It was one of the most incredible and rewarding experiences I’ve had in college. The debate team was my greatest source of support during my first years here. Seniors on the team helped me select classes and navigate the Hopkins system. You’ll see on the shirt to the left is the painted face of Woodrow Wilson, a Hopkins alumnus. We first made those t-shirts my sophomore year in an effort to raise some money. By my senior year, we upgraded to a more professional t-shirt for the team (to the right).
Some of the shirts are reminder of some of the more random blips of activities in which I’ve participated. For instance, the summer after my sophomore year, in a desperate attempt to find something to do near campus, I took a job working for Hopkins IT. Far from a computer science or electrical engineering major, I often felt out of place helping punch ethernet jacks in the dorm rooms. Still, I learned some really valuable skills, as well as learning a lot about networking and how to make my Hopkins internet work. As a part of the job, I worked on the SWAT team during orientation, which helps freshman set up their laptops for the Hopkins network and make sure that everyone will have access to the internet in their rooms. That was actually a great way to meet some of the new freshman. To this day, I still have people come up to me and say, “You fixed my computer once!” Needless to say, I never had to take my computer to IT again after that summer.
Other shirts are reminders of events that I helped put on. For instance, in my sophomore year, I was the Chair of UNESCO at the Johns Hopkins University Model United Nations Conference, a conference for high school students. I was also on the board of Hopkins Engaged in my senior year. Hopkins Engaged was a political festival of sorts. We spent the summer bringing together speakers, NGOs, political activists, and musicians. The festival was intended to promote political discussion before the presidential election in November 2008. Unfortunately, Hopkins saw some of the worst rainstorms we’d had since I’ve been here. My roommates were practically flooded into our apartment. Because of the weather, we had to move the event in doors, and we did not get quite the turn out we had hoped for. Still, I made some great friends in the process, and it was great to be apart of such a great cause. While I won’t be around, hopefully Hopkins Engaged will make a strong comeback in 2010 for the next round of House elections.
Next, I discovered some t-shirts I’ve received from friends trying to advertise their events. I have many shirts from the HOP, but chose what I thought was the cutest one. The “Cancer Sucks” t-shirt was an advertisement for the Hopkins 4K, a group of student who bike across the country for sponsorship. Each rider must raise $4,000, so needless to say they are able to contribute quite a bit of donations to the American Cancer Society. Over the years, I’ve had a number of friends who participated in the event, and truly loved the experience.
One of my closest friends, Sam, was the station manager of the radio station in our junior and senior years while my boyfriend, Matt, was the technical director, so as you can imagine I have quite a few WJHU shirts. WJHU puts on a lot of cool events around campus, from dance parties to bringing music groups to campus. They also offer DJs for other student groups, so when sororities need DJs for date parties or StuCo would like some music for a BBQ on the beach, they often turn to WJHU. In my senior year, Sam put on what I thought was one of the coolest events to hit Hopkins. It was called the Six-Day Jam Session. For six days straight, there was music coming from the Mattin Center. It was the longest continuous jam session in history. The entire session was recorded and sent to the Guinness Book of World Records, so we should find out soon whether Hopkins was able to break the world record!
Just this summer, I’ve accrued a couple of new shirts. One was from my boss at Cafe Q, the coffee cart in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. I first started working at Cafe Q mid-sophomore year to earn some money after I quit my IT gig. You can learn more about Cafe Q in my previous blog post. My boss, who I’ve become pretty close with over the years as he’s helped my juggle my coursework with my hours at Cafe Q, just left to pursue a MFA in San Francisco. I had been bugging him for a couple of years to get us Cafe Q t-shirts with the slogan I had come up with, “We’re the Crema of the Crop.” This is a joke that only select coffee snobs would understand, but I was really proud of how clever it is. As a departing present, he finally made me the t-shirt I asked for.
There is a bit of a downfall to all of these shirts. While they make great gym shirts and night shirts, there are an awful lot of them and they take up a ton of space (the equivalent of about a small box). Yet, as I go through all of my stuff trying to throw stuff out, I can’t bring myself to part with my box of Hopkins t-shirts because they remind me of all the things I’ve done here, all the friends I’ve made, and the experiences I’ve had. That may be worth lugging this box with me wherever I go after London.