Life Behind the Bar

Name: Rena Barch

Year: Class of 2009

Hometown: Hillsborough, NJ

Major(s): International Studies and Economics


For those of you who have visited campus, you may have noticed that Hopkins really doesn’t have a student union to act as a hub of campus. However, that doesn’t really bother us, because students here find their own places that can act as hubs while they are on campus.

For students that are heavily involved with Spring Fair, the biggest event on campus, as well as those that run the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium and the Foreign Affairs Symposium, the Office of Student Involvement is often their home base. The students that run volunteer based groups such as the Tutorial Project often use the Center for Social Concern. Other students rely on other areas around campus such as Levering, or the Hut.

PB160507There is one other major “hub” of campus, one which has certainly been my home base during my four years here: Cafe Q. Cafe Q is located on Q level or the “quad level” of the library. It is a great spot to meet with TAs and professors, or to catch up with a friend. It can also be a great place to study, to run into friends, or just to grab a snack and a caffeinated beverage during a long study session (Most highly recommended foods: Chicken Salad sandwich on Multigrain bread or for a snack, the cookies).

Cafe Q filled all of these purposes for me, but in the second semester of my sophomore year Cafe Q took on a much greater role in my Hopkins experience when I applied to work as a “Barista”. Working at Cafe Q has saved me a great deal of money–getting all the free coffee a girl could dream of. Although this has been incredibly detrimental for my caffeine addiction, working at Cafe Q has otherwise been a great experience. So…for my guest blog I thought I would offer a perspective of Hopkins from behind the bar.

PB170511During a shift at Cafe Q, I interact with a melange of members of the Hopkins community. I get the chance to talk to professors, graduate students, University staff, and undergraduate students. Even more interesting perhaps is the conversations one overhears at Cafe Q. Professors talk to each other about their research. Economics professors will make jokes about the state of the economy, and a recent Wall Street Journal article on Greenspan’s testimony in the Senate. Graduate students talk about the stress of studying for their comprehensive exams, or their advisor’s comments on their research grant applications. Professors and students discuss a paper topic, or discuss in further detail any range of topics covered in class. Amidst this conversation, one can also hear giggles over something that happened at the Phi Psi party that weekend or discuss their plans for that night. As I mentioned, students will meet at Cafe Q to catch up or to take a study break which often means some amount of gossip. Also being the sole source of caffeine in the library means getting to know the rhythm of exams and papers on campus. Talking to customers about their purpose for being at the library at 10 PM can give you a lot of information about a variety of courses available at Hopkins; which are great; which are more work than they are worth. Being at Q can make you the eyes and ears of campus life, which can at times be creepy.

PB170512Working behind the bar is not only a great way to learn a lot of things from your customers, it’s also a great way to meet people. Some of my closest friends at Hopkins work with me at Cafe Q. If you come visit and stop by Cafe Q for some food, you’ll often see us joking around back there, throwing cups, and being ridiculous. It’s just one of many communities I’ve found here. I’ve also had the chance to make connections from those on the other side of the bar.

Working throughout the day, I see a lot of people I wouldn’t always get the chance to see otherwise. I see my freshman year roommate, or people I’ve taken a class with but don’t see much anymore. I get another chance to see people who I only  know through other contexts, such as other Admissions Representatives or members of the debate team. Moreover, I suddenly noticed more familiar faces on campus. Some students and professors are regulars, and you can strike up conversation with them even if they aren’t in your department or in your classes.  I’ll let you in on a little secret: we know some of our regulars by their drinks. Prior to working at Cafe Q, I was a pretty devoted customer. For the first four weeks I worked there, everyone called me “Anarchy,” after my usual coffee drink, the anarchy in the UK latte (It’s a latte with irish cream and english toffee. Delicious.).

PB170517Working at Cafe Q is not all perks and greatness. I work either morning shifts or closing shifts. This means either waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get to work by 7:00 a.m., or getting out of work at 1 a.m. Waking up at 6:30 AM is no easy task, but luckily I’m free to make myself coffee as soon as I get there. This type of schedule might also explain why sometimes I’m not able to make it to Laura’s aqua-jogging in the morning (see previous guest blogs). Despite the inconvenient hours, working at Cafe Q has been a great experience, a great way to earn some extra money, and to meet more people on campus. If you come visit definitely stop by and say hi!

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  1. The long awaited Rena guest blog … and I love it. Very much worth the wait.
    Everyone always raves about Cafe Q, but your overview of it both from the point-of-view of it being your campus hub and the site of your employment really puts it in perspective. I’ll have to come by.

  2. Yay, Rena – my favorite barrista! Great entry. :)
    Also, Daniel, I’m SHOCKED you’ve never been to Cafe Q. Shame on you!

  3. I’ve never been either…I’ve gone to the vending machines tho. Does that count? :}

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