Category Archives: Beyond Baltimore

Iceland 2017

“Wouldn’t it be cool if went to Iceland for Spring break next semester?”


Billy the Blue Jay in Iceland

We (my suitemates and I) looked up airplane tickets back in October and they were ridiculously cheap. We booked them a month later and started a 150-day countdown in preparation.

We’ve been in Iceland for 8 days now and we’re going back to Baltimore tomorrow. The trip has been something else, though; there’s no way we could have expected it to turn out the way it did.

It truly has been a break in the most literal sense. Of all the places we’ve gone to, many of them have no Wifi (ahhhh, I know) and because of that, I think we’ve surprised ourselves with each other’s company. Whether it be learning about a completely new aspect of Austin’s life or Youngjae’s childhood, we’ve just been talking a lot and I feel closer to my suitemates than I ever have before.

It’s a nice feeling to be “off the grid” for a bit, where the stresses of school and everyday life can’t reach where I am. Even though I went into Spring break with the knowledge that I have quite a bit of homework to catch up on, I can’t really do any of it without Internet access. And because I don’t have any Internet access, I’ll just worry about that later.

I don’t know about you, but none of us have ever really planned a trip all by ourselves. Usually, our parents are the ones to figure out all the housing and food, so doing it entirely on our own was a huge learning experience (props to my suitemate, Sebastian, for basically doing all of it). And of course, because we’re college students, we tried to minimize costs as much as we could, buying food at discount stores and living in remote Airbnb’s. Food in Iceland is a lot more expensive than we thought, but we found this Costco-like store called Bonus and stocked up on foods we could cook every night.


View outside of the first Airbnb we stayed at!


Don’t know why, but the logo is some sort of loopy pig…

We’re essentially doing a full road-trip around the coast of the country, starting in Reykjavik and moving every night to a different home by car. Along the way we’ve stopped at numerous man-made and natural attractions like Fridheimar, Grjotagja, and Gufufoss — all of which were unbelievable to see.


Grjotagja – The water in the cave was steaming, also smelled like eggs


Hvitserkur – Black sand beach!


Some random car shot


Coffee sold here was A+


More black sand beaches

But I think my favorite of all the ones we’ve seen so far has to be the Northern Lights. It’s one thing to see a picture of it online, but seeing it in person was just breathtaking. We stood on a tall hill next to Hofn and saw a green dome shift across the entire sky. We were completely surrounded by the lights, and even though they were only visible for a couple of minutes, it was a moment of epic-ness I’ll never forget.


Unfortunately this is the best picture we got — we didn’t have a tripod and it was freezing outside 🙁

Unfortunately, we only saw the lights that one night because visibility shifts from day to day. Maybe that made the experience that much better.

I’m writing this in the car as Austin drives the last bit back to Reykjavik (thus completing our coastal circuit). He’s also singing along to a throwback 2000s pop playlist (right now it’s Umbrella by Rihanna) he found on Spotify as Sebastian and Youngjae sleep. I’m so glad we decided to take this trip even though we were initially skeptical we could pull it off.  It’s been meaningful to me in so many ways, and I wouldn’t trade this break experience for anything else.


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Breaking the Fall

I’ve been in Baltimore for the entirety of this semester. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I call it home, but sometimes you just have to leave and explore a little bit, right?

I think it has to do with constant familiarity of environment and people, and of course midterms too. It’s easy to get bogged down by what you have to do, day in and day out, and it’s hard to take a step back sometimes to realize what you’re after.

I think that’s why it was so nice to change things up for once – this past fall break was an infinitely fun time, and It’s definitely helped to reorient me.


After an awesome, intentional sleep-in until 12 PM, I trekked on over to the Peabody campus to meet with my friend, Nick, to work on an arrangement for my a capella group, the Octopodes. We’re working on an arrangement of Contact High – by Allen Stone. It’s a super groovy song, but we’re still in the middle of trying to get the feel of it down. It’s for a winter concert that’s coming up on December 2nd! (I’ll write a blog soon about my a capella group and what arranging is all about, so stay tuned!)


A snippet of what an arrangement looks like.

After an *intense* buffet session at Akbar, a nearby Indian restaurant in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood, I headed on over to a chamber music rehearsal at Peabody. This semester, my saxophone teacher grouped four of us together and created a saxophone quartet – we’re currently working on a piece called July – by Michael Torke. It plays with so many tonal colors and a really distinct rhythmic groove. We’re planning to go out to nearby coffee shops and local venues to share the piece with others!


If you’re a Hopkins student, you fully take advantage of the fact that D.C. is just a 1 hour, 8 dollar train ride away.


A picture of the mosaic at Baltimore’s Penn Station!

So that’s exactly what a couple of friends and I did – we took the 11:05 AM MARC train to D.C., and got off at the Rosslyn station stop. Once there, we walked out into a wonderfully sunny day and 15 minutes to a cupcake shop named “Baked and Wired”.


A guide to my tummy.

Grabbing lunch on the way, we made our way to Six Flags, which is what we’d planned on coming to the D.C. area for previously.

It was absolutely ridiculous – there was a ride where you go on a rollercoaster laying on your back, and when you’re inverted upside down it feels like you’re flying through the air. Another one made use of VR Headsets and a 20-story drop that was pretty other-worldly. Because it’s close to Halloween, Six Flags is currently in its “Fright Fest” mode, where characters in costumes roam around the park and try to scare you when you’re walking from one place to the next. My friends and I got a good laugh out of it afterwards, but navigating through the park truly was frightening. 


nope nope nope


In Bio lab, we were given an “assignment” to go to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and take some notes on species and habitats. To be honest, it seems more of an excuse just to go and have some fun, but I’m not complaining.

I’d never been to the Maryland Zoo before, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. The park was pretty full, and there was a lot to do and see.


Penguin feeding!

Coming back at 4, I went to Octopodes rehearsal, where we were treated to drinks and dessert by one of our member’s family. The rest of rehearsal was pretty typical – we’re currently working on learning a bunch of songs for our concert, like the arrangement I’m working on right now!


An action-packed three days of break, I’d say. Now I’m left cramming for all the homework I haven’t done, but I don’t mind one bit.