When I arrived back on campus for Intersession after a long and refreshing winter break, I didn’t expect I’d be doing much more than taking classes, catching up with friends, and curling up in bed with my laptop. I certainly didn’t expect to take selfies at historical landmarks, view one of the world’s largest collections of Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings, or join one of the largest protests in history. But if there’s one thing college has taught me, it’s to embrace the unexpected with open arms.
Within the first couple of days of Intersession, the opportunity arose to visit a friend in Philadelphia. Having never been before, I promptly bought a bus ticket and packed an overnight bag. After a minor difficulty finding the Megabus station, I arrived in Philly early Saturday afternoon.
First, my friends and I waited in a long line to see the Liberty Bell, which was smaller than I’d always pictured but still definitely worth it.
. Then we waited in another line which I thought would take us inside Independence Hall, but ended up leading to the fenced-in backyard. We could’ve waited even longer for a guided tour of the actual building, but we decided to just admire its Colonial architecture and impressive Gilman-esque clock tower before moving on.
We wandered the streets of Philly for the rest of the afternoon, drinking bubble tea and stopping for gyros at Reading Terminal Market. In the evening we made our way to Blue Cross RiverRink for ice skating, which turned out to be a lot more fun and a lot less terrifying than I’d anticipated.
After spending the night at a friend’s dorm at Swarthmore, the next day we visited the Barnes museum, an art gallery filled with sophisticated Renoirs, inscrutable Picassos, and colorful Matisses. We got back to Hopkins early that evening.
Less than a week later, I found myself on a train to Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March. Saturday, January 21 started off like any other day–overcast but not uncomfortably cold–but that changed as soon as my friends and I got to the metro station and joined the dozens of other men, women and children streaming onto the train. When we got off, we followed the ever-growing crowd of people heading towards 4th and Independence.
I’d never been part of a real protest before, and the whole experience–the signs, the chanting, the pink knitted hats–was almost surreal. Nor had I seen such a dense crowd before–strangers pressed up against me from all sides, and I had to make a concerted effort to not lose sight of my friends. Once we finally shoved our way to the march’s starting area, we stood for another hour or so listening to speakers and performers.
Finally, the actual marching began, and the crowd thinned enough for us to walk at a steady pace. The chanting grew louder, and the air seemed to hum with the energy of half a million people fighting for what they believed in. Half a million people who refused to accept a racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic liar as their leader, who were determined to make sure that the world would not simply throw away the rights of women, minorities, and immigrants, who fiercely and passionately believed in a better future. I’ll never forget the excitement, the sense of empowerment, of community, and of hope I felt that day. Neither will history.
I wouldn’t have had any of these experiences if I hadn’t chosen to live spontaneously. To seize whatever opportunities come my way, however crazy they might seem at first. Despite my academic classes, that’s the most important thing I’ve learned during Intersession, and the best advice I can give.