Sweet Caroline

Neither a Kennedy nor a Princess of Monaco

Remnants of Home

After “what’s your name?” and “what’s your major?” the most frequently asked question I get in college is “where are you from?” I get it from everyone – from other students and teachers, and also from plenty of parents and prospective students at this weekend’s Open House here on campus. My answer is always, proudly, “Chicago.” And the most common answer I get is, “I can hear it in your accent!”

I have never really thought that I have an accent. I know Chicago has an accent, just as Boston does (a few parents asked me where “Claahk” Hall was this weekend) and how more than a few friends from the South address a group as “Y’all.” But having lived in the same house about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago for 18 years, I have been around this accent my entire life. It wasn’t until I came to Hopkins, where people of all cultures and places of origin mix, that I realized how pronounced my accent is.

In particular, how I say Snapchat (SnAApchAAt, or, as my friend Emma in linguistics classes would spell out, [s n æ p t ∫ æ t]) and the Chicago itself (ChicAAAgo, or [∫ I k ã g o ℧]). During the Open House last Saturday, I was talking with some of my SAAB peers who interviewed me (so I could write for this blog!) and they said part of the reason they liked me was my accent. In particular, I was told the way I say “values” as “vAAHlues” was especially endearing.

Me and Emma, my linguistics help and fellow Chicago girl

People tell me that I am me because of my accent. Quite unlike Henry Higgins looking to improve Eliza Doolittle’s cockney accent in My Fair Lady, I hope my accent never evolves with where I live or what I learn. My accent is a part of home that I always keep with me.

On the other side of the coin, I am absolutely fascinated with the Baltimore accent. If you ever find yourself talking to a Baltimore native, listen for the way they say their “O’s;” there’s a little rounding of their lips. Think of John Travolta’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

Films used:

My Fair Lady. Dir. George Cukor. Perf. Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Warner Bros., 1964. DVD.

Hairspray. Dir. Adam Shankman. Perf. John Travolta and Nikki Blonsky. New Line Cinema Corporation, 2007. DVD.

Do Pre-O? Do Pre-O.

My Dear Caroline from last April,

DO PRE-ORIENTATION. I’m going to repeat this a few times: do Pre-O, do Pre-O, do Pre-O, do Pre-O, do Pre-O!

It will be tough to decide whether to leave home a week earlier than you are required to. You’ll go to brunch the day before you leave and regret signing up for a program you have no real idea about. You’ll get to campus, marvel at both the beauty and heat of AMR II, and grumble about only having one night in your dorm before a leaving for a week without your phone with people you have never met.

But it will be so worth it.

Before I started my freshman year, I participated in the HopkinsCORPS Pre-Orientation program, run by the JHU Center for Social Concern. This year was the inaugural program, and I genuinely hope incoming freshmen will join it forever. Without giving too much away (I promised our facilitator I wouldn’t), the program was part Baltimore exploration, part leadership development, part community service, part meeting your new best friends.


During HopkinsCORPS, we went on an Inner Harbor boat tour (and bumped to classic early-2000’s jams), attended an Orioles game, took an art tour of three Baltimore neighborhoods, and did service projects at three places around the city. Every night, we would come back to our retreat center in the absolutely gorgeous Mount Vernon neighborhood and share how the day changed our perspective on service and community involvement. And each night, without being asked, we would hang out and talk about everything from international affairs to our high schools. All twenty of us developed a philosophy of community service and we all hope to take that philosophy and apply it to Hopkins, Baltimore, and beyond.

Part of the Pre-O group on our Inner Harbor boa tour! (L-R: Jessa, Séamus, Me, Gianni, Emma, Naadiya, Amanda, Ali, and Maddie)

The second most important lesson from HopkinsCORPS is that we are all very comfortable taking public transportation. Baltimore and JHU have a number of free options; the JHMI (pronounced “Jimmy”) runs from Homewood to Penn Station and the Station North Arts District, which is home to an amazing coffee shop/bookstore, Red Emma’s. From Penn Station, you can get to the BWI airport for only a few dollars, or take the free Charm City Circulator to most of the tourist-y spots around the city. My friends and I most often take it to the Inner Harbor and the Federal Hill neighborhood, but it can also take you to Camden Yards, the Bromo Arts District, Little Italy, and Fort McHenry.


I obviously am speaking the most from the point of view of one Pre-O program in particular, but the larger ideas of Pre-O apply to all of what Hopkins offers. Probably the most important takeaway from Pre-O is that I made my current friends there. Spending 24 hours a day for an entire week with the same twenty people leads one to learn a lot about the person sleeping 3 feet from you. Even more was, without our phones, we were forced to do more social things to keep busy before bedtime. We played cards for hours each night, often not going to bed until one or two in the morning.

Things your friends from Pre-O will do for you: take a picture of you next to an Obi-wan Kenobi cutout.

I know this to be true of other Pre-O programs: my roommate, with whom I’m very friendly and co-habitate quite well, has her own separate sphere of friends that she met through her Pre-O. We both find ourselves out and about with the people we met on Pre-O. With Pre-O, I didn’t have to endure the awkwardness of Orientation week name games and small talk. Just last weekend, I went into the Inner Harbor for dinner with my Pre-O squad and it was amazing.

Pre-O squad lookin’ fly in the Inner Harbor (L-R: Zanir, Emma, Me, R, and Aidan)