I go back to Hopkins in five days, which means several things. First, it means a full day spent driving and unpacking a semester’s worth of odds & ends into a lovely spring sublet by Papermoon Diner, a classic Baltimore rowhouse with a full kitchen and just enough distance from main campus to give my brain some breathing space. after a long day of class. Second, it means a courseload worthy of any tried and true English major: three literature classes taught by three well-reviewed professors, plus a course for my minor that examines the intersection of museums and social responsibility (*WITH fieldtrips*). I’m excited about my entire schedule, especially considering this is only my second actual semester at Hopkins as an English/Museums & Society gal. Still, there’s a general sense of community back at Homewood — one with many different, often overlapping orbits — that makes coming back to school after such a long time away truly gratifying.
For me, it starts in Gilman, where I can almost always find a familiar face at any and all hours of a typical school day to do engage in the kinds of social activities only this building can entail: sitting at a packed table in the Hut getting work done between classes, eating an unabashedly indulgent goat cheese sandwich from Alkimia in the Atrium, or chatting in the hallway before a class on the fourth floor. It’s a microcosm filled with the people and subjects I care about the most, full to capacity in the daytime and peacefully sparse in the night, but always a trusty place to land if I ever need some friendly human anchors to inspire a fresh period of productivity. After a whole semester of entering the UCL Main Library and feeling like a foreign number amidst a wash of full-time students distributed across 30 different reading rooms, my imminent return to Gilman feels like the homiest place to land.
Still, the sense of community in all its forms extends beyond the brick walls of Gilman, infiltrating each walk across campus or stroll across North Charles Street. I’ve missed passing people I know on almost every walk between classes, pulling over to the side of the brick path and sharing a quick conversation before the next lecture. Campus walks are where all worlds collide at Hopkins, where unfamiliar and familiar acquaintances abound in equal measure to the timing of the Gilman clock tower and overall rush of a normal weekday. It’s a reassuring feeling to walk amidst this Hopkins crowd, one that I rarely matched whilst abroad. Being one of many at a large school like UCL in an equally large city like London can be exciting and eye-opening, just as it can be isolating and a bit disorienting. At Hopkins, I get both the freshness of unknown faces and the consistent strength of community with the most casual of daily jaunts.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the small but important sites of community that have been one of the greatest contributors to how supported I feel at Hopkins: the ones that begin in the classroom. My humanities classes here are almost always small and, on many occasions, have led to the fostering of great friendships within the overall camaraderie that developed between the entire class. In Ghostfood with The Contemporary, we were all able to work together in such a way that an acquaintanceship beyond the level of awkward classmates was inevitable — and gratifying. In a 9 person Humanities Center lit class, we all sat around a wooden table and discussed postcolonial novels dealing with everything from Apartheid to the Revolution in India for two hours straight each week: community — and what’s more, community at the heart of the humanities at Hopkins — was inevitable.
Following a strained month-ish of trepidation about returning to Hopkins (re: academics, social anxiety, the bitter cold of a Baltimore winter), I’ve come to realize that I have a fortunate combination of communities to re-enter in just a few days. It’s a unique kind of safety net that I’m lucky to call home.