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Choosing Baltimore for College

March 23, 2022
  • Fun in Charm City
  • Life in Baltimore
  • Students 101
New Collegetown Shuttle Intern Eric reflects on why he came to Baltimore and shares his experience so far.

 

I'll be honest. Before coming here, I felt like I had a good understanding of Baltimore. In fact, I thought it could be summed up in a couple of words: Old Bay, the setting of Hairspray, crab cakes, the Ravens, and the Inner Harbor. It seemed nice, but the idea of living or coming to college here had never crossed my mind — I simply believed there were better options.

Fast forward a couple of months, and there I was evaluating college offers between multiple cities including New York, Philadelphia, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. Considering the fact that I’m writing this, you know where I ended up. Johns Hopkins itself played a role, but I was fortunate enough to have other similarly ranked choices. In the end, I found that Baltimore was a large reason I chose to come here. So… what changed my mind? 

Baltimore skyline on a sunny day

When I first came to visit Baltimore last summer, I wasn’t expecting the 11 hour drive here to amount to much. Mostly, I came ready to dismiss Baltimore as a generic city without much to do; however, these assumptions were quickly dismantled. Baltimore is a big city with a small-town feel, in large part thanks to its division into distinct neighborhoods. To get to know each one of them would require weeks. However, when I visited, I saw  Fells Point, Federal Hill, Charles Village, Hampden, Little Italy, Harbor East, and Mount Vernon (even though there are so many others). My personal favorite was Hampden, just because of its wide selection of unique restaurant choices defined by places like Waffie, Suzie's Soba, and Grano Pasta Bar. Each neighborhood has its own culture, heritage, and personality that culminates to form a synthesized Baltimore.

Shops and restaurants in Hampden

I was also drawn to the historic architecture as iconic Baltimore rowhouses lined the streets. In the Charles Village neighborhood near my campus, the colorful “Painted Ladies” are a good example of Baltimore’s quirky personality. This fusion between new, modern, and traditional buildings was a defining characteristic of the city. Diversity was an important factor for me as well, and few cities can boast Baltimore’s racial and ethnic breakdown. I came back from that visit with a more informed, enlightened view of Baltimore and its unique dynamics. When it came time to choose, it was pretty easy to say yes and come here for college.

Painted ladies of the Charles Village neighborhood

What's impressed me most about Baltimore so far is how much there is to do. Opportunities to get involved with the community and have fun around the city present themselves almost every day. Last fall, I attended 3 different events all in the same Saturday: the Fells Point Fun Festival, Fiesta Baltimore, and the Italian Heritage Festival. Some other things I’ve gone to so far have been the Baltimore Taco Festival (where I bought a taco hat), the Miracle on 34th Street lighting, an Orioles game, and a movie at the Sundance Film Festival – Baltimore was chosen as one of just seven satellite screening partners this year! If you’re into outdoor recreation, museums, sports, music, eating out, or shopping, Baltimore does not disappoint there either. Even just this past Sunday I volunteered to help clean up the Wyman Park Dell area. There’s really never a dull moment!

Everyone walking around and enjoying the Fells Point Fun Fest

I applied for the Baltimore Collegetown Network shuttle internship because it fit with my desire to learn more about the city while building upon my own skill set. I enjoy data analysis and interpretation, so working with the collegetown shuttle is a great opportunity to get some hands-on experience. While my work mostly pertains to the shuttle, I also get to be involved in other aspects – such as writing blog posts or contributing to Baltimore-related programs! Personally, I love developing creative solutions and employing that in my work, and I also enjoy investigating the dynamics of urban economics. The mix of qualitative and quantitative aspects to this job make it a perfect fit for someone like me!

The Baltimore collegetown shuttle connects participating colleges from Penn Station up to Towson

This spring, I’m most looking forward to making an impact here on the BCN team and connecting with others in the community. I’m hopeful that my time as an intern will be not just meaningful for me but also for those that I work with. Outside of my intern role, the next event I’m most looking forward to attending here in Baltimore is the Spring Festival in Patterson Park, located next to the waterfront neighborhood of Canton. Since every event here is new for me, I’m always excited to attend anything going on whenever I have a free weekend!

Mount Vernon neighborhood

I'm now more than halfway through my first school year here, and my appreciation for this East Coast gem has only grown. I would implore anyone who is interested in the city to not think like I did at first. Look deeper than its face value, with both its good and bad, and search for everything Baltimore truly has to offer. Old Bay and the Ravens are important here, yes, but there’s so much more.

View of Baltimore from Federal Hill Park

 

Written by Eric Alvarado,  JHU '25

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