Johns Hopkins freshmen explore Baltimore

The group of incoming Johns Hopkins University freshmen, all from different parts of the country, listened as a tour guide gave them the rundown on Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

They learned that all 983 windows at the old B&O Railroad Warehouse had to be replaced and all 3.5 million bricks on the warehouse washed by hand when the baseball stadium was built. They were told of how the Baltimore Colts vanished to Indianapolis in the middle of the night, and that the Orioles’ stadium was far superior to the Washington Nationals’ stadium.

The new students were getting a tour of Baltimore to help acquaint them with the city they would live in for at least four years. Some went to the Inner Harbor; others went to Little Italy, Mount Vernon or Hampden.

At a university where some joke that students rarely leave the Homewood campus area, the exercise was intended to help the incoming freshmen see the wider city, get their bearings and encourage them to explore.

The university has held the event, called “Baltimore Day,” every year since 2014. It’s part of freshman orientation before classes start Thursday.

Ananya Gupta, a junior biomedical engineering major from New Delhi, India, who volunteered to guide a group of freshmen on Sunday, said she wanted to help dispel the myth that Baltimore is too dangerous to explore.

“We want to try and make them feel more comfortable going out into the city,” said Gupta, 20. “It is safe to go out and have fun and we want to make them feel more at home.”

The university has pushed in recent years to better integrate itself into the community. Gupta said she tutored elementary school students in the city.

“That’s part of being able to give to the community, to not just be in that ‘Hopkins bubble,’” she said.

The trip was not without a snafu, however, as the shuttle that was supposed to take two groups of 20 freshmen to Camden Yards dropped them off at a gas station near the Horseshoe Casino instead. The freshmen and their student tour guides waited about an hour for the bus to return, then eventually took a series of Uber rides to the baseball stadium.

Ben Leach of Phoenix, Ariz., said he had visited Baltimore during a campus tour. He said his parents lived in Federal Hill in the 1990s, and his mom showed him their old stamping grounds.

“I got the Leach family history tour,” said Leach, a biomedical engineering major. “I’m excited to explore and learn more about everything. Not only in the school but just going to the museums, the aquarium.”

Quinn Meistrich of Ridgewood, N.J., said Baltimore was different from where he grew up.

Ridgewood is “very suburban, like preppy. Everyone kind of wears the same nice clothes and talks and acts the same,” said Meistrich, 18, who will study film and writing. He calls himself a night owl and likes that the city has places open late.

“You can meet new people every day,” Meistrich said.

Erin Chen, a sophomore studying molecular and cellular biology, signed up to work as a tour guide because she had a great experience on her tour last year. She is from Lumberton, N.J., and had come before to Baltimore before to eat crabs and watch the Orioles play the New York Yankees.

“I went beyond Inner Harbor and crab,” she said of her first university-sponsored tour. “I got to see Hampden and Mount Vernon. It was really cool because Baltimore has such a bad rap sometimes, but it really doesn’t deserve it. It’s a really beautiful, quirky city with people who actually care and it’s a very good community. People know each other and talk to each other. It’s definitely been a good experience coming here.”

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