Category Archives: Baltimore

Slummin It

While I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, I’m still not sure how to put it into words.  I’m still unsure of how to convey to you the immense poverty, hurt, and hopelessness I see and feel every morning that I ride into Baltimore City on the light rail (public transit), transporting me from the green and perfectly maintained streets of suburbia into some of the grungiest parts of Baltimore City, where I have been enlightened.

Windows boarded up, addicts hunched over with their eyes half open, slobbering on the street, a hooker (or what I imagine she was) leaning on the corner of a building smoking a cigarrete.  The light rail station where I depart is Lexington Market and I am always surprised by the number of people mulling around this stop at 930 AM.  Lexington Market is actually a massive warehouse filled with kiosks serving seafood, deli meats, nuts, cakes, pastries, buffalo wings, fried chicken, sodas and beers, and more seafood and fried chicken.  When I stepped inside on my first day home I felt like I had been transported back to early America in the 1900’s.  What I imagine this market might have looked like without a roof and so many walls.  But it’s hardly glamourous.  Long lines spill out of the entrance for what I assumed was a popular kiosk.  My boss later informed me that these lines were called “testers.”  At the front of the line stands a drug dealer who passes out samples of his products for free, hoping to hook the desperate addicts in an attempt to gain more business.

How niave I am.  The truth is it’s hard for me to feel comfortable during my commute for work.  I’m never sure if the loud man next to me is starting up a conversation about the weather simply because he wants to talk, or because he specifically wants to talk to me.  One morning a man on the street who I assume was high off something leaned over and asked me to marry him.  In my sundresses and heels I feel very out of place because I am.  This neighborhood is predominantly African American and really run down.  On one block you’ll find the Hippodrome and a Starbucks, and on the next you’ll find “Blue City Urban Shop” “KFC” and a “7-11”.  This area is essentially a food dessert serving only processed foods, snacks, take-out, and fast food.  And while the “World Famous” Lexington Market does sell produce, I have rarely seen a family walking out with bags of apples and vegetables.

While I know that my commute alone has been a eye-opening experience this summer, I feel helpless.  These people look at me and I’m sure they are judging me.  Probably thinking that I’m using the light rail to “go green”, not because I don’t want to pay for daily parking.  Men and women in wheel chairs missing arms, legs, and eye patches.  People falling over in their light rail seats…not because they are tired.

But everyday is a little rush because I don’t know what characters I’m going to see. I irrationally clutch my purse and work bag to my body because I don’t know what people are thinking when they bump into me or eye me. Its a bit of an adventure that I didn’t really ask for.  But here I am.  Slummin it on the corner of Fayette and Howard.

Good Morning Baltimore

A month earlier, June 11:

Midway airport…bustling with over-caffeinated business men and eager young adults like myself who are flying “home” where hourly jobs, unpaid internships, and hot and sweaty sunburns await.

Is this really the end? I’m strangely nostalgic for this past year only because it was amazing. In the least cliché way possible: I made new friends, I tried new things, volunteered in Guatemala, started something I was passionate about, joined new student organizations and grew to love my home. I truly think I could not have done that at another school. After being selected as a tour guide, I finally realized that Northwestern is a truly unique place. After sitting in a info session and eagerly shadowing a tour led by an eclectic and personable sophomore, I felt as though I was applying all over again. Thinking back to my application I smiled. A representative from the office of admissions discussed a factor which if I remember correctly is known as “motivation.”

Motivation and passion about activities in general and motivation to come to Northwestern.

Admissions, he said, spends a grueling amount of time surveying resumes and essays, assessing them to see if a candidate has drive. Their hope is that students who are passionate about “xyz” in high school will continue to bring that passion and talent to Northwestern’s “abc.” He also said that they look for stand-out and in depth essays that answer the “why northwestern” question.

This is extremely ironic for two reasons A) I wrote my “Why NU” essay about my passion as a journalist. Being a news anchor for two years at my high school fostered long-term dreams of becoming the next Katie Couric or perhaps traveling the world to do broadcast stories in developing countries. I had mastered the broadcast voice, learned how to use the cameras, managed the lights, I did video and photo editing, made my own movies and commercials, and I loved every minute of it. Yet just before I turned in my Northwestern application I scanned the boxes “Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences…Medill….Journalism…Communications…Engineering. Why box myself in one profession I thought? And by checking Weinberg in that minute I literally changed my life course. I thought about switching to Journalism the summer before Northwestern started. I even thought about it when I got there. But something kept holding me back. And I never thought about switching again. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself a declared religious studies major and history and Spanish minor. A big sorry to Northwestern Office of Admissions for that one…my consistency is not top notch.

The second reason? I stopped nearly every one of my high school extra curricular activities and started new ones. High school: three musicals, a play, chamber choir, honor choir, a cappella…I could go on. Here? Women’s Chorus? A role in the Dg recruitment skit? Does that even count?
High school: Editor in Chief…Business Manager and Literary Editor of my literary arts magazine, Sequel, in four years. I took one look at Northwestern’s publication and didn’t give it a second thought. I was in the Spanish Club and SGO and it seems that I barely continued with any of the things I was passionate about.
But I just glanced over my resume from 2008 and realized…I was a Dulaney High School tour guide? How could I forget? At least I stuck with that.

And that’s what makes Northwestern so fabulous. I took my high school passions and manifested them in a different setting or changed them all together. I went from being a wannabe broadcast journalist to being fascinated with the world of marketing, advertising, and PR as it manifests itself in the non-profit world…with dreams of leading a non-profit or company. College has made me more service oriented, more goal driven, and just different. I’m not the same person I was when I was 16 and, thank god. Though I’m grazing over this “consistency” in the most literal fashion, Northwestern I just want you to know: Next time you’re looking over a resume of activities spanning over four years and the hopeful essay of an 18 year old, remember that you will mold and remold that person. You may not recognize him or her when you are done, and I can tell you, I’m not sure I recognize myself.