2019 Orientation: Healthcare/Health Policy


For the past two years, I’ve struggled with mending the relationship between my identity as a Hopkins student and my drive to serve the Baltimore community. The two seemed thoroughly incompatible; how would Baltimore, a city that has been historically exploited by the Johns Hopkins institutions, react to a privileged Hopkins student who thinks she has all the answers? I’d wonder how I could possibly contribute to a community that was so foreign to me, especially having only seen it through my limited “Hopkins” lens for only two years. My feelings of doubt and discomfort led only to a greater feeling of guilt; why did I feel like such an outsider? If only I could set aside these sentiments, which were rooted in grossly false perceptions of the Baltimore community at large. Then, I’d be able to not only identify as a Hopkins student, but as a Baltimore resident—a member of the Baltimore community.

Orientation was where things began to click. We were able to hear from a diverse array of professionals working in the non-profit sector, each with valuable insight to give. One of the most memorable aspects of orientation for me was the presentation given by the dynamic Reverend Heber Brown III. He emphasized the difference between working in the community and working with the community. Working “in” the community carries connotations of a self-proclaimed outsider—oftentimes with a savior-complex—infiltrating a space with the intention of “fixing” certain things as if they are somehow equipped with the ability to do so alone. Conversely, working “with” the community requires one to shift their intentions from helping to serving. It requires one to stand alongside community members and use their available resources to uplift and empower their voices. This distinction made all the difference for me.

The week has been intensely reflective for me; I’ve learned more about Baltimore than I ever have, and I’ve been challenged to consider my own role in the community. I’ve also been introduced to some of the most passionate, change-seekers at Hopkins who genuinely have lots to contribute at their respective internship sites and to the community at large. I’m looking forward to more learning and growth this summer, and I can’t wait to begin my days with Joy Wellness!



At the very end of the orientation week, the last few minutes of the Community Partner Meet & Greet, I was sitting around a table laughing and catching up with three of my colleagues from BHRC. I feel comfortable with each of them, since almost 9 months of working together has helped me to build those relationships. It seemed like a fitting ending to the rest of the week; there were so many stories being told and people referenced who I had never met before, but I still listened closely, took everything in, and enjoyed the wonderful company I was lucky to have.

Being a Peer Mentor means that I have the privilege of going through orientation for a second year. Though the week was challenging and emotional, It was also absolutely worthwhile. I could tangibly see the places in which I’ve grown, the communities I’m starting to become a part of, and a few of the answers to the many questions I had coming into last summer. I also felt the struggle to maintain composure during an activity that hit a bit too close to home and the tensions of seemingly-unanswerable questions left unanswered. From every speaker, I heard new information and differently considered the ways in which I will navigate and grow this summer. What does it look like to bend my privilege in the direction of justice, as Rev. Brown told us, in both my work and my everyday life? Am I bending it far enough already? Considering my experience with BHRC, when do I trust myself to do the work and when do I turn to others for guidance?

I’m feeling some combination of nervous, excited, ready, and curious for my second-first day with BHRC. As Kate Bishop told us, this work takes work, and I can’t wait for this summer of reflection, learning, listening, active self-care, and friendship!



The most challenging aspect of orientation was contributing to conversations that included the entire cohort. I was scared to say something that may hurt someone in the group because I did not know everyone in the cohort as well as I knew the people in my peer mentor group. However, throughout the course of the week I feel that I managed to learn a lot about a majority of the cohort.

I really enjoyed the scavenger hunt. I feel like I became much more comfortable using public transportation which is really helpful because I will be using the MTA this summer. I also had so much fun exploring Baltimore. I can actually say that I am familiar with the city and now I know of many places that I would like to return to. I think the excitement of having to navigate through Baltimore without direction made the exploration feel much more genuine. I was used to navigating cities using public transportation because I am from NYC. So the experience was not too uncomfortable and I was able to see parts of Baltimore that I would never have tried to explore before. I will definitely return to the Lexington Market because of the wide variety of affordable foods. I can now figure out how to navigate there too. There are so many other foods I would love to try.



If I could sum up orientation with one quote, it would be to bend your privilege in the favor of those who don’t have it. As someone who is very passionate about social justice, reform, and issues, I was not sure if the type of environment I would be coming into and the peers I would be interacting with would meet my expectations, but they definitely hit the mark immediately on day one of orientation. Everyone in the cohort is so unbelievably open, receptive, accepting, and more than anything, really nice, and the peer mentors are actual sunshine. They are so welcoming, cheerful, and committed to supporting you and your needs every step of the process. Being surrounded by peers with high emotional intelligence and intuition made orientation a very comfortable and inclusive space to be in. All throughout the week, we touched on a range of complex topics including privilege, trauma, and cultural competency and explored the role that Hopkins plays in the Baltimore community and the unique space that we occupy as Hopkins students and must always be actively mindful of while serving the community. Orientation provided phenomenal workshops from activists, nonprofit workers, and community leaders from all over the city. Baltimore Day was analogous to the first-year outing experienced during O-Week except much realer and without all the glitzy tourist attractions. We used the MTA bus and subway to reach neighborhoods and sites not serviced by the JHMI and the Charm City Circulator. We visited Lexington Market, the world’s largest, continuously running market, and the Arch Social Club, the oldest African American men’s club in the United States. While easy to miss in the midst of a busy intersection, the club is situated along Pennsylvania Avenue, a historic black cultural hub and entertainment district back in the 50s and 60s that continues to house cultural treasures today. Many of the places we traveled to I had actually never heard of until that day. Seeing and experiencing Baltimore as a city full of gems and rich stories has made me love the city in a way that I have not been able to until now. Orientation was an unforgettable experience that fostered an environment conducive to learning from honest mistakes and that equipped me with the cultural tools, knowledge, and resources I needed before embarking on my internship.



Coming into orientation, I was burnt out and experiencing mild depression from the past semester. I felt unprepared to talk about dedicating ourselves to and serving the Baltimore community, and I was intimidated by the thought of spending 8 hours a day for the next 5 days discussing what appeared to be a very challenging mission. In the past, I would often get overwhelmed by how daunting making change can be, but now I am trying to work on being realistically optimistic. I had a tendency to freeze, immobilized by my anxiety and perfectionism, but have learned that it is important to take action, and it helps when others acknowledge that it is ok to be messy.

Now at the tail end of the week, I’ve come away from orientation having a firmer understanding of the challenges that lie ahead, but have also been encouraged and inspired by the incredible people I’ve gotten to know, from the dedicated community members who have been working in their fields for a long time to my fellow peers in the CIIP cohort who are about to embark on their own journeys in community engaged work. During orientation, speakers would often mention that this work is always all about the people and that the people are the reason why they do the work that they do. That really rang true for me even this past week; seeing people’s love for the city and each other helped me to know that we are never alone in trying to help bring about change and a slightly better world. I am so grateful to not have to go through this work on my own and to be able to have the support of the CIIP and Baltimore community as I grow in my career and as a person.

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