Thank you, Loyola

As I am sitting in my now empty apartment bedroom, McAuley 01D, looking at the clean walls and bags and boxes that surround me I can’t help but feel nostalgic and sentimental. WARNING: Sappy blog ahead!

 

It has been an absolutely incredible four years at Loyola, in Baltimore and in New Zealand. There is so much to be grateful for, from my friends and professors to my family for supporting me through this whole process, to the city and people of Baltimore. I am so thankful for the programming Loyola puts on every year, especially this year; being a senior has never felt more special. For our beautiful campus and the wonderful people who work hard to make it so great. For the people who pushed me past my limits and incited growth in me. For four years of love, laughter, loss, empowerment, spiritual enlightenment, failure and success.

Ad Astra Per Aspera: Through Difficulties, to the Stars

Ad Astra Per Aspera // Through Difficulties, to the Stars

Thank you Baltimore, for teaching me how to live in a city and how to love a city.

Baltimore has become my a part of my home

Baltimore has become a part of my home

Thank you Loyola, for teaching me how to live outside my comfort zone, and like it.

Graduation

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” -Gerard Manley Hopkins

Brunching through Baltimore: The Ultimate Guide

Baltimore is a foodie’s paradise—especially if you love breakfast and lunch, but have a hard time deciding which to partake in. There are tons of restaurants in nearly every popular neighborhood in Baltimore that offer brunch lovers the tastes they crave.

I’ve been chronicling my brunch adventures in my podcast, Brunching Through Baltimore.

Throughout my four years of brunching in Baltimore, I have picked up a few tricks to getting the most out of every experience.

Allow me to share my top five…

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Lessons from My Sophomore Year

The semester is finally winding down, and my second year at Loyola is coming to an end. I’ve definitely learned a bunch in my classes, but it wouldn’t be a school year at Loyola if I hadn’t learned some life lessons along the way…

While I learned Greek and read Paradise Lost, I learned how to be silent. While I wrote countless research papers and tried to learn physics, I learned patience. I met countless wonderful people and reunited with old friends.

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So, what have I learned this year that won’t receive a grade?

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Baltimore, One Year Later

Think back one year ago…

It was the start of finals for the spring semester of my first year at Loyola, and the start summer was only 10 days away. As I sat there trying to study, 10 days like months. I couldn’t study.

Something felt wrong about trying to pretend nothing had happened the night before. I realized I couldn’t just sit on my perfect little campus while the world around seemed to be on the verge of a revolution… So I searched all over Facebook to find out if there was anything to do (classic college move). I found information about a student-led demonstration taking place downtown and decided that I needed to be there. Forget exams; this was more important.

I called a couple friends and we got ourselves down to Penn Station, the meeting point for the demonstration. We got there and I saw more police officers than I had ever before. Dozens of cops in bullet-proof vests lined the outside of the train station. I felt my stomach sink a little and thought “What am I getting myself into?”

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Exploring Baltimore

I have to admit that it wasn’t until recently that I truly started to take advantage of the multitude of activities and attractions Baltimore offers…

I have been trying to get off campus and find out for myself if the phrase that many of the benches in the city have engraved on them, “Baltimore: Greatest City in America,” is true.

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Now that the warm weather is *officially* here, it seems like the perfect time to do some exploring before I am completely swamped with final exams and end of semester commitments and work.

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An Open Letter to All High School Seniors

Euphoria. Freedom. Responsibility. Stressed. Under-prepared. Torn. Contemplative. Excited. Nervous. Joy.

These may be some of the emotions you’ve experienced this school year, first as college acceptance letters start to roll in… then as you started visiting campuses… and especially now, as you prepare to make “the big decision” and enroll.

I remember my senior year of high school vividly, despite being two years past that point in my life. I remember being so anxious for the year to end, but also dreading the end of my high school years. It’s a weird combination of joy and sadness, stress and freedom… but I’m sure you’re quite familiar with this unique emotional flurry caused by the college search process.

You’re in the middle of deciding where you want to spend the next four years of your life.  It’s a big decision.

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Since coming to Loyola, I’ve also been a part of the other side, thanks to my involvement with the Classics department and being a Messina Evergreen.

I’ve volunteered to work with a few offices and departments during events for accepted students, answering questions about programs and courses and life at Loyola. I’ve explained the core more times than I care to recall. I’ve answered countless questions about almost anything you could think to ask about a school, and probably even a few you’d never fathom asking.

I’ve seen the stress in a student’s eyes and the excitement in parents’ eyes, coupled with the hesitation and concern that come so naturally to parents. (Sidenote: Be patient with your parents. This is a stressful time for them, too. They’re going to miss you so much!)

As someone who has gone through the process before and has experienced the other side of it, I have a few words of wisdom for any-stressed out senior. And remember, I’ve been in your shoes.

Never be afraid of asking questions. It doesn’t matter how many times you think it may have been asked or how awkward it may be, if you have a question about something at the school you’re visiting, ask it. Don’t be shy; if something is important for you to know, then it’s important to ask questions about it. Ask what it’s like to take a class here. Ask whether or not the food is actually good. Ask about the social life on campus. Ask what the rooms look like if you have’t already taken a tour, physical or virtual. Heck, ask about the height of the beds if you’re curious as to how much stuff you can store under them. If you’re even considering living and learning somewhere for four years, you shouldn’t walk away from a visit with unanswered questions.

Reach out to faculty. If you’re interested in a certain department, reach out to the chair of that department to see if you can arrange a meeting with a professor. There’s no better way to get a feel of the department than to meet one of the people that could be teaching you during your career at that school. There’s no better way to learn more about a major you’re interested in than to talk to a professor in that department.

I was able to arrange a meeting with Dr. Walsh the summer before my senior year, and his passion and excitement about Classics was one of the main reasons I came to Loyola.

Take this process seriously. This is a major decision. You’re theoretically choosing what your life is going to be like for the next four years.. and, not to scare you, but far beyond that. (Ask any Loyola graduate who ended up living in a different place than where they grew up. I would bet nine of out ten times, they did not foresee making a life in that place before their path led them to Loyola!)

To use a Jesuit term, this is a time of discernment. It’s important to weigh all the pros and cons of each school you’re considering. Take the time to research each school. Follow the university’s social media or reach out to current students to get an idea of what life is like at that school: in the classroom, in the residence halls, on the weekends.

Take a moment to really reflect on what you want in a school, and see which schools fit your needs and your wants best. And be honest with yourself. If you want a small, friendly, liberal arts school near a major city (hey, that sounds a lot like Loyola…), then you probably should avoid giant state schools.

Stay calm and carry on. Even though choosing a college is a major life decision, it’s important not to fall into a stress spiral over it. If you’re honest with what you want from a school and earnestly research the schools you’re considering, the choice will be much easier. If one school really speaks to you as the right choice, go with your gut!

To paraphrase something I overheard a professor say, there’s no wrong choice. No matter where you end up, you’re going to be all right.

This is certainly a time of stress, but this should also be a time of excitement and celebration. I hope that you enjoy the remainder of your senior year… and I not-so-secretly hope that you choose Loyola as your home for the next chapter of your life.

My Light City Experience

Light City took place last week in Baltimore.

This week-long festival of art, lights, and innovation included live performances, tons of public art and light installations, and opportunities for the community to learn more about local art, music, architecture, and initiatives taking place in our city.

This is the kind of festival that puts the “charm” in Charm City.

My first stop on the Light City tour was the neighborhood of Hampden…

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Celebrating Light and Life in Baltimore

We got off the bus, not really knowing what to expect, and as we walked towards the Inner Harbor, we were overwhelmed by the crowd, the music, and the lights.

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My friends and I trekked down to the Harbor for Light City on Thursday night, so we weren’t expecting too many people. It was a school night and a work night, after all. We thought we might bump into some other Loyola students, since it was “Loyola Night.”

To our surprise, there were thousands of people walking around the Inner Harbor enjoying the festival. I’ve never been so happy to see so many people in one place, all celebrating Baltimore…

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Baltimore: Capital of Social Innovation

Last week, I was lucky enough to experience Light City Baltimore, a week-long showcase of light, art, and technology.

But what many people don’t realize is that beyond the amazing performances and public art exhibits that transformed the Inner Harbor and other neighborhoods throughout the city, Light City also hosted four different conferences on Social, Health, Sustainability, and Creativity Innovation.26090982661_812f7654fb_z

I attended the Light City U Social Innovation Conference. This two-day conference jam-packed with innovators in social enterprise, education, community development, social justice, philanthropy, and policy to explore solutions to problems faced by societies throughout the world. The speakers ranged in age, gender, race, discipline, and skill, but had one important thing in common: They all are working to make Baltimore a better city.

“There is no time to be a victim, there is power in community… even children can be empowered.” —Freeman Hrabowski, Ph.D., President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The stereotype for Baltimore is disheartening: a city tarnished by crime and poverty. The Light City conferences and speakers, particularly the Social Innovation Conference, wanted to shine light on the incredible potential that is right here in our city, untapped and underutilized.

The days were filled with intense discussions about how we can build a more equitable and responsible city if we work together. 

“You can’t go around Baltimore and not see how you’re needed. You see clearly every day that your participation is necessary.” —Wes Moore, Founder & CEO of BridgeEDU and Loyola’s 2016 Commencement Speaker

There were many inspiring and eye-opening anecdotes and people who shared their work and their vision during the conference…

One of the many groups that presented was Innovation Village, a startup nest in West Baltimore. With all startups and economics centers located in East Baltimore, the depth of the gap is astonishing. This emerging tech and innovation center hopes to promote growth, development, and life in West Baltimore. The group wants to invest in its own people instead of investing in outsiders to come in.

As a college student trying to find her way in the world, one panelist really spoke to me: A social innovator, CEO of two companies, and all-around awesome guy, Aaron Hurst spoke specifically on finding success in our work.

For Hurst, as is the case for many who attended and presented at the Light City U conferences, success is not defined by money, but by something much more valuable.

To determine whether or not you are truly succeeding, Hurst talked about the need to focus on three things:

  1. Relationships: Your connections with others are vital to your ability to succeed.
  2. Doing Something Greater than Yourself: On the fast road to success, we often forget to make serving others a daily priority. Hurst says that doing good cannot be a “every so often” type of thing; it needs to a daily priority in our immediate world.
  3. Personal Growth: Putting yourself out of your comfort zone is key to growth.

Although the groups who presented at the conference spanned many sectors and fields, ranging from education to infrastructure, technology, and personal achievement, all of them had one thing in common: prioritizing investment in the people of Baltimore.

“If you view Baltimore as a collection of stats, you’re looking at it wrong. It’s a collection of opportunities… The people closest to the problem are closest to the solution.”  —Fagan Harris, President & CEO of Baltimore Corps

Baltimore, of course, has its fair share of problems. They are deep-seated and complex. But this is not unique to Baltimore. Most cities face challenges that are greater than eliminating crime and improving schools.

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As much as that is the truth, so is the fact that the people of Baltimore have the skills, the power, and the heart to solve its problems.

Baltimore isn’t a place just for others to come and fix and leave. It is a place to invest in, live in, and love.

“Baltimore is more well-positioned than any other city I’ve seen.” Andrew Yang, Founder & CEO of Venture for America, on the city’s startup community and entrepreneurial spirit

The Light City U Social Innovation Conference did not just showcase the incredible work happening today in Baltimore; it represented a catalyst for a change in the perception of Baltimore.

This is not a broken city, this is not a city that needs to be fixed. This is a city of incredible talent and beauty. Baltimore is a diamond in the rough; its people need only the chance to shine.

P.S. More about the Light City U conferences.

My Journey to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Photographs

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In March, I traveled with my camera to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

As I arrived on the grounds, I felt like I was on a movie set. As my mind slowly comprehended the reality of what happened here, a place of unspeakable pain, I felt the deepest emptiness in my heart that I have ever experienced.

As my boots crunched the same frozen ground where millions of individuals once stood, questions and anger flooded my mind, the shocked silence of human suffering ran through my body.

My eyes gazed on a place where over 1.1 million men, women, and children perished during the Holocaust. Barren trees, witnesses of the past, bordered the camp. Brick remnants stood in the distance, once the shelter of the helpless.

I wandered towards the train tracks. I stood in the exact spot where hundreds were separated from their families. I attempted to imagine this scenario… arriving by train like animals; exhausted, hungry, cold, terrified, to be sorted away from my four siblings and parents. I cannot imagine their fear and vulnerability. The magnitude of evil and reality of human suffering was palpable.

The complex emotions stirred by this memorial and museum serve as lessons for the world. Immersing myself in the experiences of individuals from the past forced me to think about the present. Human suffering will always exist in our world. Human rights are continuously being violated. There are millions of suffering refugees around the globe right this minute.

It is up to all of us to diminishing the suffering of our fellow human beings.

Photography tells the story of the past. I decided to photograph the empty spaces of Auschwitz-Birkenau while walking around these hallowed grounds to reflect human vulnerability, past and present. I will always carry with me the lessons I learned from this day.

Margaret Wroblewski Photography Margaret Wroblewski Photography Margaret Wroblewski Photography Margaret Wroblewski Photography Margaret Wroblewski Photography Margaret Wroblewski Photography Margaret Wroblewski Photography Margaret Wroblewski Photography