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I wasn’t going to go back to Socal for Thanksgiving break. I guess I figured that with Winter Break coming up in a month, was there really a need to fly all the way back to California now? (You’re actually not required to go back to your hometown for Thanksgiving break. Lots of people stay in Baltimore or even travel the East coast and have lots of fun!!).

But a moment came as I was studying for my Organic Chemistry class when I realized that although Homewood is my home now, I was still a Cali kid on the inside. With boba (bubble tea for you East Coasters) and Mexican food on my mind, I found myself on the Southwest Airlines website, eager to experience 80 degree weather again.


Author poses for selfie with girl

Before leaving, though, I still had one more thing left to do here in Maryland: lion dance! I got to actually be in the tail of the lion for the first time, which was all too surreal. Our troupe got to perform for a Vietnamese culture night at the University of Maryland, and I also got to meet one of my favorite Vietnamese American YouTube stars, Vietglish Fun.


Photo of cup of bubble tea with two friends smiling in background

The big day. I woke up a little bit earlier to squeeze in one last workout at the Rec Center, finished packing last minute, and was off to BWI airport. It was a pretty gruesome 8 hour ordeal because I had a layover, but I knew it would be worth it. And I was right. Seeing family again was magical—and they also took me out for pho, which was a plus. And to top it off, my friends took me out for boba later that night. It was a good night.


Photo of guy and girl

Don’t get me wrong. The cafes in Baltimore are some of the best I’ve ever had, but nothing beats home. There’s this really great place back in California called Porto’s Bakery that specializes in Cuban pastries, sandwiches, and coffee, and tasting their Cubano sandwich with plantain chips again with friends was beyond delightful.


Did I mention that us Californians are big boba fans?


Photo of sunset with city lights in background Photo of two bowls of ramen with author in background

Baltimore has such beautiful places to explore at night, as well as a pretty good ramen shop right in Charles Village across the street from campus, but when you’re away for a week, you gotta make do with what you have in your home state. My friends and I went on a mini-hike up Turtle Rock, a park next to the UC Irvine campus, and watched the sunset after realizing it was too late for a photo shoot. 


Friends hold sign reading "welcome home charlie we missed you"Girl holds pair of chopsticks

I’m a sucker for Korean barbecue, so of course that was the move for Friendsgiving this year. (Side note: YES, there is KBBQ in Baltimore! Check out Jong Kak and BeOne, which you can get to for free if you take the JHU Night Ride shuttle after 5:30 pm! Thinking about Jong Kak is making me drool as I’m writing this).


An airplane neck pillow with a face

Dinner with family and shopping with friends afterwards make for a pretty awesome Thanksgiving in my opinion. The pre-Black Friday deals are pretty legit, especially when you have Secret Santas and White Elephants you need to prepare for when you get back to campus. A lucky someone is about to get this cute neck pillow.


A mirror selfie with the caption "Good night baltimore, can't wait to do all that homework in the morning!"

I don’t know what it is, but leaving home for the second time is a little bit more emotional than the first.

But the thing is, Baltimore is my home now. It’s weird, but when I got back to campus, I didn’t feel like I was out of place. When I entered my dorm and took off my shoes after arriving in the city, I felt comfortable. I think one of the best things about going to school at Hopkins is the fact that I get to experience this duality of the sense of home, which I never would have experienced if I went to school in California.