Sunday, June 4, 2017

Moving to Baltimore


A few months ago, I wrote about leaving the BDNYC research group and moving out of New York. However, I haven't talked about the other end of the trip: moving into Baltimore and starting my work at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). I've now been here since April so it's well past time I write about this, particularly since I feel that I've settled down nicely and have had several opportunities to see what Baltimore is all about.

Searching for Apartments
Unlike when I moved to New York, I had a bit of an easier time searching for a place to live. I used part of my relocation budget to visit Baltimore several weeks before my expected move out date and visited a couple of places. I used primarily ApartmentList to search for places in downtown Baltimore, though upon arriving I saw plenty of other options that this website hadn't listed. Seems like downtown is bursting with lots of new, really nice apartment buildings. My visit was cut a bit short since I was there for the big blizzard in March, but at least I was able to make a decision in a matter of days. It was a lot less stressful than my prior move since I was already back in the US, with all the accompanying records. Furthermore, because Baltimore is significantly cheaper than NYC, I was able to afford a much nicer place whose rental application was faster and more streamlined.


Moving from New York
The move from New York City was not as complicated as I feared. Both Baltimore and NYC are in the East Coast and it takes only ~2.5 hours by train to get from one to the other, which is very convenient. My new job had some recommendations for moving companies and I picked one (Budd Van Lines) that had all the bells and whistles; that is, they did practically all of the packing for me, in addition to loading and transporting. This was mainly for my cheap IKEA furniture, but I still wanted to keep it and avoid having to redecorate/refurnish my new place. It all worked out quite well and I was set up by the time I officially started work. That being said, my new place is so much nicer than my old place in NYC that I feel like I still need to go get more furniture and decorations to fill up the space. A good problem to have, I guess.

Starting the Job
Between finishing my old job and starting my new one, I had only about a week worth of time, which was mainly filled in with moving to my new place and getting the basics ready. I don't have a car, so it meant exploring some of the public transportation options, walking a lot, and using taxis or similar when necessary. Thanks to that, though, I discovered how easy it is to get around in downtown Baltimore and how simple it is to get to work. My stop in downtown features 4 different bus line options that all take me close to my new job. I still have to walk a bit, and how much depends on which line I take, but that ends up being some good exercise.

I started work early April and jumped right in to my new tasks. While the first few weeks were mainly new employee orientation, I've since learned a lot more. I had been warned that it would takes months to learn all the ropes and they were right- the systems used here are all complex, having grown organically over the past few decades. I'm having a lot of fun learning, though, and while at first some of my tasks were geared towards alleviating other's workloads, I've quickly reached the point were I'm providing added value. For example, my exploration of utilizing R inside SQL Server has now become an asset and now several team members are interested in having me teach them how to use that effectively. I'm very excited to see how things develop over the next few years as I gain more experience and as our new flagship mission, the James Webb Space Telescope, launches and begins science operations.

Exploring the City
It's not all work, though. I've taken the time on weekends and evenings to explore my new home. Baltimore is a surprisingly exciting city! While it has a bit of a negative reputation, I tried to keep a positive outlook and see what the city and my neighborhood has to offer. Overall, I'm impressed. I arrived just in time for the Light City festival, which was amazing. I loved walking the Inner Harbor and seeing all the light and sound artwork there. I also got to see a crazy race- the Kinetic Sculpture Race, and took a bus to Canton to see them splash down in the bay. There was also the Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, Balticon, just a few blocks from where I live. That was a great chance to see the SFF community here. It seems there's always something to do in downtown Baltimore, yet at the same time it's also quieter and cleaner than NYC. I honestly feel like I'm getting the best of both worlds- a vivid city life without the hassles of a crowded city life. I'm very happy with where I live now and look forward to exploring more of my new city!

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