Spending a semester in D.C., I didn’t think I would experience many regional differences or spend time growing and learning in my identity in a unique way to what I have experienced in the past. However, my experience was one of personal and professional growth.
First, I’ll reflect on some uniquely “D.C. things” that I loved and hated and miss about the city:
- Walk on the left, stand on the right. This refers to any and all escalators and keeps the pace of the city nice and quick.
- “What do you do?” The first time someone asked me this I started talking about how I’m outdoorsy and like to wakeboard and go to the beach. Their blank stare back confirmed that this was the wrong answer. Most people in D.C. are working towards big goals and work in something that they see as personally reflective of themselves. Thus, when they ask this, which they always do, they are referring to your job. Oops.
- “Go Nats!” I was thankful to be in D.C. during an exciting baseball season leading to the Nationals winning the World Series. People love their sports in D.C. and I am almost positive I heard ‘Go Nats!’ at least once a day, everyday. When they won, my boss literally had us sing a remix of ‘take me out to the ball game’ themed to our department at a company wide meeting. Incredible.
- D.C. Statehood – I knew that there were people rooting for D.C. statehood, but I never knew it was such a big deal. D.C. flags and 51 star American flags cover every inch of the city.
- Climate strike fridays – I typically took the bus to work but I knew every Friday I’d need to take the metro or take the chance of facing the latest climate strikers’ civil disobedience blocking the roads. Seeing people protesting every day for something they believe in is powerful and climate strikes with Jane Fonda were very representative of that energy.
- Free things! Despite general living in the city being very expensive, museums, arts, cultural activities and more are almost all free. On any given day it was super easy to find something new and exciting to do.
- Education – Professionals in D.C. are extremely well educated and continually seek to better themselves through seminars, panels, etc. (that are also free for the most part). They are also all studying for law school or the GRE. This seemed daunting at first but it was actually super motivating to see people find their passions are work super hard to pursue them.
- So much food – My final D.C. culture note, is that food there truly combines the best parts of the world. Food trucks are at every corner and you never lack options. The melting pot of a population means that you can have Ethiopian food, Mexican food, Turkish food, and French dessert all right next to each other.
Although I had traveled to D.C. quite a few times before spending the semester there, I still learned lots of new things about the city. And as one does during a semester away, surrounded by new people and experience, I also learned a lot of things about myself. I learned that my identity as a southerner influences me way more than I want to admit, and that my perspective, especially politically, is very unique due to this. I learned that vulnerability in all aspects of life is powerful, and that when you let people around you understand you better your personal and professional life will flourish. And finally, I learned that adaptability is key in moving to new places, working new jobs, taking unique classes, and just about every other aspect of life. I would highly recommend this program to students seeking an impactful internship, professional connections, and political involvement in our Nation’s Capital.