Taking the Art of Travel while studying aboard in Washington D.C. was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I have travelled and studied in many cities but have never taken the time to write about my experience each week.
Looking back at all the posts I have done helped me reflect on my time in D.C. and I look forward to reading them over in a few months or years time to help me remember what I did in D.C. and how I felt at the time. Once you leave a city it’s easy to either look back with rose-colored glasses or just remember the bad moments of your time there. Having concrete blog posts will help me maintain a realistic view of D.C. and help me tell people about my experience in the future.
As I think about leaving D.C. in many ways I am relieved. I have enjoyed my semester here, interning, taking classes and wandering around the city, but I am ready to move on. Perhaps part of my restless feeling is pent up finals stress, but mostly I am ready to go back to New York. This is my third semester abroad and I am ready to move back to the New York campus.
One valuable lesson I have learned studying abroad is to make sure I don’t take where I am living for granted. While in D.C. I have wanted to sit inside all day and not really do anything but I also knew that I only had a finite amount of time living here so should take advantage of the city as much as possible. This led me to be more conscious of making plans to go places with my friends and really get to know the city. Hopefully I will take some of the same initiative when I am back in New York to go explore parts of the city that I haven’t been too, go visit museums and find new hidden gems.
As my time in D.C. comes to a close I have made even more of an effort to take advantage of the great programs that NYUDC offers. As my last event I went to go see The Nutcracker. It was a beautiful and festive last event to experience while in D.C., especially because it was in The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. That meant I got to see a new iconic building as well as a magical ballet.
One thing that I have missed the most while being in D.C. have been some of my friends. I studied abroad with a lot of them for my first two semesters but parted ways with them this semester. I am really looking forward to our reunion next semester, as we will all finally be back in New York.
I am sure Washington D.C. is not many peoples first choice of a study abroad site. After all it is only a mere 4-5 hours away from New York City however I would recommend going to D.C. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, as I know it isn’t a city that everyone would enjoy but there really is a lot more to the city than many people think, myself included.
One of the best things about D.C. is their excellent internship program. Almost everyone from NYU who is studying abroad is also interning. I have heard so many people talk about the great experiences they have been having at their internships. The range of internships offered in D.C. is also something I don’t think many people are aware of. There are the typical political internships were you can go work for a congressman/woman or a senator but these are by no means the best or only ones offered.
I have friends who are working at the Smithsonian at a mammal exhibition where she gets to label and dissect animal bones, which sounds great for those who are interested in it. Several students are interning at the Center for American Progress (CAP) where they have the opportunity to work on several projects from youth projects to women advancement in the work force. There is the possibility to intern at the White House as well as other governmental agencies such as the Department of Justice where two students are currently working.
There are also more private sector internships that are available. Some NYU students are working at consulting and lobbying firms, which offer a different perspective to D.C. than the public sector internships. Taking the internship class at NYUDC means you can gain sights into all of the different internships students are taking as at the beginning of each class we give a brief update on how are week has gone.
One important piece of advice for those who are planning on interning in Washington DC is to make sure that you decide as early as possible so you can apply to as many internships as possible. Some internships have deadlines that are only a few months away so to make sure you have a change of getting them apply as soon as possible.
Apart from the internship, which is one of my favorite things about D.C., there are many great things about the city. The NYUDC campus is brand new, only two years old, which means that the dorms are the best I have ever lived in. If you are lucky you live on the front side of the building by the glass windows that can make you feel like you are living in the clouds. The small size of the campus means that classes are usually no more than fifteen people allowing you to ask questions and really get access to professors. Additionally professors usually also have full time jobs which means that they can give you real life advice. My journalism professor, Seth Bornstein, works for the Associated Press and has taken us on a tour of the office. It is one of my favorite classes and also my number one recommendation for anyone studying aboard in DC.
Outside of the campus there are many places to discover. There are hundreds of museums, numerous monuments and delicious cuisines to try. It’s impossible to leave DC and have seen everything, which means that your weekends will never be boring as long as you make plans! (Plus you could always go visit New York if you needed to!)
The NYU DC Campus is great. It is only two years old, the rooms are modern and spacious. The dorms are located on the top floors and the classrooms are on the ground floors. Technically I could wake up five minutes before class, roll out of bed get in the lift and head down to class and still be a minute early. It is one of the most convenient aspects of the campus. My internship is also conveniently only located four blocks away from campus.
This made my life pretty easy and I thought it was the greatest thing. At least until I downloaded this app on my phone which conveniently tells you how many steps you take a day. It was quite an eye opener for me. According to the app ‘Argus’ one day I had only walked 60 steps, although I had yet to download the app the day it told me I walked those steps so its accuracy is debatable. Regardless of the apps accuracy I knew that I was not being as active as I should be and needed to change it.
According to the app the original goal set is to walk 10,000 steps a day, which is surprisingly hard when you don’t really have anywhere to walk too. I decided I could get my walks in and plan routes to areas of D.C. I had yet to go see. I walked through Chinatown somedays and around different monuments, some of which I had already seen.
Increasing my steps was just one of the steps I decided I needed to take to increase my activity levels. I love running, I used to run on a daily basis but then freshman year happened and it tapered off. This lead me to reboot my running in the summer after freshman year but I didn’t ease my way into it and ended up injuring my shin. This led to a few months of physical therapy but then I moved to study away and kind of gave up on exercise as I didn’t see the point, I didn’t feel like my leg was getting better.
I have since confronted myself and told myself to stop making excuses just because I am in a different city. I think it is something that happens too often, not just for me but others too. We move to another country and try and ignore our old problems hoping they will go away but moving to a new city doesn’t change the fact that I need to work to improve my leg. This has led me to continue with training exercises to slowly start a long recovery process.
All I have to do now is remember my new found resolve when I leave D.C. and move onto the next city.
D.C. is a commuter city. Millions of people leave the city everyday to go to their homes in the surrounding states from Maryland to Virginia. When I first started to make friends and talk with teachers and RA’s they had all lived in the surrounding states, none of them actually lived in DC. This wasn’t very comforting as I was trying to get to know a new city and didn’t get very much guidance from them. However once I started my internship that was no longer the case.
My boss at my internship took me under her wing from the first day I started working. On my first day she took me to go get a coffee and as we sat down we started a long discussion. At first we talked about what I wanted out of my experience there but soon she started to give me lots of tips about Washington D.C. From the places I should go eat to the best running paths. She told me about the zoo in DC that is free of charge and is quite big so perfect for a long weekend run. She let me know about events that were occurring in DC that I might like to attend as well as guiding me through some of the US political system.
Although she is originally not from DC she has been living in central DC for a few years now so has really become a native. She has taken me out to several lunches near our office, which gives me comfort, as I know that I can look forward to having a casual conversation about how I am finding DC or ask for advice at least once a week with her.
Another great thing that she has done is given me the tips for the best hairdressers in DC. She gave me contacts to three different salons and let me know which colorists were the best ones at each location. As someone who has never colored her hair outside where I grew up I have always been overly cautious about where I go. Having someone I can go to for guidance on such small nuisances that might not be important to other people, but are important to me, made me feel that little bit more at ease somewhere foreign. A nice bonus was that the salon was located in Georgetown where the leaves were changing and the streets were littered with beautiful colors.
What made me feel more at home was having someone I could talk to about all the small details in my life that some of my close friends or mother would listen to. By this I don’t mean my feelings, I mean those small things that seem so insignificant that you usually don’t bring them up with people but that can really make a difference, such as finding a good hairdresser. It is all those small things that add up each week that have made me feel more comfortable as the weeks in DC have come and gone. As many people say, it’s the small things that count.
As much as I believe there is a lot more to Washington D.C. than politics the “spirit” of D.C. is the political atmosphere. During my semester I have experienced politics in several different ways from attending a house hearing to watching the midterm election results at the Associated Press.
The main place that really embodies several aspects of the political sphere and DC is the White House. As many people know the White House is the home of the President of the United States. It’s located only a few blocks away from NYUDC Campus so I find myself walking past it rather often. There are constantly people trying to get a picture of the White House, both from the front and back. The area surrounding it is always buzzing with tourists fascinated by the beautiful house wondering what is happening inside it.
There are some occasions when you can’t even go near the White House and this is usually because either the President is arriving/leaving or an official from another country is set to visit. When these moments happen it shows the importance of the White House as more than just the home of the President but also an internationally known house for the entertainment of foreign guests. Although I don’t actually know what happens inside the White House on these occasions in my mind I picture a beautiful dining room laid out with the best china and an extravagant meal while around the table everything from the latest current affairs to the latest movie releases are talked about.
The White House isn’t just for foreign officials. American citizens can also take a tour of the White House. It does requite a background check but that is expected when you’re visiting such a politically important place, but because of this it takes a while to plan your visit so unfortunately I have yet to visit. However a close friend of mine has gone and told me that she had a great experience seeing some of the rooms where history has taken place.
Although the White House is a political house, it is also a family house. Nothing highlights this more than the fact that you can go Trick-Or-Treating at there. I did not know that this was possible until Halloween itself when I was taking a walk and came across a line of young children and parents all dressed up outside the White House. You can go with your family and grab some White House candy.
The White House in many way doesn’t only represent Washington DC but also America. It’s importance in the city and on a national level really makes it one of the most important buildings in DC.
A book has never taught me more about a city than “Literary Washington D.C.”. Within the book Patrick Allen and Alan Cheuse combined short stories from a multiple of famous authors, poets and writers who have some insight into D.C. Each story not only taught about D.C. and its surroundings but also the authors themselves.
Walt Whitman has written great poems but the more inspiring of his works were ones that could not be put into words. Mr. Whitman felt what he called “a divine attraction” to helping others during the civil war. He spent time volunteering at hospitals and battlefields helping the injured. He assisted nurses in a battlefield in Virginia, which although isn’t quite Washington D.C. is very close by. In his short diary like entrances he describes his journey back to D.C. where he travelled with many injured in a steamer down the Potomac River. It reminded that D.C. has a rich history that doesn’t just involve politics. With the midterm elections last week it was particularly easy to get swept up into the politics that are so alive in D.C. Between reading Mr. Whitman extract and seeing Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial while on a walk I was reminded that D.C. has so much more to offer than I originally thought.
Rita Dove led an extremely accomplished life. She was a Presidential Scholar, a National Achievement Scholar and a Fulbright scholar. Ms. Dover was also the first African American and second women to ever receive the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry. Later in life she was a special consultant in poetry for the Library of Congress part of her many connections to Washington D.C. “Literary Washington D.C.” included a poem that appeared in “The Yellow House on the Corner.” I have always admired poems as people can interpret them in so many different ways. To me Ms. Dove poem is about a more negative aspect of D.C. The juxtaposition of items such as “Brontosaurus bones couched on Smithsonian velvet” and “A no man’s land, a capital askew, / a postcard framed by imported blossoms-“. These lines, especially the later made me realize that D.C. is home to many foreign items that it showcases as part of D.C. People come from across the country and even world to see the famous museums and Cherry blossoms in the spring yet many of these artifacts have come from abroad.
What I loved most about my read was that I got to discover so many different aspects of D.C. that I hadn’t considered before. It was a great gateway into D.C. and the life of writers who have passed through there. I got to see D.C. through many people’s lives.
 Allen, Patrick. Literary Washington, D.C. San Antonio: Trinity UP, 2012. Print.  Ibid
I love reading. You can ask any of my closest friends and they will attest to that. My old roommate used to come home and find me huddled up on the sofa my kindle on my lap engrossed in my novel. She would clear her throat and I would look up with a guilty look on my face, as I knew I should have been doing homework. On occasion I have even decided to stay at home and live in my fictional world rather than go out to a party. A majority of the books I read are fictional but I also have a passion for behavioral and economics books, such as ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely.
On my way home from work one day I wandered into a store which had books displayed in its storefront. I assumed that it was just an ordinary bookstore, however I was very mistaken. I had found a little piece of heaven in DC. Not only was it a bookstore but also a café and a grill. Food, books and reading, it had everything I would need for an entire day (or month).
Since first discovering KramerBooks & Afterwards Café & Grill I have spent several hours living inside the little world it creates. The front of the store is the book section. There are books on shelves, aisles and piled on top of each other, they are everywhere. I couldn’t find a particular order to the books but that was part of the beauty. I would move from table to table picking up a new book reading the blurb and flipping through the pages. Reading different snippets from the array of books meant I could learn a little bit about each one and then find the one or two that really drew me in. It reminded me of going on imdb.com and watching all the latest trailers to figure out what film I was going to watch next month. The best thing was that once I chose a book I could venture into the next part of the store.
The café & grill is nestled into the back end of the store. The ambience when I first went in on a Tuesday afternoon was one of bustle and joy. People were animatedly talking with one another yet in corners of the room I noticed others huddled away reading the books they picked out. On my first visit I joined the cohort of book readers. I ordered a mocha, a new found favorite drink of mine, and got sucked into my story. Good writers have this special way of really bringing me into a whole new world, seeing things from characters perspectives and making me feel like a character myself. That’s one of the reasons I love reading. The ability to escape the mundane day-to-day life.
As much as I like to sit by myself and read, I also love spending time with my friends. On a Saturday evening I went back to KramerBooks and had dinner with a few of my friends. This enlightened me to another great aspect of the shop, live music! We got to eat a delicious dinner while being entertained, yet it was still quiet enough for us to hold our own conversation.
KramerBooks & Afterwards Café & Grill is truly a part of DC I never knew existed. I am extremely glad I found it and if any of you travel to DC I highly recommend you go!
Art is abundant in Washington DC. There are many galleries and museums to go to as well as monuments to admire. Yet the piece of art that has stuck with me the most wasn’t found in any of these places.
There is a path in DC I like to walk which takes you around a lake in DC. You walk past the Jefferson memorial, over a bridge where you can look out over Virginia, through a small part and past the statue of Martin Luther King. I try to go around this loop once a week because it is a good escape from downtown DC. I get to be surrounded by nature, which I have always found very calming. Everywhere I live I try to find my quickest root to a body of water because somehow I always feel reassured when I am near them.
On my path I never really take notice of my surroundings when I am walking through downtown DC as all I am concerned with is getting away from it. However a week or so ago on my walk back to my dorm I noticed a painting that was put on a lamppost. It was positioned just outside a governmental building, the treasury as far as I’m aware. I had walked past it countless times but never noticed the little painting. I stopped and took a closer look at it to notice that it was a painting of downtown Washington in 1801.
The painting was similar to the scenes I see on my “escape” from downtown to DC, a green pasture with few buildings. The painting made me pay attention to downtown DC and look at it from a different perspective. Now there are many buildings rather than just one but there are still many green squares dotted around DC. I noted that I past three different squares surrounded by trees with grass pastures. I had seen all of them before but had never taken the time to notice them and appreciate the break in scenery. Although I could see some aspects of DC that one could draw similarities to the DC of 1801 the painting also provided context for change that has occurred.
As Alaine Botton points out “perhaps the most effective means of enriching our sense of what to look for in a scene is by studying visual art.” By studying this simple painting of DC I was able to learn more about how the city had changed over the past two centuries. The progress made since then has been remarkable and I have often lost sight of this. We often take for granted our paved streets, well-designed buildings and built-up community. Many people talk about how we take our technology for granted but sometimes it’s also important to think about developments before that.
Although in general art is not my favorite past time, as I grow older I have begun to appreciate it more. Art has a way of teaching you things that can’t be articulated and making you see things with a different perspective.
Talking politics over brunch on a Sunday at the hot spot ‘Le Diplomate’ could be considered an ultimate Washingtonian activity. Going on a run past the White House, Lincoln Memorial and Reflection Pool and not batting an eyelid while seeing all these attractions could be considered a Washingtonian activity. However the cold hard truth is that I don’t really know what a true ‘Washingtonian’ activity is. I have lived here for almost two months and have yet to meet a native ‘Washingtonian’. I have met many commuters coming from Virginia or Maryland, as well as people from other states and countries, but no one who was born and raised in the city. I have often pondered this and got my answer one day during class. Washington D.C. is primarily a commuter city with the population falling dramatically during weekends when many people don’t work. This has made my quest for authenticity that much harder.
Is an authentic DC experience sitting in traffic everyday? (As a large share of the working population of DC does) Or is it luxury of being able to walk home and not sit in a car for hours everyday? A true ‘Washingtonian’ experience is not as easy to find as I had hoped.
Dean MacCannell writes ‘It might not be so easy to penetrate the true inner workings of other individuals or societies.’ I completely agree with his thoughts as I can hardly find a person to questions about DC, let alone discover their true inner workings.
It’s also hard to know who an authentic person of the city really is. DC is such a diverse place that an authentic experience could be going to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. In some ways being aware of all the differences in DC makes me feel like I’ve come across one of the ‘back doors’ of DC. Knowing which areas to go to for the various cuisines and being able to recommend places and give directions makes me feel like I am starting to become a true ‘Washingtonian’.
Although I do feel more acquainted with DC I am not sure I truly believe that I will ever be a native Washingtonian or a native of any one city. A great thing about travelling aboard and being able to experience all these different culture and places means that you expand who you are as a person and really branch out. I believe that once you’ve lived in more than one city you are never truly just a ‘Londoner’ or just a ‘Washingtonian’. You are able to be a little bit of every place you’ve been too. Of course where you grew up and can relate the most too will most likely always be the biggest part of your identity but you cannot discount all the other places that now become part of who you are. You’ll always have the experience of living where you are currently studying aboard and I think that expands you identity to include these places.
Washington D.C. is “A city of magnificent museums.” I think almost everyone knows this to be true. There are hundreds of different museums, art galleries and exhibitions in DC. I have been too few and wandered around but it wasn’t until reading ‘Washington 101: An Introduction the Nation’s Capital’ that I truly understood the amount of work that goes into them. The behind the scenes workers have to put a lot of thought behind their plans for exhibitions. A museums main mission is the same now as it was in the nineteenth: To entertain and educate. However it has become increasingly difficult for museums to do so: “They face competition with many forms of entertainment, museums cannot simply put things on display thoughtlessly.”
As museums face ever more competition they have started to add new tactics to their exhibitions. Engaging the visitor has primarily been one of them. One great example, which makes me really want to visit this museum before I leave, is the spy museum. Here they assign each visitor with a secret identity and they have to memorize their secret mission. It’s a great way to get people to go to the museum and learn but also make it a really fun outing. Recently I went to an art gallery that featured the Phillips Collection. While at the gallery my friend and I took a picture at an interactive photo booth that transformed your picture into a pointillism piece. The different activities museums have incorporated into their exhibitions really show the lengths they want to go to keep attracting visitors to inform and entertain them.
Another aspect of DC that I hadn’t given much thought until reading the book was how diverse Washington DC is. Until 2011 African –Americans accounted for over 50 percent of DCs population for the past five decades. When I used to think of DC a picture of white male politicians and lawyers came to mind, now I realize that picture is all wrong. Recently other ethnicities have also been flowing into DC including Asians and Latinos. This has made DC a “”Neapolitan”-flavored population”. The draw to DC is different for every person but a major draw for many has been activism, another aspect of DC that I had never given much thought too, although I should have. Many causes are debated here and this draws a diverse crowd adding to DC diverse population.
The diversity breeds many different cultures and this allows for a very lively population. One of the closet cultural areas near NYUDC is Chinatown, an area I explored for the first time this past weekend. It’s interesting in hindsight reading about how Chinatown came about and that the Chinese were the first majority population to live in DC. They Chinese population has become so large that it has even spread to suburb sin Maryland and Virginia, rural areas near DC.
Walking around the areas of DC I can now clearly see the different ethnicities and cultures. The history behind how they were formed has helped to increase my understanding of DC. I now feel I have a firmer grasp on key aspects of the city, which will definitely help me explore in a more knowledgeable manner.
Source: Green, Matthew N., Julie Yarwood, Laura Daughtery, and Maria Mazzenga.Washington 101: An Introduction to the Nation’s Capital. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.