Looking back on the semester, I can say I really had an exceptional experience. In addition to the regular program requirements, my 'extra-curricular' activities included chatting with governors, meeting journalists, publishing articles in Forbes, volunteering with the Children's Defense Fund, and attending hearings at SCOTUS and Hart about issues I really care about. While these are all incredible experiences there are a few things that I wish I would have known coming here and that I would have done differently.
I wish I would have...
- spent more time with the group - outside of class. Just as there is no other place and learning experience like CMC, there is no other place like DC or experience like the DC Program.
Coming on this program as a junior, I somewhat felt like my friend group at CMC had already been established and I didn't really need to branch out. Although I was able to make friends with the other interns in my office and I had a great time in DC, I wish I would have formed more lasting friendships with the people who will be going back to CMC with me. After all, when we do get back to campus these are the people who will really understand the impact of this experience because we shared similar struggles throughout the program.
- lived in DC. It seriously made a difference for me. Even if rent in Virginia and Maryland may be cheaper, you'll end up paying the difference in taxi rides, social life, and most of all your time.
For me, the biggest issue with living in Virginia was transportation. I lived in a nice Arlington neighborhood, accessible by bus, and I worked in the building above the Rosslyn Metro stop.While getting around from work wasn't an issue having to rely on the buses from home was a horror. I spent hours of my day commuting and waiting for buses - it was seriously awful. *In DC (and especially in VA and MD) the buses run late and/or early, sometimes they don't come, and waiting for buses in the winter is no fun.**There are some cool places around the Courthouse/Clarendon area if you want to try something new
Similarly, I wish I would have lived with other people on the program. Lesson learned: live with people who you can trust, who you will enjoy spending time with, and people who understand the program. This directly relates to the points listed above, but in short I wish I missed my C-mont community and having friends nearby. Also, I decided to live with random people I found on Craigslist (because it was cheap) and they ended up being psychos who made me move out during the middle of finals.
- taken advantage of DC events. No matter what your in to DC's got it. In fact there is so much, you may want to plan it out
Don't get to the end of the semester and realize there are lists of things you wanted to do. If you have to, commit time on the weekends to exploring the city and the neighboring areas. And don't just stick to the National Mall or the really big museums/ attractions. Some of my personal recommendations:
- Go to a concert: some of my favs are the 9:30 Club (bit of a range), Black Cat (Indie-ish), or the U Street Music Hall (founded by two prominent DJs) ...these happen to all be near U Street
- See a sporting event: Watch a hockey, baseball or basketball game *People from the NOVA/DC/MD area love the Capitals and the Nationals and they will take over the Metro before and after the games
- Attend a lecture at Busboys and Poets and Prose and Politics. Think-tank talks and hearings are great and all but its fun to mix it up occasionally. Busboys is a bar and restaurant attached to the a small bookstore. During the day its a great place to hang out with other college kids, drink coffee and do work; by night it's a busy restaurant /bar; on the weekends there are socially minded groups that meet in the lounge, and sometimes speakers are invited to host small events. Prose and Politics is a bit more like Montely meets the Ath. It is a huge bookstore and coffee shop that frequently hosts a range of speakers and sometimes musicians.
- Music/ Art/ Food/ Film festivals: There are a lot. I recommend the Sweetlife Festival (Music), DCIFF (Indie Films), and Filmfest DC (International Films)
- Volunteer: Some of my more interesting and inspiring moments this semester have stemmed from my volunteer experiences here. Although I wasn't able to make regular volunteer commitments I was able to spend a day volunteering at different organizations and festivals. Along with giving me an opportunity to help out the community, I was able to engage with organizations that interested me and network with new people.