Coming to DC, I dove into a new world, eager for a taste of reality. In many ways, the Washington program was my first real departure from the security of the Claremont bubble, so the past few months have been eye-opening to say the least. Students who have done the program will often tell you that the hardest part of the program is being forced to live on your own, and there is a lot of truth to that. Even though juggling a full-time internship with classwork can get to be stressful, life in a city presents a completely new set of obstacles and difficulties.
A lot of this is an issue of time-management. Between the 9 hours spent at work each day, and the two days of class, it’s not easy to balance chores, homework, and fun. The perks of living on campus at CMC made me forget how time-consuming common chores like cooking and cleaning can be. Going to the gym is a luxury for the days I have an especially large amount of free time. This is a radical departure from the comforts of CMC, but it’s forced me to prioritize my obligations. Without the flexible schedules, dining halls, and the many other things I love about our campus, I faced a rude awakening – quite literally – as sleep fell even lower in my list of priorities than it already was. It’s all been part of a larger, much-needed learning experience, though.
Something I’ve realized has been central making DC more manageable for me was finding a good housing situation. Finding good roommates should be the priority, but the actual living space is much more important than I would have thought. I’ve been lucky enough to have some fantastic roommates, (pictures below) and having a great apartment (more pictures) made adjusting to the city much easier. Program alumni will tell you that will inevitably become close with people on the program, something I think is particularly true of my roommates. Living with girls hasn’t been a problem-free experiment, but as is always the case in life, being surrounded by good friends makes for more enjoyable experiences.
Seeing the housing for other programs and hearing housing horror stories makes me realize how rare it is to stumble upon as ideal of a living situation as my roommates and I were able to find. Getting a pre-furnished apartment is crucial for anyone living in DC for less than a semester. Obviously it’s extremely convenient to not have to worry about getting the big items (chairs, couches, tables, etc.), but even things like silverware, plates, and towels being included can make a huge difference. Our location has also been ideal. Feeling safe is a priority in a city like DC. This is something that has actually forced people to change apartments while they are here, so it should be taken into consideration. Besides feeling safe, my favorite thing about our Chinatown location is its proximity to the Metro, a Safeway, a 5 Guys and a Chipotle. These things are all crucial, particularly the last two. I’m not only able to walk to work every day, but my proximity to the program’s office has been extremely convenient. Our amazing view is just another positive aspect of a great apartment. DC is an amazing city, but it’s important to take a lot of different factors into consideration when considering where to live.
The opportunities I’ve had to better myself have convinced me that the Washington Program is the best decision I could have made for my semester “abroad.” While many other programs place you with a host family or in a dorm, the Washington Program combines the demands of a 40 hour workweek with the novelty of having a place of your own. It could be argued that summer internships provide similar experiences, but the group dynamic of the program and the uniqueness of DC make it a rare, invaluable and extremely enjoyable experience. With just under half a semester left, I sincerely hope I continue to learn as much as I already have.