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Gloria Oh
Gloria Oh

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Obama, Obama, Obama!

October 16, 2010 by

I am still in a state of shock.

Just yesterday, I met the President of the United States. Yes, I met the one and only, Barack Obama.

And let me tell you, he really is that good. You’ve heard him during his historic presidential campaign, you’ve heard him campaign this mid-term election season, and you’ve no doubt seen his face splattered across all platforms of media known to man. Heck, he’s even featured on the current issue of Rolling Stone. The man goes beyond the call and duty of President, in my opinion. He’s become the international cultural icon of my generation.

Of course I knew this all along.

I felt it during his heart-felt campaign as a freshman where I remember watching his moving speeches in Dupont 2nd Center, with other close friends, cheering him on. I knew as I stood in line to vote for him in the primaries and then in the November 2008 presidential election my sophomore year. I knew when I walked up and down the National Mall, freezing, on January 20, 2009 for his presidential inauguration. And then junior year, October 2009, while I was studying abroad in Oxford, where I heard he received the Nobel Prize for Peace (which, I’m not going to lie, many people questioned).

And just last week, I went to his residence, where I met Bo — the first family’s Portuguese water dog.

I feel like I’ve somehow completed this long saga by meeting him in real life.

I watch Obama address a question from prime time real estate seating. :)

If you’ve ever had an “Is this really happening?” moment in life, I feel you — that’s what was running through my mind as the stage manager counted down for Obama’s live appearance on BET’s set. Time stopped for a fleeting second, and I thought to myself in disbelief, “this can’t be real.” It was insane.

But it was real, and it did happen.  I just have to pinch myself every so often.

So some interesting things about the show: We were all given predetermined seats, and students had no say in whether they got to ask a question or not. That was up to the producers. But that didn’t stop us from all memorizing and rehearsing our questions while we waited.

For the record, this was my question:

Mr. President, a little over a month ago, you “turned the page” in Iraq and have since turned your attention to the war in Afghanistan, which has just entered its ninth year. This war has been compared to Vietnam. Do you believe there is a feasible end to this war — are you still on track for the July 2011 pull-out for troops? But more importantly, how are you planning to convey the message of your war strategy to young voters who are disillusioned with the war on terror?

I had another question on education reform, but I figured foreign policy wouldn’t have been covered as much.

In retrospect, I’m ok that I didn’t  ask a question. The British girl sitting next to me in the waiting room kindly pointed out that I was wearing a tie-dyed shirt and comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam. Yeah, Obama would’ve thought I was a peace hippie, which, I don’t mind, but that was totally not my intention at all. I just wanted to represent the school, and that happened to be the only shirt available. Thanks, Shannon Beydler!

Apparently, the shirt spoke for itself. It grabbed a lot of attention because everyone wore business casual. Oops, I guess I missed that memo. There was a sea of black and grey, and then this bright rainbow-colored shirt. I felt like a clown, but in a good way, if that’s even possible.

I had no idea about how good my seat would be. Truly. They told me B 1-3, and I thought oh, second row. Cool. Well, as it turned out B meant the middle section. I was in the first row, third seat. I was literally front row, and center. I’d have a great view! As it turns out, it also meant that the cameras would constantly pan out and show me on TV enough times for my dear mother, bless her, to take pictures of our TV screen with her cell phone.

The show was well choreographed. The producers had picked students so that there was a broad range of questions, many tied to personal stories. Unfortunately, none of us knew whether we were going to ask a question beforehand. We all had questions prepared, but it was ultimately up to the producers, who knew which students to pick based on our interviews. MTV gave a clear sign they weren’t going to go easy on the President — they opened the dialogue with a young Republican who expressed her disappointment with bipartisanship on health care reform. Watch the show here:

A Conversation with Obama

Interestingly enough, two students from William and Mary (in some capacity) asked questions. Kishor Nagula ’05  asked about race relations, and the other student, Ana Roa, who is currently not enrolled because her immigration status prevents her from receiving any financial aid, gave an emotional response about her greatest fear. She was afraid that she might not make it to see her grandmother before she passes away in her native Colombia because she can’t leave the US while her green card is being approved.

Watching her story made me really hope that someone could reach out and help her come back to W&M. She told me she is currently interning for Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7th District). Roa hopes to come back to W&M during Fall 2011 and graduate one year after her original class of 2011.

Personally meeting Obama was the best part of the entire show for me.  After the first commercial break, Obama shook hands with the students sitting on the floor seats. I was around the tenth person he reached. He was very approachable and smiled with his eyes. I will always remember that. He had a warm, firm handshake. Not only did he shake my hand, but he asked my name, and asked where I was from.

My hand is still numb from that handshake. I’m still processing the enormity of this event, and how much it means to me. Sure living and working in DC — experiencing the “real world,” so to speak, is one thing. But meeting the President of the United States?! I don’t know if anything else will top my time here. It’ll be tough. Very tough.

Definitely a story to tell the grandchildren.

Some of us W&M students who found each other before we went into the studio. The t-shirt brought us together.

Ana Roa shared her greatest fear with the President.

You know when you’re in DC when…

October 11, 2010 by

On fall break, or the lack thereof and my internship:

Fall Break is upon us. Well sort of. I still plan on heading into NBC come Monday. I figure it’s always good to show you care about the work you’re doing — even if it’s your break. The way I see it, my producer (Michelle Perry) and correspondent (Andrea Mitchell, NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent/Host of Andrea Mitchell Reports) don’t have fall break, and I’d rather help them out. It’s always exciting to be there!

Speaking of NBC — I haven’t been disclosing information about what goes on behind the scenes for some very good reasons. I signed a really long confidentiality agreement the first day I got there, agreeing that I wouldn’t blog or disclose any of the information I’m working on or have been observing. Everything is “off the record” in their speak. And it makes sense. NBC is competing with other network channels and much of the ongoing research is sensitive information. The agreement itself was around, I kid you not, oh, 20 pages or so — and that’s me being modest, it might have been more.

What I will tell you, very broadly of course, is that working at a network has its perks. Interning for MSNBC (the cable outlet of NBC), also known as “the place for politics,” offers a unique perspective on how news is created, firsthand. I also get the amazing opportunity to meet high profile figures who have made important contributions to our country. I try not to be too awestruck, but there are times when I think, “Wow, I read about this person in my government textbook.” Alright, I’ll be honest — it gets me every time. But I just keep my cool and stay professional.

On the culture shock of DC vs. Williamsburg:

In the realm of study abroad programs, I see W&M in DC as the the perfect solution to anyone who wants a breather from Colonial Williamsburg but who doesn’t want to make the huge commitment of going overseas for a semester. It’s a domestic study abroad, if you will. You can even visit campus from time to time, which is a lot more difficult to do when you’re in a foreign country. But here’s what no one ever told me — the culture shock still applies.

On the weekend of my sister’s birthday, I went down with a couple of other fellow program students and we all experienced something similar. We became anxious, claustrophobic, and tense. “Where’s the nearest Metro station?!” One of my friends joked. But in all seriousness, it took me a good three to five hours to adjust to the pace of life back in CW. As we drove 25 mph, down Jamestown Road, the three of us peered outside our windows to see how things had been faring without us. It was exciting to see the freshmen roaming about on campus. It was just as amusing to see so many familiar faces. While DC may not be a huge city, it is metropolitan and you can easily get lost in the sea of unfamiliar faces.

While we’re on the topic of DC, let’s quickly touch upon the Metro rail system, or the Metro. It’s the subway system in DC and runs on five colored lines: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Orange. It’s known for being one of the cleanest subway systems in the nation due to the strict no eating law, but it isn’t without its flaws.

First of all, the recent metro fare hikes (for maintenance issues) on top of the peak hour rates (times when people go to work) have been making my transit to work a whopping $7 per day. When you factor in class sessions and site visits, transportation costs easily becomes my biggest money eater. Secondly, there is a lot of maintenance on weekends which can add up to 30 minutes of your travel time. Many of the escalators are being worked on (this was actually the subject of a few local news stories this past summer).  And, the greatest irony of all: While reading the lighted advertisement about why rats aren’t a problem in DC’s underground transit system, I saw a tiny mouse squeaking it’s way to a crack. It might not have been a rat, but it most definitely was a rodent. And the only reason I didn’t squeal myself was because the mouse was so tiny — like the ones you see being fed to the snakes at pet stores. Now, the rats I’ve seen on DC’s streets are a whole different story. They are HUGE. Like squirrels almost. DC’s squirrels. Yep. But the thought of them is repulsive, so I’ll move on.

Family weekend:

I was a little sad that my last family weekend wasn’t back on campus. But only for a few minutes. The DC family weekend was pretty busy if you chose to participate in all of it. My mom signed us up for everything, so we ended up having a busy weekend. The DC family weekend included a joint class/parent session at the Newseum and an evening reception on Friday.  Brunch at Clyde’s and an afternoon Shakespeare play, “All’s Well That Ends Well” on Saturday.  Finally an alumni led tour guide of the National Art Gallery, followed by lunch in their cafe on Sunday. It wasn’t exactly a restful weekend, but it was nice to experience all of the events with your family. It gave them a taste of the city life — DC Lite.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

September 22, 2010 by

Myers Briggs Type Indicator, more casually known as Myers Briggs.

Have you taken this test? It’s a psychometric questionnaire that takes around 15 minutes (give or take) to determine your personality in four letters. I’m not sure how I feel about this–anyway, this was our class today.

Wendy Webb-Robers, Associate Director in the Career Center, trekked on up from the ‘burg to explain our group’s personality dynamic. Apparently the majority of us are “feelers” — not a big surprise, considering the theme of our semester. In fact, out of the 16 of us, only 2 were “thinkers.” We were much more “skewed” in the feeling and perceiving departments, Webb-Robers told us.

To break it down, these are the dichotomies:

Extraversion/Introversion

Sensing/iNtuition

Thinking/Feeling

Judging/Perceiving

Wendy had our group go through some team exercises, splitting us up based on our personality type (this was before she revealed to us what we were). They were pretty revealing about how we thought through things and made decisions — it also made for many LOL moments.

For the first activity, we were given a case where we had to cruelly choose which 3 little league baseball players to cut out from an all-expenses-paid Disney World trip. The thinkers logically suggested holding try-outs to determine who would make the trip. The feelers, on the other hand, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, came up with the idea of hosting a bake sale so that every 8-year-old could come along. Pretty amusing.

Next, Wendy passed out a bunch of M&M packets and told the J’s (people who are organized, planned and approach life with a plan) and P’s (people who tend to be flexible and have a spontaneous approach to life and keep options open) to separate into groups again and construct a house, using these M&M’s.

As a P, my group made a tee-pee out of three of the bags and had symbolic landscaping figures where a cluster of blue was the pool, scattered green M&M’s were the grass, and a scattered yellow, the sun. We were done in no time at all. We couldn’t see what was going on with the J’s, but it took them a lot longer. When we showed each other what we built, the P’s had an abstract piece of art while the J’s had an elaborate mosaic, completely color-coded. They had opened up all the bags and used most of the chocolate. Again, laughs.

The point of this Myers Briggs session was to understand that the office space has different types of people and to be aware how to interact with them and/or utilize their attributes to foster a more productive work environment.

And what was I? According to the assessment, I was classified as an INFP (Introverted Feeling with Extraverted Intuition).

“INFPs are usually fascinated by opportunities to explore the complexities of human personality — their own and others’. They tend to work in bursts of energy and are capable of great concentration and output when fully engaged in a project. They are generally faithful in fulfilling obligations related to people, work, or ideas to which they are committed, but they can have difficulty performing routine work that has little meaning for them.”

How others view my fellow INFP’s:

  • Sensitive, introspective, and complex
  • Original and individual
  • Sometimes difficult to understand

Sounds good to me. Right? Well, the only issue I have is that much of my personality depends on the context of my situation. Many of us had mini-identity crises on whether we truly were what our test said we were. Wendy assured us that our label was not restrictive. That many of us actually adapt to other categories throughout our lives. Whew.

Curious to know what 4-letters identity you? Check out the career center and ask to take the test.

Class site visits

September 21, 2010 by

In addition to our biweekly classes that meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays after our internship, otherwise known as our “9 to 5′s,” we also have site visits on Friday. “Site visit” is really just a glorified way of saying field trip — at least that’s how I see it, and it’s fine by me — anything that keeps me feeling young is cool.

So far we’ve visited the Gelman Library at George Washington University, Library of Congress and its Packard campus for Audio Visual Conservation, C-SPAN, National Archives, and Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. This coming Friday, which is Family Weekend, we’ll be having our site visit at the Newseum. During these site visits, we go on a tour of the institution with an employee while engaging in active discussion. From these talks, we learn a lot of valuable information that not only concerns the organization at hand but also issues that impact them.

Because we’re studying new media and culture, there has been a steady stream of keywords that continue to pop up during our visits and our class readings. We’ve come across issues such as digitization, intellectual property, copyright and fair use, the switch to HD, upgrades in technology, the integration of social media, and the use of new media to provide more access to consumers. Sometimes we pack the day with two site visits which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but surprisingly drains most of our energy!

We have been extremely fortunate enough to spend time with professionals that are passionate about what they do. Here are the names of the people we’ve spoken to–through the art of networking, we’ve  come across some alums. Speaking of alumni, we also had our Annual W&M Reception alumni event at the Embassy of Australia just last week for the greater metropolitan/Northern Virginia area. It was pretty sweet listening to President Reveley discuss why the griffin wears no pants (it’s not gender specific). This was of course during candid conversation. Reveley, more importantly, addressed how W&M is going through tough financial times, with 88% of our funding coming from private sources. He talked about how our College can no longer depend on the state of Virginia to help us out, etc.

Back to the subject at hand. Here were the professionals we spoke to and some of their key points they made:

Gelman Library, GW:

  • Ann Brown, Reference and Instruction Librarian: Brown discussed GW’s project on digitizing media (VHS, DVD) and making them accessible on Blackboard for students. She said their streaming services was a major hit at GW, with the library receiving 12,000 hits in one semester versus 1,500 circulation items over the course of a year. Some of the challenges their staff faced while streaming media included intellectual property rights, breaking encryption, and experiencing copyright issues.

Library of Congress:

  • Abby Yochelson, Reference Specialist: Yochelson informed us that the LOC has recently amassed all of Twitter’s tweets for archiving purposes so that future generations can look back at what we are tweeting today! Worth it? Only time will tell. Although, speaking from my internship experience, I know that the world of television and DC politicians love Twitter. It’s the new bathroom wall, Pete Williams, NBC Chief Justice Correspondent told us interns over lunch today.
  • Patrick Loughney, Director of the Packard Campus: Patrick engaged us in an active discussion on whether film is considered art. Is the medium itself art? Or is it only what is recorded on to the medium that can be so? What items are preserved and what constitutes the canon in media archiving? He also showed us sub-zero chambers where historic media pieces were stored, including Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother.”

C-SPAN:

  • Brian Lamb, Founder and CEO of C-SPAN: Lamb discussed how C-SPAN maintains a lot of independence because it is not for profit. Not fueled by money, the public service channel is free to work on projects they think are relevant. Lamb talked about the power of change and choice that has come with new media, stating that during his youth, there were only 3 channels — Now viewers have the choice to watch what they want. It has changed the relationship and perception viewers have of news media.
  • Mark Farkas ’83, Executive Producer of historic programming documentaries covering the White House, Capitol,  and Supreme Court: Farkas stated that the news paradigm has changed much since the internet, and that with these new media changes, producers must react accordingly. C-SPAN manages change by leveraging the multi-platform of tv, radio, web to reach out to viewers in more ways.

The National Archives:

  • John Powers ’89, Civil Work Group II Leader- Classification Management of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO): Powers described that an archivist works with agencies to determine which records are permanent or temporary. They are responsible for archival processing and reviewing records for restriction. He stated that the National Archives is first and foremost an institution that protects the rights of citizens by archiving documents of national interest. There are currently 10 billion pages of paperwork that are classified to be permanent records of the government. Yet this only makes up 3 to 5% of the archive collections!

Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting:

  • Ann Peters, Director of Development and Outreach
  • Summer Marion ’08, Special Projects Coordinator
  • Peters and Marion, together, approached topics on journalistic ethics and standards. They explained that their news organization operates differently from other news outlets because it funds international projects that are under covered in main stream media. Some of their news projects include the water crisis and Lord’s Resistance Army.  Marion stated that Pulitzer Center strives to transform journalism from information to engagement. She mentioned that the reality of main street news was that “covering Britney is cheaper.”  In regards to conforming to main stream media, Peters commented that “regardless of how the media landscape changes, we have to focus on what our ethics and standards are.”

W&M in Washington: First week

September 5, 2010 by

Thursday September 2, 2010

It’s been exactly eleven days since the Fall 2010 class of “New Media and Culture in the Nation’s Capital” has besieged the nation, and almost all sixteen of us have started our internships. With the exception of our White House and C-Span interns (it appears that the government likes to take things at a slower pace), the rest of us have nervously waited for THE day– our first day of our internship that is. And now funnily enough, our first week is over. How time flies.  Most of us might have feared about our first day turning into D-day, but after comparing notes, it turns out that most of us had a successful first week. I’m sure that Adam Anthony, the Director for the W&M Washington Office, had something to do with this. His first brown bag seminar prepped us on interacting with professionals in the ‘real world.’ He also equipped us with handbooks: The Intern Files: How to get, keep, and make the most of your internship by Jamie Fedorko.  It’s a quick but highly entertaining read that presents itself as a manual of sorts. It also may or may not use reverse psychology to create successful interns.

Here is a list of the internship sites we’re working at, and yes, I’ve created links for all of them for you to click on if you’re interested in the organization:

American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
Arena Stage
C-Span
Downtown DC Business Improvement District
Evolving Communications
Environmental Film Festival
National Endowment for the Arts
NBC Washington Bureau (Yay!)
Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting
The Spanish Embassy Warning: It’s all in Spanish, but I suppose that’s to be expected.
The Washingtonian
The White House (So excited for Rachel to meet Obama!)

If you want, you can put a name to these Washington scholars and their internships.

Before all of the crazy madness of internships came upon us, our class was treated to a three-day orientation extravaganza. It was freshman year all over again, only better. To welcome us into the city, we bowled, ate, ate some more, and then some (the W&M DC office really knows how to feed you–I won’t go too much into the Ping Pong Dim Sum restauraunt we went to in Chinatown–only that there came a point when all of us students succumbed to food coma). Our class also went on a day long DC scavenger hunt, which would’ve fulfilled all expectations of a reality TV show, in my personal opinion. Amazing Race, anyone? While the scavenger hunt literally drained us of energy, Roxane and Katie—the program director and manager of the DC program managed to include two more activities, physical activities no less—kickboxing and kayaking on the Potomac. I’m sure that once schoolwork and internships become intense, I’ll think fondly back to those brief stress-free days—but for now, I’m much too excited about my internship at NBC.

WUSA Channel 9

September 5, 2010 by

This past summer I interned at the local CBS affiliate, WUSA 9 News Now in DC. Prior to starting this internship, I had an interest in working at a local news station in order to gain exposure to the world of broadcast journalism—a field of media I was curious about.

Although I was officially the assignment desk intern, I was unofficially allowed to work with pretty much everyone in the newsroom. This included the assignment desk editors, producers, reporters, editors, writers, and photojournalists. On any daily given basis, I could be seen flitting about different parts of the newsroom, always learning.

The assignment desk was not without its perks. Situated above the row of producers, assignment desk editors are constantly scanning, or “ripping” the wires and radio for news. You could argue that it is the generator and heart beat of news. It’s where news begins. Communication is key here. While some may point out that assignment desk editors merely transfer phone calls to the “right people,” a true journalist, or producer for that matter, will know just how invaluable a good assignment desk editor is.

A great assignment desk editor will not only be good at talking on the phone but will know how to reach out to people to get them to talk what the news station wants to hear. In other words, they have personalities and can get the right tips for great news leads. They also seem to know everyone, and by everyone I do mean EVERYONE. Because assignment desk editors field phone calls from left to right, they know many contacts and are the starting point for many reporters looking to start a story. They speak with the public, reporters, unit crew, media, police and fire departments, and other PIO’s.

How does WUSA 9 communicate? Well, that depends on the time of day. You can usually tell when shows are about to air in correlation to the noise levels in the newsroom.  The closer it is to deadlines, the more organized chaos you’ll see, an oxymoron if there ever was one–but it seems to work for this field. Producers frantically call in their reporters to make sure all their blocks are ready to go. Reporters send in last minute tape, SOT’s and whips. Executive producers can be seen on their blackberries, getting information from other sources and the assignment desk periodically shouts out new information. It can get pretty tense at times. But there are also the standard methods as well: phone transfers, toplining (which is a term used for short messages sent through Avid iNews), meetings with the manager and Executive Producers, and constant email updates. I think one of the producers told me he goes through about 200-300 emails a day! The work dynamic is definitely interesting.

Communication is the name of the game here, and there are many ways to go about it. My personal favorite? When a reporter is out live somewhere, and the microwave or control room has a live feed on them. The reporter usually has an earpiece hooked in, and it’s really amusing to see the last couple of minutes before they’re on air. Before all the graphics go up on the TV screen to make news look like, well, news, all you see is the reporter and the raw footage around him or her. I think you know when you’re in the TV industry when you see national CBS correspondents muttering under their breath, practicing their teases and tags, or when you see unexpected things happen—like the time strong winds from a beach blew a sound/lighting screen and almost hit a reporter during his opening lead! Now that’s entertainment for you! But in all seriousness, it is quite exciting to observe the constant interaction between reporters/producers out in the field and the relaying of information back to the newsroom. Without effective communications, there would be no news, which in turn would mean a less informed viewership.

Some important lessons I learned about journalism this summer? I’m not going to get into the whole bandwagon debate on how journalism is changing because that would take quite some time to elaborate upon. Not to mention that every reporter, producer, and editor I talked with had differing opinions on how the industry was in flux. However, I will tell you that in order to survive or “make it” in this field, you must be extremely aggressive and self-motivated to find work for yourself. No one waits for you because everyone is so preoccupied with their own deadlines and projects. So it’s important to take strong initiative and be vocal about expressing your ideas. Because of the rise of digital media, you must be willing to learn and know everything despite your specialization. That being said, the only reporters that seem to be hired these days know how to shoot, edit, and write their stories. There are different titles for them, but WUSA-9 called them MMJ’s, or multimedia journalists. Producers, too, need to know how to research and edit. Journalists and those in the news industry must always have an insatiable curiosity and willingness to find and break news—added points for doing it creatively. It’s also tremendously important to be current. If you’re not willing to adjust to changes, whether it is technological or logistical, then this definitely is not the field for you!

In retrospect, I appreciate the broad scope of knowledge I received while at WUSA 9 because it allowed me to understand how news works as an organization. Going in, I had my own preconceived notions about how TV worked, and this internship allowed me to see the real deal. Another great bonus? I know that everything I learned at channel 9 will help me during my fall semester internship at the NBC Washington Bureau.

A Capitol Fourth!

July 5, 2010 by

Happy 234th birthday, U.S.A.!

I can’t possibly think of a better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than watching the fireworks go off behind the Washington Monument with Reba McEntire belting out “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This year’s 30th Capitol Fourth Independence Day Celebration was phenomenal, at least for me, because it was my first!

(Da capo) Reba’s distinctive voice drifted into the air while the fireworks behind her bedazzled the sky, giving the twinkling stars a run for their money. A sea of shining faces lifted to the sky in awe while thousands of American flags in all shapes and sizes merrily fluttered across the National Mall. Fireworks burst in the air with so much energy and life that the resounding boom of each passing sequence lingered on before being overtaken by another round of shimmering light.

As the fireworks extravaganza continued, the concert finale began with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” featuring the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery. The big screens also captured the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps as well as the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard and the State and Territorial Flags of the Military District of Washington. (Al fine)

The entire evening was orchestrated beautifully, and more than a few famous faces including Gladys Knight, Darius Rucker, David Archuleta, John Schneider, classical pianist Lang Lang and host, Jimmy Smits, made the night even more spectacular and worthwhile (you’ll see what I mean by this).

A Capitol Fourth was truly one of the most patriotic moments of my life, but it also came with a cost! The festivities began early that morning when my party prepared our picnic and our trek over to Constitution Avenue…

Earlier on in the day, oh around 10 am, the weather could not have been more ideal. There was a light breeze in the air-some may even have described it as balmy. Everyone was in a good mood. This lasted all of one hour before the sun decided to play its tricks on us. The temperature soon soared well above the 90s and by the time we sat down for the parade and the reading of the Declaration of Independence, I thought I was either going to melt into a pool of sweat or broil in the sizzling heat, take your pick. Thank God for sunscreen and water, although even my Nalgene suffered from the heat and turned my water into hot soup. Delightful.

The parade was great but it wasn’t GREAT if you know what I mean. It was essentially a compilation of high school marching bands and locals trying to pep the crowd’s spirits, not all too successfully. We left a little early to make our way to Capitol Hill where the real action would take place later that night.

Entry gates to a Capitol Fourth were set to open at 3 pm, but by the time we got there at half past noon, a crowd had already amassed around the two, rather small, entrance points. So we passed time with a picnic under a tree. Thank God for shade. I was in charge of lunch and made cucumber salad and cold pesto pasta while one of my roomies made her special dip with an assortment of veggies-the sugar snap peas from Eastern Market’s farmer’s market were a hit!

Food was definitely refreshing, but it only cut about 20 minutes from our long wait. I personally passed time by reading my find at Capitol Hill’s bookstore at Eastern Market (you should definitely check this place out, it’s so charming!). It was Dan Brown’s latest thriller, The Lost Symbol, which all too appropriately is based in D.C.! I would randomly read bits of trivia to my friends about DC that I found amusing. It’s kind of pathetic, but I found that I picked up more interesting facts about DC reading this book than what I had researched on my own. I told my friends that the Washington Monument, at 555 feet tall, was the world’s largest obelisk. Since we were sitting right in front of the Capitol, I shared with them that the 19.5 feet Statue of Freedom crowning the dome of the neoclassical building was ironically erected by slaves. The novel was definitely a fast read because of the context of my surroundings!

When 3 pm rolled on by and the police moved the barricades, it was as if floodgates had just opened. So many people ran in to find good seats for the concert and fireworks. We split up our party and met inside. Because we had waited in line for some time, we managed to snag nice views of the monument and stage on top of the Hill.

Of course, as with everything else, this was just the beginning of a long wait. We camped out in the sweltering heat from 3 pm until 8 pm. We passed time by reading, taking naps, working on our tans (or sunburns), munching on taboulet and corn on the cob, and playing card games. It was quite the experience!

To conclude with the night’s events, I’m going to use a musical term: da capo (D.C.), which in Italian essentially means go back to the beginning of D.C. until you see al fine.

Happy Fourth everyone!!

Laughter Yoga

June 21, 2010 by

Although DC may be the hub of our nation’s government affairs (case-in-point, one of my roommates saw Obama’s motorcade yesterday), there’s a quirkier side to it as well! One of my friends in DC recently signed up for a session of Laughter Yoga and asked anyone if they’d like to join her. Well, there’s four of us in my dorm-styled apartment and our goal has been to literally jam-pack our entire summer with interesting activities. Plus, this session was free! So of course one of us responded with a quick yes and told her we’d meet up at the Sri Sri Center for Peace and Meditation at Columbia Heights that evening.

Because all of us are money-pinching college students, we decided to walk there instead of taking the metro. Looking at the address we figured it wasn’t too far from Dupont Circle. Well, it was a good thing we left an hour before the class started because the walk became a lot longer than we anticipated! By this time in the evening, though, the weather had considerably cooled down, and it was actually quite nice seeing everything above ground as opposed to taking the metro.  I think that’s what made the walk memorable. I’m a personal believer in stumbling across things when exploring new cities. It was the way I explored Florence, and I remember being so excited about everywhere I went. I wasn’t as focused as getting to my final destination as I was observing everything around me. Same situation with this walk. While we trekked over to Sri Sri, my roommates and I began planning where to go next. We noticed that certain streets were great for restaurants, others for pubs and clubs, and other places to put on our to-do list. We even bumped into several William and Mary students, which has happened quite a bit since I’ve come to DC. I find that walking is the best way to explore a new city that you’re still unfamiliar with. If you have time and you’re in no hurry, always walk over taking the metro. Saves you money, gives you exercise, and provides you with new sights-in business speak, we’d call this a “win-win” situation.

45 minutes later, we’re finally at the Sri Sri Center. It’s a spacious, echo-y house that used to be an embassy. When we walk inside, it seems like there’s only going to be four of us. At this point, I have no idea what to expect. One of us girls had done some research on it and reported that the entire session would be us laughing at each other. It sounded really bizarre, but I decided to go with the flow. Anyway, there was no backing out now after I had invested nearly an hour walking over. All of us started giggling nervously hoping that we hadn’t gotten ourselves into something regretful. When we started laughing at the sheer hilarity and somewhat randomness of this situation, our instructor, Carla Riechman, let out the most horrific and absolutely terrifying laugh. She literally reincarnated Disney’s Ursula laugh and boy did that get all us of girls going. We couldn’t stop laughing because she laughed with no inhibitions! She held nothing back. Have you ever realized that even though laughing is supposed to be an unconscious act, there’s still a socially acceptable way to laugh? Well, Carla had no qualms about pleasing anyone. So here we were, three college students and one recent alum laughing hysterically at our instructor who’s laughing because we’re laughing, and we’re still standing in the foyer! Right then, I knew this was going to be an interesting night.

We start our session and our yoga instructor tells us that laughter is crucial for our health. Not only our emotional health, but our physical health as well. She gave us information on how research and studies show that laughing daily relieves stress and tension and may even ward off colds! While we took out our mats and stretched, she sat at the head of the room peacefully. Our first exercise was to close our eyes and think of a happy thought. It was one of those progressive activities that takes your happiness within yourself and expands it out. So over a period of time she’d essentially say, “Take your happiness and spread it across DC, spread it across the nation, across the planet, to the sun, now bring it back.” It was surprisingly calming to focus on beads of happiness within yourself and spread them to every ounce of your body. When I opened my eyes, I already felt at peace.

The next set of activities was really the heart of this session. We did basic stretches, but we laughed to the rhythm of our stretches. Any time our laughter felt too forced, Carla told us to recite “HEHE-HAHA-HOHO” as loudly as we could. I’m sure we all looked stupid laughing our heart out, but there was something strangely liberating about the whole experience. I mostly laughed in reaction to others. I think most of us did, and then it became a chain reaction. There was another woman who came into the room a little later, and she was such a natural! She laughed as if there was no tomorrow, and her laughter encouraged me to really let go and not think too much about creating a laughter as opposed to letting it out. By the time that exercise ended, my sides were hurting and most of my eyeliner had rubbed off from tears of laughter. I’m sure I looked a mess, but the entire situation was so funny I didn’t really care. I mean, who laughs just for the sake of laughing? All of my friends and I would periodically turn to each other and all of our eyes read the same thing: “I can’t believe I’m doing this, but it’s so funny that I’m actually enjoying it!”

Our final exercise consisted of us laying down and meditating, although for most of us, this translated into falling asleep. I fell into a deep sleep and felt like I had slept for ages when Carla woke us up. When I looked beside me, one of my roommates kept sleeping, she was so relaxed! She almost looked hypnotized, which was pretty funny. Once everyone was up, we talked about our experiences with this form of yoga. We were all experiencing a form of euphoria, and it was reflected in our inability to stop smiling. In fact, I was in such a good mood that I didn’t mind our long walk back!

BUAD 492: Global Business Strategy

June 11, 2010 by

Class notes, a rather brief summary:

1.       “Where’s the money?” -> China!

2.      “In the world of global business strategy, the answer is always: It depends!”

3.      “How do you know what the question is?”  -> Know everything.

So I mentioned in my bio that I’m participating in W&M’s DC Summer 2010 Business Institutes. What does this mean? Well, over the course of 12 weeks or so, this essentially breaks down into 2 weeks of a compressed, intensive course and a 10- week long internship.

The class:

My two weeks as a Global Business Strategy student flew by so quickly, it makes me dizzy just thinking back upon it. It was perhaps one of the most exhilarating learning experiences of my academic career and also very unique in the sense that most of our learning took place outside the classroom.

As the course title implies, there was an emphasis on all things global and business-oriented. Our class syllabus fulfilled these two aspects of the course by having us embark upon daily excursions to many corporate and government organizations. In the time span of two business weeks we met with corporate leaders, managers, and founders and engaged in active dialogue concerning a variety of issues ranging from trade relations, globalization and cultural awareness, the importance of innovation and R&D investment, competition, climate change, and corporate social responsibility. Because our course readings and lectures were integrated with our site visits, we students always had something to say during Q&A. Although it took a couple of site visits to get us out of our shells, by the time our class was coming to an end, we often ran out of time because we kept asking questions!

Some organizations we spoke with:

  • Sirius XM Satellite Radio
  • Embassies: Australia, Qatar, Germany, UK, Egypt
  • US-China Business Council
  • Deloitte
  • Organization for International Investment
  • Department of Commerce: US-India Business Council, Japan, China, Korea
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Intel
  • European-American Business Council
  • UPS International Public Affairs
  • The Business Council for Global Development

After our sessions, we’d regroup and review the different business strategies each organization applied to move their agenda forward.

Overall, I came out of this course feeling extremely informed about the relations between global business organizations and public policy and the importance of being culturally aware when working with other countries. Even though our class walked and metro’d throughout DC, in some ways I feel like I’ve made a whirlwind trip around the world!

As a hands-on learner, I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to sit in a classroom for eight hours, two weeks in a row. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there was still a semester’s worth of reading crammed into our schedule, but the bulk of classroom discussion centered around interactive learning.

In a nutshell: 12 interactive students + 1 great professor + relevant site visits concerning global business relations + DC’s humidity = priceless class experience

The internship:

I am currently interning with WUSA Channel 9 as an Assignment Desk Intern. Although I’m technically stationed to the assignment desk, I’ve been given some leeway on what my duties entail. Some of my responsibilities include answering phones for breaking news, reporters, and the general public; assisting the assignment editor and manager schedule interviews; retrieving archive videos; assisting producers with their stories; going out into the field with the unit crew, holding cables, etc.

I’ll continue to keep you updated on what’s going on with that and the interesting people and situations I happen to encounter!!