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W&M in Washington

Last Days of the William & Mary Washington Winter Program

January 13, 2014 by

I don’t know how it was possible, but the last two days of the William & Mary Winter Washington Program were even busier than the first five.

Wednesday was our “Capitol Hill Day,” and like anyone who has a job on the Hill we did not stop all day. We started at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Room where we met Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. We talked to him about everything from foreign policy to how his Catholic faith affects his decision making. The freshman Senator was incredibly personable and even spent an extra 15 minutes answering our questions.

Right after our meeting with Senator Kaine we ran to the House side to meet my congressman, Frank Wolf. We could immediately tell that Congressman Wolf’s persona was different than Senator Kaine’s when he proceeded to lecture us on why he thinks that the Obama administration has failed to protect human rights around the world. It was interesting to see the stark differences in the two fairly moderate elected officials. Frank Wolf, who has held that seat in congress since before my birth, just recently announced his retirement which may explain why he was far more aggressive about expressing his views than the recently elected Senator.

The next session was a Capitol Hill staffer panel with William & Mary alumni Logan Ferree ’07, Sarah Elkins ’06, Rob Bradley ’10 and Kelly Hastings ’03. They proceeded to be very honest about the difficult paths they took to get their jobs on the Hill. After the panel we were given a tour of the Capitol Building where we were lucky enough to randomly meet an alumnus of the class of 1972 who gives tours of the Capitol. When he found out we were William & Mary students he challenged our foreign language skills by proceeding to speak in French, Turkish, Portuguese, Mandarin and many others. He told us he spoke 59 languages and that he was “the ultimate TWAMP.” We also got the opportunity to sit in the House Gallery which was especially exciting because they were voting on extending unemployment benefits that day.

Isabella Liou, Allie Rosenbluth, President Taylor Reveley, Diana Winter at the 7th Annual William & Mary Capitol Hill Reception

Isabella Liou, Allie Rosenbluth, President Taylor Reveley, Diana Winter at the 7th Annual William & Mary Capitol Hill Reception

Later that night we went to the 7th Annual William & Mary Alumni Capitol Hill banquet which turned out to be a pretty high profile event. Not only did President Taylor Reveley grace us with his always delightful presence, but also Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine, law school alumna Representative Michelle Bachmann, Representative Steve Chabot ’75, Representative Dina Titus ’70, and the William & Mary Rector Todd Stottlemyer ’85. The event was a great way to meet all types of William & Mary alumni and catch up with old friends who recently graduated.

The next day started with a visit to the British Embassy. Originally I didn’t make the connection of what the British Embassy had to do with our class because I thought their primary role was working on British immigration and visas. At the embassy I found out this is very far from the truth. We talked to Jane Ansell and Matt Mazonkey who do policy and economic work for the embassy. I even found out that the British embassy has a group that works on climate change that especially sparked my interest since the UK is proudly one of the few developed nations to be on track to reach its 2015 emissions goals.

After going to the embassy, we had lunch with William & Mary’s Rector, Todd Stottlemyer. During lunch we were lucky enough to talk to him about issues on campus that really mattered to us such as tuition and financial aid, while he got the opportunity to explain some of the details of the William & Mary Promise the board just passed.

When lunch was over we were visited by three government contractors who filled us in on what they do. While I am not especially interested in contracting at the moment, I know it was a fantastic session for some of the seniors in my class who are looking to find work in that field. Next, we had a discussion with Thomas Whitehead ’06 who works for the USTR. He defends the United States in trade disagreements at the World Trade Organization. This was a great capstone for our class because it was a perfect illustration of how domestic and foreign policy influence each other.

I honestly cannot believe how much I have done in the last week during the William & Mary Washington Winter Seminar. It’s hard to imagine that in one week I’ve gained so much insight into the many different jobs in DC and I’ve only scratched the surface. This program has been a real wake up call for me, specifically that the plans I thought I had for the next three years may not be as concrete as I anticipated. I may actually have to let hard work and serendipity take me to where I belong, just like former ambassador Sanderson told us Monday night.

If you are considering doing the William & Mary Washington Winter Program I would strongly suggest it. Not only is it a great class, but it opens your mind to so many opportunities in DC. The William & Mary DC Office is absolutely fantastic. They are so supportive of all of their students, and I really do feel like I am part of the William & Mary DC family. I think that this program is best suited for seniors and juniors who are closer to entering the job market, but it is still a great opportunity for serious freshmen and sophomores. Honestly, I really wish I had more time at the William & Mary DC office, but because I have so many obligations on campus and in the summer I cannot extend my time with the office. If you have the opportunity to take a semester or a summer term with the DC office I would strongly recommend it. The William & Mary Washington Winter Seminar was a fantastic program, even for this DC girl.

William & Mary Winter Washington Seminar: Day 3 and 4 Overviews

January 8, 2014 by

Monday was a fantastic day for the William & Mary Washington Winter Program. Not only did I go home with ten frozen fingers and a bag full of EPA booklets, but also with a new confidence in my journey discovering my own career path.

We started our day by visiting the USAID office where we met alumni and USAID bureaucrats Sarah Glass ’01, Sarah Lane ’01, and Ana Luisa Pinto ’01 who sat down with our class to talk about their careers and the international development field in general. All three worked with private sector involvement in USAID but had different roles including economist, portfolio manager, and senior alliance advisor. I have to say, these were three vibrant ladies. You could tell that each woman had an incredible amount of passion for what they were doing for USAID which was inspiring to see.

After USAID and a long lunch, we went next door to the EPA where we met John Frece ’69 and Matt Dalbey ’87 who work in the EPA’s Smart Growth office. This office helps communities grow in ways that focus on the economic, public health, and environmental factors that are often overlooked during development. Sustainable land use has been an interest of mine since taking a seminar on the topic last school year, and this meeting was a great opportunity to see examples of the public sector’s involvement in the area. I think the Smart Growth program is something that every American city could benefit from if the program was given more resources to pursue more projects. Although this meeting was interesting, I think there was a general consensus in our group that a meeting with regulatory parts of the EPA would have been more relevant to the topic of this class.

Next, we went to the US State Department where we took a tour of the lavish diplomatic relations rooms and met with a panel of Foreign Service William & Mary alumni. During the tour we saw numerous antiques, some that were even owned by former presidents. Although the tour was interesting, I felt like I was back in Colonial Williamsburg. The alumni at the State Department panel really seemed to enjoy their jobs. They gave us advice about pursuing jobs in the Foreign Service which many of my peers found especially helpful. But, Ambassador Janet Sanderson ’77 gave us a more candid look into the pros and cons of working in the State Department at an intimate dinner she joined us for. The ambassador’s stories were remarkable and completely un-sugar-coated, which was refreshing after our previous trip to the State Department.

I believe that Monday was extremely beneficial for every student in the William & Mary Winter Washington Program because we were given career advice that could be applied to any interest. I would say that the most important lesson I learned Monday was that I will never be in complete control of my career path so I must accept that serendipity will take me to the job I am meant to be in if I continue to work hard.

Today was a much different experience. Evans started the day by priming our class with a presentation on financial disparity and the US deficit. Then the Tea Party arrived. I don’t want to get too political on this blog so I will try my best. Sitting on the Tea Party panel was alumnus Jason Torchinsky ’98, a lawyer, and his Tea Party counterparts Phil Kerpen and Ned Ryun. Kerpen is a free-market policy analyst and a frequent guest on Fox News. He was especially interesting to talk to. Although I do not agree with most of his politics, I do respect that he had passionate answers to all of our questions, but my classmates who continued to ask hard questions after witnessing his fire. It was definitely interesting to get an inside look at the Tea Party because it has become such a huge force in today’s politics. After listening to the Tea Party panel, we spoke with two more traditional republicans from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Bill Hoagland gave us an especially informative look into the history of the federal budget and the current state of the American deficit. In his presentation we saw more evidence that most federal spending is in healthcare and welfare for senior citizens, programs that are not losing funds at the expense of programs that invest in our country’s future.

Finally, a Politico defense reporter Austin Wright ’09 came to talk about his job as a journalist. Austin led a conversation about defense spending and the current problems congress has making cuts in military spending. We also discussed the Murray-Ryan deal that will probably be overturned in Congress soon. It seems to me that because of our large military-industrial complex and the large degree of localism in American politics, it is hard for congressmen to cut programs that bring jobs to their districts even if they are economically unsustainable.

I don’t think that these two days could have been more different. Both days were beneficial to my government education but I almost felt a little helpless after today’s focus on what’s so wrong with Washington, which is a stark difference from how I felt after visiting USAID, the EPA and the State Department on Monday. It is clear that this is a really bad time in Washington, but it is also clear that the situation is far from hopeless. Tomorrow we hit Capitol Hill to see where all of the mayhem takes place.

Day 2 of the William & Mary Washington Program

January 6, 2014 by

To my surprise, the government and Metro were not closed due to the snow and ice which meant that Friday could go as planned. We met at the National Archives where a William & Mary alumnus gave us a private tour. Aside from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, he showed us many unique documents that included the last page of George Washington’s inaugural address, documents from anti-suffrage women’s groups, and the Magna Carta. This was definitely the best trip to the National Archives I’ve ever taken.

After the National Archives we went back to the William & Mary DC Office in DuPont Circle to have a long lunch break and prepare for our panel on immigration reform. Alumna Emily Benavides (’07) from the National Hispanic Leadership Network and Laura Vasquez from the NCLR came to the DC Office speak about immigration reform. Emily works to get Republican members of the House of Representatives behind immigration reform, which sounds like an especially grueling job in today’s political climate. Both Emily and Laura agree that the current immigration system is broken but do not completely agree on how to go about fixing it. Laura argued that the visa system in general needs to be reformed, specifically by increasing the number of family and work visas distributed, which is barely considered in the current Senate package. Emily supports programs like E-Verify and the Senate bill’s current path to citizenship program that Laura claims takes too long and is too expensive to completely fix our problems. Remarkably, the class agreed that if the two sat down and wrote a new immigration bill it would probably pass in both the House and Senate.

The discussion on immigration reform between the two and our class was extremely informative and riveting. When they left Professor Evans led the class in a brief discussion about the effectiveness of their organizations and whether any immigration legislature will be passed in the current political situation. He argued that we probably will not see much progress on the matter any time soon, but I cannot help but to be optimistic after hearing these remarkable ladies speak.

At 4:30 our required day was over, but the DC Office had more planned for our group. They took us to dinner and a Capitol Steps show. The Capitol Steps are a sketch comedy group made up of people who used to work on the hill that now work making fun of all that happens in DC. Unfortunately, I had already seen most of the show since AMP Comedy brought them to William & Mary earlier last semester, but it was still hilarious. At the end of the day I rode the Metro home with the other exhausted students commuting from northern Virginia, this was our first taste of the long days to come during the program!

Demystifying the Process

January 3, 2014 by

Today was the first day of the William & Mary Washington Winter Program, which to me meant it was the first day in two weeks I actually had to wake up when my alarm rang. Winter Break, for the most part, is now over for us in the program.

My commute into DC was familiar but I was definitely rusty navigating myself around the metro system. I arrived to the DuPont Circle metro station, just a five minute walk from William & Mary’s DC office, a full hour early. To my luck, while walking to the nearest Starbucks I ran into two friends also in the program. They were meeting up with a mutual friend of ours, an alumna Maddy Smith (’13) who now works for the nearby Brookings Institute, so I decided to kill some time by joining them for a cup of tea.

The William & Mary DC office is in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Building on Massachusetts Avenue. After arriving to the office we were given lunch, some William & Mary DC office swag, and our schedule for the next week. The schedule includes both mandatory and optional events. As far as the mandatory events go, I am especially excited for the meetings we have planned with Senator Kaine, Congressman Wolf, EPA officials, and although I am a little apprehensive for the Tea Party panel I would be lying if I told you I was not excited for that too. Some optional events include going to see a Capitol Steps show, dinners with DC professionals, a bus tour, and the 7th Annual Capitol Hill Networking Reception. I am especially excited for the latter because it will be a great opportunity to network with William & Mary alumni and maybe even get the chance to hang out with our college’s president, Taylor Reveley.

After explaining the plans for the next seven days, William & Mary’s DC Office Coordinator Adam Anthony proceeded to give us networking advice. He gave us tips on how to exchange business cards in order to follow up with the people we meet throughout the program. He gave us ideas for topics of conversation with alumni that included asking what dorm they lived in during their freshman year. I thought that his advice about disengaging in conversations especially helpful since I am prone to the awkward fade out when I don’t know how to end an important conversation.

Adam’s discussion on networking was a great transition into Professor Evan’s lecture on the purpose of this course. He explained that the purpose here was not to study theories and facts about American policy, which is something that you can do in any Government class on campus. However, the purpose is to learn about how things really work in DC or in Evan’s own terms “demystifying the process”. This will be a chance for us to begin to understand how the mysterious world of DC works before being thrown into it after leaving the comforting halls of William & Mary.

Our first venture into the DC world was a tour of the Supreme Court building where we met our first William & Mary alumnus, Chief Justice John Marshall. Well, obviously, we were a little too late to meet the class of 1780 Law School alumnus and only saw his statue and various portraits. However, we did meet alumna Erin Huckle (’08) who works in the Curator’s Office at the Supreme Court. Erin gave us a fantastic tour of the Supreme Court where she showed us the court room and also the Supreme Court library which were both beautiful rooms.

Overall, it was a great first day and I cannot wait for what else they have planned for us in the upcoming week. Tomorrow morning, if the snow doesn’t shut down the metro or the government, we will meet for a private tour of the National Archives.

“DC Girl” Takes On First Ever William & Mary DC Winter Seminar

December 23, 2013 by

I have lived in the DC suburbs, Vienna specifically, my entire life. So when my friends and family asked me what I was doing over winter break and I told them the William & Mary DC program, they wondered what I could get out of DC in a week that I haven’t already. I’m not the typical “NOVA Kid” who fears the metro and only goes into the city on school field trips and for concerts. My friends are always shocked by my eagerness to jump on the metro and go wander the national mall at any time of the day and I am always shocked when my friends don’t know about the Einstein Monument, which is by far my favorite statue in DC. And even at 16 I would brace rush hour on the metro to get to my internship at the National Zoo. So apart from actually living in DC, I am a “DC girl”.

Nevertheless, I am so excited for the DC program. Not because I haven’t seen the monuments and museums, but because I am excited to look at DC in a whole new perspective: the perspective of William & Mary. Professor Evans will be leading a group of the Tribe around DC to learn about American Domestic and International policy and the endless opportunities that DC has to offer. We will be representing the Tribe to some of the most important people in the American Government.  Having this opportunity is an incredible honor and I cannot wait to experience everything Professor Evans and the William & Mary DC program have planned for us.

From the Winter Seminar I hope to gain experience networking and a new perspective on the opportunities at my fingertips in DC. I also hope to get an introduction into the community of William & Mary alumni who I will be able to utilize when looking for internships and when I graduate. During the week-long seminar, I will be writing daily blog posts about the program. My hope for this blog is for it to become a place to express my thoughts and help students understand what the DC Winter Seminar is all about. Being a Government and Environmental Science and Policy double major (wow that’s always a mouthful), I think that the subject of the seminar is right up my alley. But that is also a warning not to be surprised if I ever go on tangents about the structural inefficiencies of the EPA or the benefits of renewable energy in this blog. I can’t wait to tell you all about the amazing week that will soon unfold!

Whirlwind to the End

December 4, 2013 by

I can’t believe this is the last week of classes. Together, the students in our program have grown into young professionals and learned things that can never be taught in a classroom. I’ll give a recap of what we’ve been up to.

A few weekends ago, most of the program went down to campus for Homecoming. It was great to be surrounded by Tribe Pride instead of the concrete jungle of DC. The tailgates this year were awesome! A whole pig was being roasted on a grill and a bunch of student groups were rallying. Best of all, we won our game against JMU. Saturday night, a group of friends and I went to see Freelance Whales perform in Sadler. They were fantastic live – I’m always so impressed by the great bands W&M and AMP can book.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

One of my highlights of the past few weeks was going to meet my Texas senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. I tagged along with one of my fellow Cato interns from Texas who was invited to “Texas Tuesday” where the senators meet with their constituents in town. There’s an inexplicable comfort that comes from being in a room of all Texans. Ted Cruz has made such a stink up here in Washington, and although I don’t always agree with his politics, I respect him as a Texan representative. And it was cool to meet the guy who shutdown the government.

We had our last Slice of Advice from Adam, and he told us how to wrap up our internship and leave a lasting impression. He said to hold onto projects that can be put into a portfolio. Write a letter of thanks to your supervisor, and write a letter of advice to be given to the next person in your position. I would have loved to have a bit of guidance coming into my internship, so I’m definitely willing to give some hints to the next person.

During the Slice of Advice, the W&M in DC office staff were decorating the room for a baby shower to surprise Roxane. She was so surprised when she walked in! We played games like unscrambling baby words and Nursery Rhyme Jeopardy. She got some baby outfits and baby necessities. Of course, she needed those things a lot sooner than she thought because 4 days later, she went into labor a month early, and now we have Piper Quinn Adler Hickey.

Roxane's Baby Shower

Roxane’s Baby Shower

Upon realizing that we only had a few weeks left in DC, I spent a few weekends checking things off my DC “to-do” list. A friend from campus came one weekend and we went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. It wasn’t the best Smithsonian I’d been to – it was a bit sparse in exhibits – but seeing the Star Spangled Banner was amazing. So much history in just that piece of fabric! After the Smithsonian, we went to Hill Country BBQ, which is apparently the best BBQ in DC. “Hill Country” refers to where I live – the hills in and around Austin. As an Austinite who has the real thing at home, this restaurant was impressively like the real thing. They even had Bluebell Ice Cream! Little did we know when we went, there was a Longhorn football game on. The entire restaurant was dressed in burnt orange. One guy had a Longhorn cape and a burnt orange suit! When UT scored, the restaurant erupted in cheers and chants. Eating BBQ with a bunch of Austinites, I rarely feel so at home even at home!

Also on my to-do list was a trip to Alexandria. The shops in Old Town were all really cute, and the trip was perfect for a fall day. We ended up stopping to eat in Killer ESP (espresso, sorbetto, pie). When it said pie, I thought that meant fruit pie, but turns out “pie” is quiche-like meat pies that were delicious. Also, we tried their home-made sorbet, and it was fantastic! I see why people love Alexandria – it’s a great escape from the city.

DC Program Thanksgiving Dinner

DC Program Thanksgiving Dinner

The next weekend I got up early on Saturday to go to the Holocaust Museum when it opened. It’s an interesting set-up: on the first floor, you pick up a little booklet that tells about someone in the Holocaust. Then you get in an elevator that takes you straight up to the fourth floor. In the elevator ride, you are shown a video introducing you to the museum, then you work your way through the exhibits. The fourth floor gave an explanation about the conditions in Germany that made the Holocaust manifest. The third floor gave detailed stories about the Jewish ghettos and the concentration camps. The second floor showed the rescue efforts and the aftermath. As you reached the next floor, you turned the page in your booklet to follow the journey of your person, and in the end you learn their fate. My girl “perished”. The most moving part was when the exhibit lead you through a train car that the victims had been shoved into for transport to the concentration camps. Standing in the car, you could smell the mildew and sweat, see hand prints on the floor, and feel the ghost of previous human presence. It was creepy. The museum was definitely one of my favorite things in DC – it gave me a much better understanding of the Holocaust.

Later I met up with other students in the program for Andrew’s birthday. He wanted to go to District Taco (yum!) and then to the Smithsonians. We started out at the Air and Space Museum, and then we were about to go to the American Indian Museum, when someone decided to jump off the fourth floor balcony and they evacuated the building…

On Sunday night, the program had our own little Thanksgiving. Everyone brought something, and we had a feast. Chris cooked a turkey, and Megan made fantastic sweet potatoes. There was mac-n-cheese and cranberry sauce and lots of desserts – it was perfect, and it got our tummies ready for the actual Thanksgiving!

For the next few days, we will be finishing up our essays and our internships and moving out. On Monday instead of class, Professor Abegaz invited a panel from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to speak to us and a handful of DC alumni. Tonight we have our farewell dinner with our bosses and mentors. It’s winding down, and I can’t believe this semester has gone by so fast!

Are we really already halfway done?

October 21, 2013 by

Whew! What a hectic few weeks: broken governments, broken garbage disposals, and broken hearts when we saw our midterm grades. I guess I’ll start where I left off last!

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Michelle showing off her bowling game.

A few weeks ago, we went bowling with some students from Boston University who are doing the same kind of program we are – internships with classes. Their program didn’t seem as structured – many were working at random places instead of places focused on their major. I’m grateful we have such a great support team in the DC office which made sure we found relevant internships. Bowling was fun! We went to Lucky Strike in Chinatown, and Javier totally beat everyone. The whole venue had a really neat vibe.

We were blessed with another “Slice of Advice” from Adam Anthony. This one talked about writing professionally and communicating effectively. These skills can seriously set you apart from other interns. It’s surprising how many brilliant people in the workforce can sometimes forget the simple rules of communication. It’s important to get a friend or co-worker to look over stuff – they see the mistakes that you don’t.

Fantastic meal at the Daily Grill

Fantastic meal at the Daily Grill

A highlight of the past few weeks was getting our well deserved dinner on the DC office as a reward for winning the scavenger hunt. After much deliberation, my group decided on the Daily Grill in Dupont Circle because it had something everyone liked. We got fantastic appetizers of onion rings in blue cheese, popcorn shrimp, and spinach artichoke dip. For the main meal, everyone got fish, and I got a burger. We splurged on chocolate cake and banana cream pie for dessert. All the hard work of meandering around DC for hours paid off!

A few weekends ago we went apple picking at Stribling Orchard in Markham. They gave us a long stick with a basket on the end to grab the out-of-reach apples. There were rows and rows of them, and many different kinds. I think we cheated a little by nibbling as we picked, fresh off the branch. It was very refreshing to be out of the city. The orchard had a bake shop where you could buy apple cider, all kinds of jams, and lots of apple pastries. I got some raisin bread stuffed with apples. The smell was irresistible!

Ryan REALLY likes caramel apples.

Ryan REALLY likes caramel apples.

October 1st marked the beginning of the government shutdown, in which about half of the DC program was furloughed. At first it was enjoyable – finally they had time to study for our upcoming midterms. But as the days dragged on, I think many of them started to go a little crazy. As for the rest of us, our lives remained largely unchanged. I didn’t go to meetings on the Hill, and the Metro was less crowded. There was a general haze of dismay over the city. But life went on.

We got the honor of being invited to the alumni event at the Italian Embassy. It was fun getting dressed up, and the venue was beautiful. The highlight was being able to talk to the alumni – they’ve all done so many cool things with their lives, and they are so ready to be a mentor and a guide. I left thinking about all the possibilities ahead. It’s a little terrifying all the paths you can take. And there’s no special formula to get where you want to go. I’ve learned that it’s not a straight shot – you have to take little steps in uncertain directions until you finally have fine-tuned where you want to end up. But as The Beatles said, “there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be”.

We have crossed the half-way point for this semester. We met with Javier and Roxane for mid-semester check-ins, and they will meet with our bosses to make sure everything is still running smoothly in the office. We had our midterm exams, which were… well we just won’t talk about that. Then we had Fall Break, which is kind of just another weekend since we work and can’t really take off. The furloughed kids were off anyways, and a few people who were supposed to work took off.

Two good friends of mine came in from Williamsburg for the weekend. We got empanadas from Julie’s (recommended by the DC office). On Saturday morning we made apple pie from the apples from the orchard, then went shopping and walking in Georgetown. On Sunday, we ventured out to the Taste of DC festival, where a bunch of DC restaurants came together to showcase their dishes. My favorite was an ice cream sandwich out of a trailer called Cookie Monster – you got to pick the cookies and the ice cream in between. I took off of work on Monday, but convinced my friends to go to an event for libertarian youth that my office was holding.

This Sunday, Roma got a group of us to go to a pumpkin festival in Maryland. They had a hayride where the tractor took you out to the field to pick your own pumpkins. There was also a petting zoo, a corn maze, a big slide, and lots of yummy fall-ish food. It was great to be outside, especially on such a beautiful day with the leaves changing colors. We looked a little old to be there, but let our inner child shine. Sunday night we held a potluck to eat (as my boyfriend would say) “all the yums”. Our chef on hand, Chris, made fantastic homemade mac and cheese – the perfect snack to take on a new week!

 

Parents Weekend and Ted Cruz

September 25, 2013 by

This past weekend was Parents Weekend! My mom flew in on Thursday night, and we met for dinner after class. On Friday morning, I took off from work and we started our tour of Washington. I took her to the Eastern Market neighborhood, expecting the massive farmers market that I had witnessed the weekend before. It turns out that the outdoor vendors are only there on the weekends, and on weekdays only the indoor produce and meat vendors are there. Still, she got a taste of how cool that part of town is. Then we walked to the Hill. I showed her the Capitol Building, and took her inside Russell Senate building, where I sit in on a few staff meetings every week. Russell is home to many senator offices, so it was fun walking around and seeing their names on the gold plaques. We came across an office swamped with reporters and official-looking people, only to see that it was John McCain being bugged about something.

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On Friday, my mom went to class with me. One of our speakers was a lawyer from the Department of Commerce, and the other worked at a nonprofit organization called Accion. Both were very interesting, and above all, passionate about their jobs! It’s reassuring to see W&M alums in great positions.

After class, the W&M DC office held a reception for the parents and students. THE FOOD WAS SO GOOD! Smooth brie cheese, rich cake balls, sizzling kabobs – fantastic!

After the reception, my mom got her first taste of the horrors of the Metro. First, the blue line was delayed, so by the time it got to the station, hundreds of people were waiting on the platform to get on. Somehow my mom and I squished on. I’ve seen the Metro full, but this was like in the cartoons when people’s faces are smashed up against the glass. We made it a few stops, cramming more and more people in. Then we smelled something terrible. My mom turned to me to ask what it was, and I sarcastically responded “the train must be on fire”. Turns out, I was right. There were so many people on the train, an electrical fire started underneath us, and everyone was kicked off at the next stop. Finally, after much delay and smoke, we made it to my mom’s hotel, where we met an old family friend and had dinner at a cute Lebanese restaurant.

Saturday morning began with a Costco run. I went in needing only three things, and came out with none of those things, instead five other items (Costco bulk sized). The second best part of Parents Weekend is having your family stock you up on food for the semester. (The first best part is just being with family.) After filling my fridge, my mom and I headed to the Newseum for the day. Even though we got the tickets for cheap through the DC office, it still would have been worth it to see the museum for full price – it was awesome. The purpose of the Newseum is essentially to tell history through the eyes of the reporters and journalists who witnessed it first hand. There was a display of pictures from the days of Camelot, and an exhibit of souvenirs from various FBI investigations. There were also pieces from history, like the very top tower of the World Trade Center. One of my favorite displays was the Berlin Wall. One side was clean, while the other side was covered with graffiti symbolizing the turmoil and unrest occurring on that side. I was awestruck to be that close to a piece of history. Another memorable part of the Newseum was the footage reporters got of the 9/11 attacks. It was incredible how close they were willing to get to the debris, and eerie to witness their reactions as events unfolded. My mom liked the replication of Tim Russert’s office – she was a huge fan of his.

newseum-berlin-wall

After the Newseum, my mom and I walked to Clyde’s at Gallery Place for dinner. Again, the food was fantastic – crab cakes and spinach pastries. After dinner the group went to a show at the Reagan Center called Capitol Steps. The comedians make fun of politics and happenings in Washington. My favorite skit was when they replaced the words from Grease the musical with lyrics about Greece the country and how it is failing economically. It was surprisingly non-partisan: they poked fun at both sides of the aisle.

On Sunday morning, my mom and I headed back to the Newseum to soak up a little more of the exhibits. We watched a documentary about how the Holocaust was largely ignored by the US press because of the anti-Semitism at the time. It was moving. News about the Holocaust was only printed about once a year on the front page – most of the focus was to WWII. If only the press spoke out more about the killings, thousands of lives would have been saved. It made me realize the power of the media. Also, we went to the Pulitzer Prize picture gallery, which was again very emotional. While a few of the pictures documented victory and progress, many depicted war and violence and death. It is truly amazing the power of a picture.

After the Newseum, my mom and I walked through the Mall. The National Book Festival was going on, but it was overwhelming so we didn’t stop. I showed her the Washington Monument and the White House, and then sent her on her plane back to Texas. It’s tough going to school so far away from my family, so it was great getting to see my mom over the weekend.

As I was about to leave work on Tuesday, I got an email from the internship coordinator that he got us passes to go see Ted Cruz filibuster about the Continuing Resolution and ObamaCare. All my office left, and I started heading to class, but after about a block of walking, I realized that there will probably never be a time in my life where I get to sit in on a Senate filibuster, so I turned around and joined them. It was a weird experience – I thought since Senate was in session and a filibuster was going on, the chamber would be full. However, the only people in there were Ted Cruz, a senator from Alabama, the scribe, and a presiding chair. Ted Cruz kind of just rambled, but it was cool to see the formalities of it. They called him “Junior Senator from Texas” instead of just Senator Cruz. I’m excited to see how the CR unfolds in the Senate this week. Below is a sample of what we witnessed in the Senate Chamber Tuesday night…

Getting Comfortable

September 19, 2013 by

Well, the DC Fall intern class has officially completed our first full week of work! Armed with pantsuits, briefcases and walking shoes, we venture out every morning with the fellow Crystal City-ers with “real jobs”. Not to say our jobs aren’t real or that we aren’t doing just as much work (and more) than our paid co-workers. We surely look just as professional as the other ho-hum commuters frowning on the Metro. We’ve entered the rat-race, but our spirits are still fresh, and we are ready to take on what is thrown at us.

Corporate America is not what I expected. There are so many little tasks that need to be completed just to keep things running. No, not getting coffee, but entering contact information or updating a database. These tasks seem insignificant, and I find myself asking, “When will the big work start? When will I have that groundbreaking project? When will I be the President of the United States?” Okay, maybe that last one escalated too quickly. But when I take a step back from the tedium, I realize that the small daily tasks I perform save my supervisors a lot of time, which then enables them to do the big things. Once I gain their trust by completing the little chores, they feel comfortable delegating to me the bigger projects, like representing them at an important conference that they don’t have time to attend. Or sending out a daily email to 9,500 people (eek!)

One of the most difficult parts is trying to find the perfect balance of how often to talk to your supervisors. I want to have something to do, but I don’t want to bug them to death. One of the problems I’m facing is the fact that I’m in two departments, so each supervisor assumes the other one gave me something to do. It’s tempting to continue to let them assume that so I  don’t have any work, but it can get boring pretending to be productive. I’ve started going to my supervisors in the morning to let them know what is on my plate for the day, so they know that I have time to do certain tasks. I’ve learned that it is important to assert your desire to learn. By being eager to help out and showing you are ready to get your hands a little dirty, supervisors will respect you as an asset to the organization, and treat you like a colleague rather than an understudy. Also, I’ve found that many supervisors want you to get the most out of the experience, so they are willing to help you reach your goals if you just speak up about them. I know it’s nerve-racking, but speaking up to your supervisors can solve a lot of problems and keep you from being forgotten.

Elephant at the Zoo

Elephant at the Zoo

In other news, I got to explore a little bit of DC this weekend when a friend came to visit. On Saturday we went to the National Zoo, which is HUGE and free. Although I visited the Zoo on the scavenger hunt, we actually only saw chipmunks and no animals. This time I was able to make it through almost all of the exhibits. My favorite was the otters – they played follow-the-leader the whole time. Also, there was a butterfly room where the butterflies actually would land on you! It seemed like a lot of the animals did not have much room to play – the elephant kept ramming into the gate trying to get out. But I guess in the wild they don’t get fed and protected from poachers, so it’s a tradeoff. Unfortunately the animals don’t get to make that decision for themselves. I don’t know how much I would like being stuck in a cage with snotty kids banging at me…

On Sunday we went to Eastern Market, a super cool neighborhood with an all-day, everyday farmers market. There are a ton of great restaurants in the area, and we settled on one called the Chesapeake Room. After lunch we got a cupcake from a food truck, and headed over to the tents. There was a wide variety of produce – everything from beautiful heads of lettuce to juicy peaches. There were live bands playing, soap shops, art tents and jewelry artisans. It was an awesome atmosphere – definitely a place I want to return to.

Last night the interns had dinner with our mentors. It was fun hearing about their time at William & Mary. Although the campus has changed a lot, the prestige of the school remains. Also, many cool programs have been introduced since their time there, like the DC program. It was great to see that so many alums left W&M prepared for a career that they love. One of the most important things I got out of my dinner was that it’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do after college. My mentor was actually glad that I didn’t know what to do – it gives me time to explore and be flexible. He didn’t settle into something until he was almost thirty, but once he did, he loved it. I think it’s important to take the time to discover where you can do the most good.

“City Living, DC Style”

September 10, 2013 by

Thinker on a Rock

Thinker on a Rock

The Fall 2013 William & Mary in Washington interns are all settled into our new apartments in the lovely neighborhood of Crystal City. Move-in was astonishingly efficient with all the DC office staff there to help. As a girl with way too many belongings, moving is always such a loathsome experience. However, I pulled up and my stuff was out of my car and in my room before I could even turn off the engine!

Monday night began with pizza and a short introduction to the program by the director of the DC office, Adam Anthony. Then we took a tour of Crystal City so we know our way to the Metro and through the underground mall. Monday night, our group of 17 converged in one of the apartments for a movie showing – the girls outvoted the guys and we ended up watching the “Glee”-esque movie “Pitch Perfect”.

Chinatown

Chinatown

Tuesday morning began with doughnuts (yum!) and a meeting with Roma, our Community Advisor. She gave us the rundown of the building procedures and our duties as residents, and provided us with our pre-loaded Metro card (turns out you can’t walk everywhere like in the Burg…) We hopped on the Metro and navigated ourselves to the W&M office in Dupont Circle, where Javier gave us a packet of information for the program – calendars, forms, contact numbers, etc. We had a fantastic lunch catered from a Greek restaurant, and then got a presentation on stress from Dr. Reis from the campus Counseling Center. The presentation was a good reminder to manage our time, and leave room for fun and relaxation. After lunch we started our Scavenger Hunt – the winning team gets a free dinner! The items on the list were worth varying amounts of points depending on how far away from Dupont Circle they were. The list included everything from chess players to embassies to landmarks. My group made our way to Union Station and the National Mall, then up to Chinatown where we met the whole group for dinner at Matchbox, the pizza place. We didn’t think we were doing too great in the game, but when two groups showed up late and got points deducted, we once again had hope that we might win. After dinner, we met up with a tour guide at the Jefferson Memorial who gave up a monument tour. My favorite monument was the FDR one – it really told the story of his life. Also, the MLK monument was bustling because Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Michelle showing George Mason some lovin'

Michelle showing George Mason some lovin’

On Wednesday morning the group met at GW’s Gelman Library, our designated library away from Swem. The library was 8 stories, but didn’t seem to have as many books as Swem. Although it was only the 3rd day of school, the library was surprisingly full of students. We then headed back to the Dupont office for lunch, and then adventured out for the second part of the scavenger hunt. This time my group was a little more motivated with the idea that we could win. We went down Embassy Row, then found our way to Georgetown University. We went past Dumbarton Oaks Park, and then trekked through a surprisingly uncharted dense forest area, before coming out at the National Zoo. We looked for the panda, but it had just given birth and was therefore not on display. Next, my group took the Metro to the Kennedy Center, where we were able to check off “Bust of JFK”, “Hall of States”, and “View of Georgetown from Kennedy Terrace.” As our time limit came close, I convinced my group to make a little detour to a coffee shop on the list that was only worth a point. It was a good thing because when we met with the rest of the students for dinner, we had beaten the group by only a 2 point margin! Dinner was at a wonderful Mexican restaurant called Lauriol Plaza – I can still smell the sizzling fajitas. After dinner we went to Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center. It was an incredibly funny murder mystery in which the audience decides who the killer is! The interaction with the audience made it different from any play I’d ever seen before.

Bust of JFK at the Kennedy Center

Bust of JFK at the Kennedy Center

Thursday morning started out with an introduction lecture from Professor Abegaz to set us on the right path for our classes the next week. We had a lunch of Mexican food, and then Adam gave us our first “Slice of Advice,” a series that will continue throughout the semester. This first presentation was about being better than the intern next to you by completing assignments before the due date, communicating professionally, and being eager to learn. After our advice session, we went to the National Building Museum to play mini-golf on super cool holes. The holes had to do with environmental and futuristic building – and some of them were impossible! We ended the night and our Orientation with a Nationals game. It was Nationals vs. Marlins, so of course we beat them. The best part wasn’t so much the game, but the hype and the energy that resonated through the stadium! DC has a lot of spirit and pride!

Capitol Building

Capitol Building

Although it was weird to go through Orientation again as an upperclassman, it was completely refreshing and really prepared us for the semester to come. I hardly stepped foot in DC a week ago, but now I know my way around completely. I was even able to give directions for a Metro stop to a foreign tourist the other day! Also, Orientation allowed us to have a little fun before the hardcore (but still fun?) work starts in September. I think this class of interns had bonded really well, and we are going to have a very successful semester.

 

Group Picture

Group Picture

Picture Credits: Ferra Chen and Donald Thibeau