Living La Vida Local in DC

Written by Blair Hurst – Program Advisor, Leadership + the American Presidency

It’s fun every once in a while to be a tourist and experience DC’s most noteworthy spectacles like the White House and Lincoln Memorial. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve taken a photo of myself “poking” the top of the Washington Monument. DC’s tourist attractions are some of the best in the country and even the world… But there’s more to DC than the sweltering 2:00 pm monument tours and overcrowded museums. DC is a foodie paradise, a music mecca, and a hotspot for underground attractions that stray from the mainstream. Here are some suggestions for taking the road less traveled in DC!

Where to Eat

Union Market: I’m seriously obsessed with this place! Union Market is a refurbished warehouse with dozens of food vendors ranging from authentic ramen to pizza to Cajun cuisine. 

District Donut is my absolute favorite vendor; with flavors like Orange Creamsicle, Crème Brulee, Key Lime Pie, and Fluffernutter, you’re sure to find something that satisfies your sweet tooth!

Where to Shop

Buffalo Exchange: Just a short walk from the McPherson Square metro stop, Buffalo Exchange offers an upscale thrift shopping experience that secondhand shoppers like myself LIVE for. If you’re about that eclectic style, this is the place for you! (Don’t forget your reusable tote bag).

Where to Caffeinate

Not a Chain: From one coffee fanatic to another: please, please…try something other than Starbucks. Try a small café or a quaint bakery. They’re all over the city!  It can be tempting to opt for a Starbucks when they’re on every street corner, but hear me out:  The best coffee will be in the hole-in-the-wall cafes that you might pass by without looking.

Some of my favorite caffination stations include Emissary Coffee and Kramerbooks and Afterwards Café; both located in DuPont Circle!

Where to Muse

Hirshhorn: This museum is not your typical Smithsonian experience. Never crowded, always quirky, and sometimes unexpected, this art museum houses a variety of contemporary art collections that won’t disappoint! 

I had free curry last time I visited this museum… it was part of the exhibit. Yes, really!

Where to Relax

Jazz in the Garden: If you’re into jazz or just want to relax and listen to some live music, head over to Jazz in the Garden at the National Sculpture Garden every Friday from 5:00 – 8:00 pm during the summer.  Be sure to bring a blanket for sitting and some snacks for sharing! This event is hands down my favorite summer activity!

Soak your feet in the water at Jazz in the Garden!

An “Ode” to Mount Vernon

Written by Caleb Ashley – Program Advisor, Operations

The Mount Vernon trip was one of my favorite events from my TFAS summer. I almost did not sign up because it seemed like a big commitment, and I did not want to spend several hours outside in the middle of summer, but Mount Vernon was worth it! I had never been, and I expected Mount Vernon to be an old dead plantation, a memorial to the past. In reality, history came alive as I walked the grounds. The estate had been carefully maintained so that it appeared the same way today as it had during Washington’s life.

27 U.S. Presidents have visited Mount Vernon and you can too!

Walking through Washington’s house deeply impacted me. I had expected a decadent palace, like what you would see in a Pride and Prejudice movie. Instead, Washington’s home was simple yet elegant. As the guide told us, the design was focused on functionality, not grandeur.  Washington was interested in spending time on his grounds managing the day to day operations of his estate, as opposed to inside his house. The moment that touched me the most was when we walked by the bed where Washington died. It is easy to think about figures like Washington in the abstract, but at that moment, his life, death, and impact seemed concrete. For a moment, I saw Washington as a man and not as the mythic figure that we are taught about and that realization made his life even more powerful.

Mount Vernon was 10 times the size of the average house in Virginia at the time of construction in 1734.

Beyond seeing the estate, the trip was an opportunity to build relationships with other students in the program. I went with my roommate, and we hung out with several students during the tour, including some we had not met before. We discussed American history and the beauty of the estate with others that shared our interests and built relationships that lasted the rest of the summer. I remember coming back to GW and feeling like I had met new people, and experienced something special as well.

The estate was named after the British Admiral Edward Vernon.

I highly recommend the Mount. Vernon trip, and I hope that all of you decide to come! You can purchase tickets for $35 in the Guidebook App. The trip on July 14 includes admission to the grounds and air-conditioned transportation to Mount Vernon from District House.

Meet Your Program Advisor: Carson

Written by Carson Fort – Program Advisor, Business + Government Relations

Carson will be helping students enrolled in our Business + Government Relations program

Growing up in a rural setting, graduating with 73 people, and never really knowing anything other than corn fields, agriculture is a part of who I am. I knew I wanted to lobby for agrarian interests that had been with me for years but wasn’t sure of how to get there. I went to college and majored in political science with the desire to get more involved with the political process. A classmate had participated in The Fund for American Studies and suggested I do it too. The next summer, TFAS gave me the opportunity to see lobbying in action and what my future might hold. 

I interned with a small lobbying firm, Gavel Resources, which was conveniently located just a few blocks from the Hill. I got to sit in on congressional hearings dealing with legislation that impacted the firm’s clients. I saw how the partners in the office navigated the legislative process and pursued the interests of those they represented. I even got to meet with the lobbying team at the American Farm Bureau.

While I learned a lot in the office, I also got the chance to attend many lectures with speakers like Senator Rand Paul and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. The Capitol Hill lectures were an amazing opportunity to listen to individuals passionate about passing their knowledge onto the next generation of policy makers and influencers. One of my favorite guest lectures was by Peter Boettke, an economist from George Mason University. As someone who had begun to develop an interest in economics, this lecture opened my eyes to the impact that economics has on the world.

Carson and TFAS friends celebrating The Fourth of July on the National Mall.

One of my favorite events was the Scholarship Dinner. It was a night that celebrated our amazing summer and our accomplishments. There were great speakers, alumni, and a chance to celebrate with my friends. I also can’t forget the Fourth of July concert. My friends and I spent countless hours in the sweltering summer heat waiting in line for the concert to begin but it was truly an amazing experience. Spending the evening listening to great performances on the National Mall and celebrating Independence Day was a memory I will not forget.

The people I met and learned from made my summer incredible. From late night runs to Captain Cookie to spirited discussions in the common room, I made lasting friendships. TFAS gave me the chance to experience D.C. but also connected me to the next generation of leaders.

Meet Your Program Advisor: Michael

Written by Michael Herndon – Program Advisor, International Affairs

Michael will be helping students enrolled in our International Affairs program.

During my TFAS Summer I interned at the National Immigration Forum with their development team. My previous work experience was in kitchens and grocery stores, so transitioning to a professional office environment was challenging but rewarding. My day to day work consisted of prospect research, donor outreach, and various other exciting projects. I did my best to take charge of my own experience and so I made sure to also get involved with things outside of development like lobbying. Overall, I learned a ton about non-profit management, advocacy work, and immigration.

TFAS exposes students to various DC-related career paths throughout the program. TFAS would regularly bring in people from different careers, like defense contracting or the Peace Corps, to talk to students about their work and answered student questions during small group sessions. These sessions were invaluable to me and helped me decide where I wanted my career to take me. The Mentor Program was also very beneficial for me. Having direct access and unlimited one-on-one time with someone who lives and works in DC was very important to my overall experience. I was able to ask my mentor very specific questions about different career paths.

Michael at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall.

Overall, I think my favorite part of the program was meeting other students from around the country who were also passionate about politics, DC, and being the best that they could be. I still talk to people from my summer at TFAS and I hold those relationships very close to my heart.

Meet Your Program Advisor: Thomas

Written by Thomas Fodor – Program Advisor, Public Policy + Economics

Thomas will be helping students enrolled in our Public Policy + Economics program.

I had always dreamed about going to Washington, DC! I finally got there and had an amazing summer with TFAS. I got placed at an amazing internship, learned more about economics, and expanded my network.

I interned at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, a part of the Department of Homeland Security. On the job, I drafted memos, reviewed important documents, attended high-level meetings with all sorts of people from our government. I gained valuable experience and made many connections with DC professionals.

My time in the Public Policy + Economics program track was filled with learning new ways of thinking, being challenged, and formulating complex ideas. Although I had taken both macro and micro economics at my home university, Dr. Coyne at TFAS presented the economic way of thinking in a unique and engaging way. Washington, DC provided an unparalleled opportunity to learn about politics firsthand. I was able to attend debates and discussions between policy experts, meet the Ambassador of Afghanistan–while eating some amazing middle eastern food, witness the handing down of Supreme Court opinions, and visit an old Kremlin headquarters, just to name a few.

Thomas on the National Mall celebrating The Fourth of July.

You don’t need to wear a suit to have a good time in D.C. During July Fourth, I was able to go to “A Capitol Fourth”, where I was able to see The Temptations, Pentatonix, Jimmy Buffet, and The Beach Boys in concert, afterwards I witnessed an amazing fireworks display from The National Mall. There were cultural events happening all over the city all the time, museums to explore, monuments to visit and food to eat. In DC, there is no shortage of what to see and do, whether that is looking at the Constitution, or enjoying the constitution of a delicious taco.

Meet Your Program Advisor: Caleb

Written by Caleb Ashley – Program Advisor, Operations

Caleb will be helping students enrolled in all of our program tracks.

When I joined The Fund For American Studies (TFAS) program, I did not know what to expect. I had interned in D.C. before, but the TFAS program seemed different than my previous internship because of the combination of professional, social and academic activities. A few weeks into my summer, I realized that TFAS was special. The program truly felt like a community and provided students with opportunities that they would not have had elsewhere.

While participating in TFAS, I interned at a think-tank, Citizens Against Government Waste. I got the chance to do in-depth research on how the U.S. government spends its money, and how Congress handles appropriation bills. This amazing internship helped me become a better writer and helped me to communicate my thoughts to others more clearly. The people in my office went out of their way to get to know all the interns and even threw a party for us our last day at the site. I have been able to take the skills I learned from CAGW and apply them to my academics, and now this summer at TFAS.

As you know, TFAS is more than just internships, and during your time at TFAS you will get the chance to take classes with prestigious professors and attend various events and visit places like The Hill and the Federal Reserve. I got the opportunity to participate in a site briefing at the State Department, where I made connections with employees and learned about the organization’s multifaceted role in international relations. As someone that had read extensively about the State Department, it was fascinating to go inside the building and hear about what they do on a day to day basis.

Caleb and his friends stop for a photo outside the tomb of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

TFAS also arranged various optional social and cultural experiences for students to attend. My favorite was the trip to Mt. Vernon. My roommate and I both decided to go, and we were both blown away by the place George Washington called home.

I also enjoyed going out with my friends and exploring the city on the weekends, there is so much to do. There are moments when you need to take a break and relax, but I am pleased that I usually prioritized going out and exploring while I was in the program.

Overall, I appreciated the balance that TFAS provided. It gave me a chance to take challenging classes, work at an awesome internship, and do cool social events with awesome people. I do not think that many programs can provide that combination of activities, and I am excited to have the chance to help other students experience TFAS this summer.

Meet Your Program Advisor: Blair

Written by Blair Hurst – Program Advisor, Leadership + the American Presidency


Blair will be helping students enrolled in our Leadership + the American Presidency program.

Public value is a term used to describe the value that organizations, both public and private, contribute to society.  I first learned about public value in a course on public administration, and have carried the term with me throughout my academic career.  If nothing else, the term serves as a compass, pointing me in the direction of opportunities that will allow me to instill public value in my work and my life.  This “compass” pointed me toward an undergraduate degree in Political Science, a graduate degree in Ethics and Compliance, and a DC summer as part of the Leadership and American Presidency program.

 A skeptic by nature, my quest for the summer was to answer the following question:  How ethical is the government in its policymaking processes?  During my time interning at the North American Association for Environmental Education, I delved a little deeper into this question by researching and analyzing state policies on mandated environmental education in public schools.  This experience allowed me to learn about the policymaking process and the ethics on which certain policies are based.  I gained a number of skills from this internship, but the most noteworthy being the ability to work toward a common goal with a group of very different people with varying ideologies and backgrounds.

Blair and her classmates pose for a quick photo outside Monticello in Charlottesville, VA.

The saying “work hard play hard” was definitely applicable during my summer in DC.  When I wasn’t interning, I was either in class learning about presidential leadership, or attending an academic seminar which often included keynote addresses by impressive guests.  The most memorable was a keynote address by Ann Compton, former news reporter and White House Correspondent, at a seminar at the University of Virginia.  On the weekends, I ditched the pant suit for a t-shirt and joined my TFAS colleagues for some of DC’s most iconic activities like museum-hopping, visiting the Botanical Gardens, attending the Pride Parade, and of course late-night monument tours! My favorite activity of the summer was watching the Congressional Baseball Game and (almost) catching a foul ball!

My summer in DC was an exhausting, magical, crazy, spectacular journey.  My internship experience confirmed that I am pursuing a career that I love, and my time spent outside of the office was just as valuable.  My TFAS colleagues became my best friends, my career interest became my passion, and Washington DC became my home.