Staff Picks: First Impressions of DC

Many people across the country and world have begun their professional careers in Washington, DC as interns.  In this week’s blog, TFAS staff members give their early impressions of DC from when they first moved to the political powerhouse, and how their impressions have or haven’t changed over time. 

 “When I first came to DC as an intern in the Spring of 2003, the constant energy associated with the weight of historical events amazed me. The Iraq war started that semester, and the days were full of passionate discussion, protests and high-profile events.

Returning, I found that this spirit has not changed – if you want to in an environment where the momentum never stops and history is made, then Washington is the place for you.”
Jonathan Tilley, Coordinator, Institute on Business and Government Affairs

 “When I arrived in DC two decades ago I was completely enamored with the Metro system.  I remember feeling like a kid at Disneyland and thinking ‘Gee, I can ride this train every day if I want!’  I made a point of exploring as many neighborhoods as possible that were Metro accessible.

DC is full of many hidden spaces. There are out of the way parks, little known sculptures and monuments, churches, and non-touristy historical sites.  Take some time and explore when you first arrive. It’s well worth it and years later you’ll be glad you did.

Also, be sure to visit some of the local universities and their surrounding neighborhoods: University of Maryland, Catholic University, American University, Howard University, George Washington University, and of course Georgetown University.”
Joe Starrs, Director, Institute on Political Journalism & Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems

“I first visited DC when I was 11 – my first impression was sheer awe.  I’m from a small town in California, where public transportation is almost non-existent.  The Metro was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

I’m still in awe of DC – while the Metro has now become quite commonplace in my life, I never stop being amazed by the architecture, history and power that this city has in our society today. No matter how many times I go, I’m the DC resident who still takes pictures of the monument like a tourist or stops to take a moment and stare at the Capitol.”
Haley Heieck, Coordinator, Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems

“DC was intimidating at first, especially if your first visit is during high tourist season like mine was. Once I got my bearings and the out-of-towners left, I realized that DC has a small town feel. The diversity of people is refreshing and there is a sense that all those that live in the nation’s capital are here to do good. Whether it’s going to school, working for the government or a nonprofit organization, influencing policy or spreading information as a member of the media, Washingtonians take pride in working hard.”
Emily Hill, Manager, Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service

“Washington, DC can seem like a very large and confusing place to a newcomer. Growing up a rural town in New Hampshire with 3,000 residents does not prepare you for navigating a metropolis such as this.

I got over this initial fear of getting lost by taking it one neighborhood at a time. Using a good old-fashioned street map along with my Metro map, I began to familiarize myself with one section of the city at a time; learning which streets connected to each other and which metro stops where most convenient to certain locations. Eventually finding my way through the city became like second nature. When my parents visit, they continue to be impressed with my navigation skills and improved sense of direction!”
Mary Connell, Director, Recruitment and Admissions

“I am solidly a suburb girl at heart, born and raised in a small town about midway between Philadelphia and New York, and I was easily overwhelmed by both cities.  When I first came to DC two years ago as a summer intern I was expecting that claustrophobic feeling to set in upon first setting foot into the city.  Luckily, it never did.  DC is a city within a suburb and the buildings are spaced out.  With the majority of those who work in DC living in Virginia or Maryland, it was not nearly as overwhelming as I expected.

Yes, now that I’m working here full time, I do get claustrophobic from the crowded Metro during rush hour occasionally, but the general layout of the city, with the lack of tall buildings, and abundance of green spaces allow me to never get overwhelmed for long. I can merely ride that Metro to a station on the Mall and get a breath of fresh air.” 
Elizabeth Matecki, Assistant, Recruitment and Admissions

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