Reporting from D.C.: Settling in

Posted by Paulina Phelps

Going abroad at Skidmore is very common; going abroad your sophomore year is not. Then again, going abroad to D.C. is not your typical abroad experience. I came to D.C. to study journalism through the Washington Semester Program (WSP) at American University. For those who aren't familiar with the program, it comprises three parts: an internship, a seminar on your specialization and an elective course at American. I have been living in Washington D.C. for almost a month. In this short amount of time I have experienced a huge range of feelings, sights, people, opinions and even weather patterns.

Despite this hodgepodge of experiences, I have never once felt overwhelmed. In fact, D.C. feels surprisingly small. In part, this has to do with the shorter blocks, and there is always something going on around you. The stretches of concrete without any life make you feel much smaller than a block populated with businesses and people. With the constant distraction of interesting people, cafes, bookstores, beautiful views from bridges and the rows of embassies lining Massachusetts Ave., you have to be acutely aware of everything around you. In my personal experience, the best way to get to know DC is to jog it. I highly recommend this for a number of reasons: the city is generally very flat, you will look like a Washingtonian and the streetlights change peculiarly fast so you're never left waiting at a crosswalk. 

If the journalism professors have drilled anything into our heads here, it is that accuracy is the most important thing and that the truth takes time. This is reflected in all matters in life. In making generalizations and blanket statements about people, places and ideas, the truth becomes harder to uncover. Instead, I aim to make observations--sometimes bold reflections--but they are not necessarily the truth. So in this column I aim to be a travel journalist as opposed to a travel writer. While many aspects of D.C.'s culture were surprising, I could anticipate some parts. Seeing monuments like the Capital Building and the Lincoln Memorial was surreal after knowing them as scanned images on postcards for so long.

DC's particularly diverse population and unpredictability struck me most. Of course the same could be said of New York City, but it seems that the various burrows of the city all have stereotypes unique to their area. Compare that to Woodley Park, my neighborhood in D.C., where on just one block there is an Indian, Ethiopian, Italian, Japanese and Mexican restaurant. Every morning walking down the elevator at the Woodley Park metro stop, I pass the murmurs of unfamiliar and colorful languages. Looking out my bedroom window and seeing busy Connecticut Ave. instead of the peaceful acres of Northwoods is an adjustment and makes me wonder about Skidmore at times. But, while uncertainty is ubiquitous, I am assured by the growing attachment I feel to this city every day.  

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