First Week in D.C.

Hi everyone!  The semester began a few days ago and we are already very busy.  While our friends back in Williamsburg began their first week of classes, we (the fifteen students in the William and Mary in Washington Spring program) had our own start of the semester of sorts.

While our friends back at William and Mary attended their classes and already had homework to complete, we had orientation.  I know you’re thinking, “Uh, not another orientation.  Been there, done that.”  But actually, this orientation was a completely different experience from freshman year.

A view of Georgetown from The Kennedy Center's terrace.

We like to think of D.C. orientation as a more sophisticated approach to orientation. Rather than playing name games (although there is nothing wrong with them), we went bowling at Lucky Strike, ate at restaurants popular among locals and were allotted seven hours on our third day to go on a scavenger hunt throughout D.C.  It has only been a week since we moved in and we have already had quite a few adventures.

Here are some of the activities we did our first week in D.C.:

-Moved in to our apartments (we have a view of the Potomac!)

-Learned the Metro system

-Lunched at the D.C. office while learning more about the program

Lafayette Square

-Bowled at Lucky Strike

-Had dinner a Matchbox

-Participated in a scavenger hunt around D.C. (more on that in a minute)

-Ate dinner at James Hoban’s (Our program managers were not joking when they said there would be a lot of food involved.  For each new stop during our orientation week, there was food.  For example, one day after lunch, we went bowling.  When we arrived at Lucky Strike, there was food waiting for us. And yes, the food was much better than dining hall food.)

-Adam’s Brown Bag (more on that below)

-Professor Doherty’s Intro to Academics

-Ice Skating in the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art

-Had Friday off to make test-runs to our internships and embarked on more adventures around the city including shopping, eating at Georgetown Cupcake (more about that in upcoming blogs), and more

The Adventures of Flat Stanley

Coinciding with our first week in D.C., I was given the privilege of showing Flat Stanley around the city.  For those of you who have not heard of Flat Stanley, he is a children’s book character that is mailed to friends and family to go on adventures.  Both my second-grade cousins had the assignment of making their own Flat Stanley and decided to send him to me so they could learn about D.C.

For the second half of our orientation week, Flat Stanley tagged along in my purse and had the opportunity to participate in the scavenger hunt.  Roxane and Katie, our program director and manager, gave us a list of different places (or clues about certain places) to go to and take pictures of.  Each place was worth a certain amount of points.  The team with the most points won a gift card to its restaurant of choice.  Each point a team earned equaled one dollar.  The winning team had over 65 points.  Regardless of which team won, we all had a great time because we learned the Metro system, saw the city and learned about different places and their historical significance to the city, and bonded with our teams.

Flat Stanley at the George Washington Masonic Temple.

In seven hours, we traveled to Alexandria, Virginia, all over the district from Foggy Bottom to Georgetown and crossed the Key Bridge back to Virginia where we took the Metro into Dupont Circle and walked around Embassy Row.

Here are some of the places in which we, including Flat Stanley, traveled during the scavenger hunt:

-The George Washington Masonic Temple and Gadsby’s Tavern in Arlington

-The Kennedy Center

-The Watergate Complex

The Exorcist stairs in Georgetown

-The White House (There was a big protest against Hu Jintao.  Stanley had his picture taken with a protester)

-“The Church of the Presidents”

– Ford’s Theater


-The Embassies of Ireland, Indonesia and Korea

Flat Stanley protesting.

After dinner, we decided to walk from Dupont Circle to the White House to see if we could see anyone arriving for the state dinner. We could see the pink and purple lights through the windows where the dinner in honor of Chinese president Hu Jintao was occurring.

The windows with the pink, purple and blue lights are where state dinner festivities were held.

The next day, Flat Stanley went ice skating in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art.  Afterwards, orientation was officially over.  My roommates Jill and Cristina, as well as Alex, another student in the program, and I decided to walk The Mall and ended up at Capitol Hill. Flat Stanley had his picture taken with the Capitol in the background.  We then decided to go to the Cannon House Office Building and walked around.  It was very exciting because Stanley had his picture taken at the offices of:

-Nancy Pelosi

-John Lewis (we had the opportunity to go in his office and see his personal pictures with JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr.  His staffers invited us out onto his balcony to have our picture taken with the Capitol in the Background!)

-Eric Cantor

-Ron Paul

-Robert Dold (Flat Stanley got to sit in my congressman’s chair!)

Alex, Lauren, Flat Stanley, Jill and Cristina on Congressman Lewis' balcony.

Friday morning we did test-runs to our internships, went shopping in Georgetown and then some of us decided to go to the Wizards vs. Suns game.  We are hoping to go to some Capitols games (I would love to see my Chicago Blackhawks play) and we already have a Nationals’ game on the schedule.  We had a great first week and we’re pretty sure Flat Stanley enjoyed his visit, too.  After all, how many Flat Stanleys have the opportunity to sit in a congressman’s chair, visit John Lewis’ office balcony, and get a glimpse of the state dinner?

Different location, same education

While we are now living in a city and getting to work by Metro rather than walking or biking across campus to class, there are many aspects of the William and Mary in Washington program that remind us of our experiences back on campus.

The White House the night of the state dinner.

Like life on campus, living in D.C. is a learning experience.  In college we learn how to live on our own, take challenging classes and build lasting friendships.  D.C. is no different. Instead of living in dorms and going to the Sadler Center or the Caf for meals, we cook for ourselves or go out to the endless amount of restaurants D.C. has to offer. We will take challenging courses here in D.C., just as we would at William and Mary.  However, our classes will be at night and on Fridays in order for us to experience first-hand the relationship between government and media through our internships.

Pete, Sam, Lauren and Flat Stanley at Ford's Theater.

Just like our first few days at The College, we have already become a close-knit group.  This is not just a community. Rather, we are like a family. Eight days ago we knew very little about each other. Today we are going on adventures all around the city, including shopping in Georgetown, trying out restaurants popular among locals and deciding at the last minute to go to a Wizards basketball game (Senator John McCain was there!).

In other words, D.C. is our “college campus” for the semester.  All the resources that we could ever imagine are at our fingertips. Along with our classes and internships, the director of the William and Mary in Washington office, Adam Anthony, hosts brown bag lunches that allow us to receive useful information and advice for being successful interns and achieving our career goals.

Like back on campus in Williamsburg, we receive a top-notch education from a dedicated professor in addition to guidance and advice from the D.C. program directors, managers and assistants.  Only at William and Mary would students have the opportunity to bowl and dine with a professor.  We learned Professor Doherty’s bowling high-score is a 266. None of us came close.

While the D.C. program this week focused on acclimating us to living in Washington, we all applied to the program because we like a challenge.  We want to gain experience in the “real world” by interning and observing first-hand the relationship between media and our government. Just like all William and Mary students, we are ready for the challenge and are ready to embark on this new adventure.  Stay tuned for a re-cap of our first week of classes and internships.  Wish us luck!

Categories: Academics, Arts & Culture, Campus Life, Student Blogs, Study Away, W&M in Washington

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