These past few days have been a whirlwind!
Since coming into DC just a few days ago, we’ve been moving and working pretty much non-stop. On Saturday, those of us who opted to stay in W&M-sponsored housing got acquainted with our roommates in the morning, and then took the Metro to the William & Mary Washington Center where we met up with everyone else and had an orientation session paired with lunch. We learned about technical things like networking etiquette and how to ask purposeful questions, as well as academic things like the intricacies of counter-bureaucracy and defining risk. Additionally, we did a quick exercise to familiarize ourselves with what it’s like to do a briefing on a person or issue, in order to answer pertinent questions and offer solutions in a very short amount of time.
Overall, Day One was both incredibly informative, and surprisingly overwhelming. We managed to fit in so much information in one day, and discuss it all at length, that by the time we were all able to go home for the night, we were mentally exhausted, but determined to push through it in order to prepare for the long day to follow. Luckily, lots of us took the time to get to know each other a little bit as we got lost in the city trying to find a Metro station that would take us where we needed to go (a feat much harder than it seemed). Nothing like mutual confusion to bring a group together! Finally, after a lot of wrong turns and walks crossed, we got back to the student housing location and refocused our energy on finding dinner, something much more appealing to us in that moment than Principal-Agent Theory ;P
Day Two was our first full-length day, and my roommates and I woke up early in order to catch the Metro and get to class on time. Of course, we happened to just miss the blue line, so we took the yellow line to the red line, and thankfully ended up being early enough to grab a quick breakfast. What a sight we must’ve been, practically running through DuPont station in business professional on a Sunday…
Even though we were able to relax a little bit due to our punctuality, once the day got started, it never stopped. We immediately began discussing our previous night’s homework, a reading on policy windows and their effect on enabling change at the right time. Our class discussions are always really engaging, because our group is just big enough to bring about a lot of different perspectives, despite most of us being IR or Gov majors. Additionally, our professors, Professors Michael Tierney and David Trichler, always prompt us to think about proposed concepts in new ways, or to come up with solutions to problems we hadn’t recognized. It involves a lot of critical thinking, which is, I think, the whole point of this course.
After our morning discussions on the readings, we were visited by a group of DC-based William & Mary alumni, who kindly came in on a Sunday afternoon to help us with the policy memo drafts we’d written and gotten back the day before. For me, that meeting was super helpful in helping me understand just how to format my policy memo, and how to fix the problems that were pointed out to me in the critiques. When we were all done with those meetings, the alumni joined us for a networking brunch during which we got to ask them questions about their jobs in the government and their experiences in getting to the point they’re currently at in their lives. This was interesting for us to gain perspective, because the alums were from graduating classes as far back as the 70’s and as recent as 2016.
Once the alumni left, we continued with discussions until it was time to end the day with a meeting/presentation with John P. Gallagher, a William & Mary alumnus who is now part of President Trump’s transition team. I can’t really divulge what we discussed in particular, (I feel like a spy or something!) but I can say that he is a very engaging speaker who doesn’t use a lot of technical jargon but is still pretty much an expert on what he talks about. We ended up walking away from that presentation feeling like we had a lot of relevant knowledge to help us view the U.S. government in a more holistic manner.
Even though John Gallagher was super cool to meet, once the class officially ended and he had to leave, our next focus was – can you guess? – dinner. These days start so early and end so late sometimes that thinking about your next meal is the thing that helps you power through it. For this particular evening, most people split up, but a couple of us decided to go to the Nando’s restaurant on the way to our Metro station, and it was yet another opportunity to get to know our classmates better.
Side note – one of the things that’s surprised me the most about this trip has been how quickly we’ve all been able to open up to each other. We weren’t all super acquainted before this week, even though we took preparatory classes on campus twice in February. There’s just something about being thrown into such a high-intensity, unfamiliar environment that makes people latch onto each other for support, and even though I don’t particularly enjoy the pressure that accompanies this class, it’s nice to know I’m not going through it alone.
Stay tuned for insights into just how crazy this week gets – tomorrow will be our first time trying to ride the metro during rush hour. Wish us luck!
-Emmel El-Fiky ’19
Day 2 dinner with (l-r) Katie, Xiaoshu, Sami, Nicole, and Kayla at Nando’s!
Day 1 dinner with Adam and Bayley
Day 1 dinner also with John and Kalide
My best attempt at a comprehensive picture of what our regular classroom looks like 🙂 The Washington Center is **suuuperrr** nice
Our very first group attempt at navigating the Metro system… thank goodness for Washington Center staff Sam and Erin!