DC: A City Full of Surprises

March 31, 2010

After a month of living in the District, I finally am starting to feel like a D.C. local.  I have memorized the Circulator schedule, I frequent all of the local restaurants, and I get highly annoyed when people do not move to the left side of the escalator in the metro.  However, even though I finally feel adjusted to living here, I still have so many “wow” moments in Washington.

I will never get accustomed to passing well-known public figures in the hallways of the Capitol office buildings.  I got absolutely flustered and giddy when I caught a glimpse of a Senator from afar.  The other day my roommates and I passed a Member of Congress and his wife, casually strolling through Union Station, and it was so surreal.  D.C. is often dubbed the “Hollywood for ugly people” and it is true to a certain degree.  While everyone in Washington is certainly not unattractive and I have found that glamour and fashion are surprisingly important elements in this city, the “Hollywood” portion of that phrase seems spot on.  It really is very common to see public figures out and about in Washington, and it is always such an unreal experience to see the people in person that I have seen in so many televised debates and appearances.

While seeing politicians in person from time to time is a very surreal experience, just living in this city amongst the familiar monuments is quite amazing.  I walk by the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress on a daily basis.  I enjoy running, and I recently had a moment that caught me off guard while running on the National Mall.  It is always incredible to run on the mile-long stretch between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, but after doing it on a daily basis it becomes somewhat normal.  One day I went for a run before work, and as I ran towards the Washington Monument, the sun came up casting a gorgeous glow over our nation’s capital city.  It was an absolutely breathtaking view, and a moment that completely surprised me and caught me off guard.

The views of these buildings are amazing, but working in the buildings is even more of a bizarre and overwhelming experience.  The Capitol buildings are full of history, and I love just walking around and looking at everything from the architecture to the art hanging on the walls.  I have taken a few art history classes in college, and during my first tour of the Capitol building, I was shocked to see some of our nation’s more prominent artwork displayed inside.  It is also so crazy that I can walk in the underground tunnels of the Capitol buildings with my intern I.D. unescorted.  One other thing that I have found so unusual about working in the Capitol is that there are so many tourists that are walking around my workplace.  The Capitol is the workplace of so many professionals, yet how many people walk around any other office building just to see it?  I have noticed that it is extremely unique in that regard.

As an international affairs student, I always try to pay attention to the news and headlines.  At home I always watch CNN in the morning and follow the New York Times on Twitter.  While I generally have an idea about the important legislation passing through congress, the amount of information I am exposed to seems like nothing when compared to living and working in Washington.  My office constantly has CNN on, and talking to constituents, reading letters, and answering phone calls has made me so aware of all of the issues being talked about on the Hill.  I have found that politics and current affairs permeate absolutely everything in D.C., to the extent that it is almost impossible to walk to the grocery store without overhearing a conversation about politics.  It is so bizarre to hear about headlines on CNN and then attend the Senate committee hearings about a topic they discuss.  Just by living in this city I absorb so much about our government and current events, and working on the Hill further exposes me to this information.  Living amongst so many “politicos” has also helped to refine my knowledge of politics and current events, which is one of the elements that I really love about this city.

-Jillian T., Star Fellow Spring 2010

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