Not everyone gets the opportunity to have a sneak peek into their future during their third year of college; however, as a political science major spending the semester working and studying in Washington D.C., I spend every day hoping that I will remain this lucky to do what I love for the rest of my life.
I am privileged enough to spend the fall working with two amazing groups here in the nation’s capitol: Sustained Dialogue, a non-profit which engages college campuses and community organizations in programs of relationship building essential to help people move past their differences to dialogue, and then to action, and the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions as an Education Policy intern. Every day I am able to wake up, put on a blazer, see senators while I’m taking my lunch break, work with amazing and inspiring teams, and know that I’m playing a small part in touching hundreds of thousands of lives across the United States, and across the globe. My dream is to work in education policy someday, either at a grassroots, non-profit level or in a governmental, policy-based capacity.
This semester has been instrumental in developing skills around policy research, diversity training, and dialogue-based communication. Outside of my work, as well, I know that every experience I’ve had in my first month up here in D.C., and every experience I’ll encounter throughout the rest of the semester, pushes me one step closer to achieving my dreams and living a professional life of passion for educational equity and diversity. There’s nowhere else in the world where I could have shaken hands with one of my favorite Senators, attend briefings with a view of the White House in the background (or toured the White House, for that thing), or formed close friendships with students from three different countries, all while working 40 hours a week to make a difference in the world and learn everything I can.
At the end of the day, however, I think that my experiences here can be applied to my life when I return to Boone in January, and for all App State students. Here’s a list of the 10 tips I have for Appalachian students in Boone, D.C., or anywhere around the globe:
10. Chaco’s are ALWAYS the most comfortable shoes to walk around in...even if it is walking to the National Gallery of Art.
9. International students will always love your Southern accent.
8. Navigating, or attempting to navigate, the Appalcart Routes is ten times more difficult than figuring our public transportation in any other city! (But, it’s not as awesome as the free Appalcarts in Boone…)
7. Hiking is the perfect training for living on the 5th floor of a tiny Capitol Hill apartment building, with no elevator!
6. When you’re nervous, always start a conversation with a joke! It’s how I’ve built a lot of my closest mentor relationships at Appalachian, and up here in Washington.
5. Find your nearest froyo shop! Menchies & Freshens in Boone, West Wing Cafe in D.C.!
4. Learn your way around so you can feel like a pro when friends/family come visit! Automatically know the best hiking trails, the best brunch spots (Melanies in Boone, Founding Farmers in D.C., tied in my heart), and how many blocks you are from the White House at all times.
3. App State alumni are doing big things in the world!! Always do your best to meet with some alumni and start building your network.
2. Take every opportunity you can for learning, even if it’s not directly related to what you’re studying!! Go to every speaker you have the opportunity to, every film showing, every art exhibit, every Smithsonian (D.C. insider tip: the Postal Museum is actually amazing!)
1. Stay connected to the things that you are passionate about, stay informed on what’s going on in the world, and always do things that fulfill not only your interests, but help to make the world a better place. It makes studying for exams or 9-5 workdays so much more enjoyable.
Written by: Sarah Aldridge