As I sit here plugging things into my calendar that I have to do this month, I'm starting to realize that my time here is slowly winding down. We're halfway through! I have a full month of DC livin' under my belt (end of January + February) and a sizable dent in March started. Pretty soon, there's only going to be April left and then I must depart my life that I have started here and pick back up in Nashville. I decided to take the time out to rattle off a few things that I have learned since I've been here. I will likely add more to it towards the end of my program, since there is no doubt that I will have learned more.
1. Learn how to budget! It is ridiculous how expensive DC can be!!! Food here can be three times as expensive as back home...just because it's in DC. Same food, same great taste, NOT the same price! Then there's everybody's favorite transportation system, the METRO! Since I work pretty far out from where I live, I pay close to $4 both ways (so almost $8) everyday just to get to and from work. CRAZY, right! I am still failing to realize the logic behind peak rates in which transit authority thinks it's better to charge people more during rush hour, when realistically they would still be making more money during those hours if they didn't increase the price because more people use it...DUH! I feel like maybe I should start a campaign to get the Metro prices lowered. I wonder would it work since I'm in DC and people seem to protest against everything else! Some people are lucky enough to either work at a place where they can just walk and not have to use the Metro, or have a job that pays for their Metro usage to and from work. Unfortunately, I am not one of those.
2. Get all the touristy things out of the way early. True, you are here for a whole semester through TWC and therefore have a whole semester to venture out to all the museums and monuments. But I think it's best to get those things done early no matter which semester you are here for. If you're here for the fall semester, I would think you would want to get them done early before it becomes too cold outside that you just don't feel like going anywhere. But for me, I feel that it is important to get the touristy things out of the way in the spring semester because you want to be done before all the real tourists come to visit DC and go to all the attractions. There's nothing like visiting a museum and being suddenly surprised by a large group of high school tourists! Not saying that there's anything wrong with high schoolers, afterall I went to high school once, but it is so much easier to enjoy museums without them!
3. Get out and do things you have never done before. Although it's not that big of a deal, the other night I went to an open mic night at Busboys and Poets. I've been to ones that my school has sponsored, but never a real one. It was really good though, everyone had a lot of talent. I'm thinking about going up one night and giving a piece that I wrote! I am really fascinated by the art of spoken word, and although I'm not great at it, I'll never see these people again when I leave DC, so why not!!
4. Live outside of your comfort zone. That was what I was shooting for during my time here in DC. I wanted to be outside of my comfort zone as much as possible. You're only in this program for a semester and if you live outside of your comfort zone while you're here you can learn so much more than you ever could in four years of college.
5. Hone in on your passions. DC is a great place to find what it is your passionate about and get on a project that is focused in the same area. Like for me, my passions lie in the happenings of the Middle East. Just so happens this place is bustling with people who are likeminded and are just as passionate. It's a great way to network and become more articulate in what it is you are passionate about.
6. Get a water filter!!! Water is important...VERY important. Funny thing I learned while being here. There are a ton of international students who participate in this program. One thing that several of them have told me that they were told when they were getting prepared to head out to DC was not to drink the tap water. I found that very interesting because the few times that I have been abroad, I was always told not to drink their water, I never thought that other countries would be telling them the same thing about ours! But it turns out, DC tap water is nasty. I'm not talking about in terms of taste, but in terms of substances in it. They even have an alcoholic beverage at most of the bars called DC Tap Water, so you know it can't be good. One of my friends performed an "experiment" leaving DC tap water out for two days. Let's just say, it was not a pretty sight.
Those are just a few of the tips I have come up with so far. Stay tuned as I am sure more will come.