Lasting Lessons

Lasting Lessons

So, this is it—the final post. It has been a pleasure to blog about my experience in D.C. this spring semester. I won’t say it has been easy at times, but it has been one of many learning experiences I have had over the last four months. I’ll just wrap up by concluding my feelings about TWC programming, living and working in the District, and the people.


I’m not sure what to say about TWC programming. I think Jarco excellently summarized most of my sentiments in his “TWC: Likes and Dislikes” piece. I’ll just say there were certain aspects of TWC that were amazing (White House Fellows were by far the best speakers for the Monday programming), and certain aspects that were…a nuisance, including some of the speakers. Here are a few complaints:


Some of the speakers seemed irrelevant. I still don’t know the point of the Corporate Social Responsibility speakers, other than showcasing that corporations aren’t always big, bad wolves. It was like sitting through a PR session, with one of the speakers becoming a bit crabby when his (uninteresting) video had some technical issues.


There was an expectation that we would meet a Congressional staff member or someone on Capitol Hill via the Public Policy Dialogue on Capitol Hill. I recognize that one person at TWC undertakes the responsibility of scheduling all of these meetings, and scheduling all of these meetings is a monumental task. I’m not annoyed at not meeting  a Congressional staff member (I coincidentally attended church with my U.S. Senator in my college town), I just would’ve liked to have known that it wasn’t a given that I would have a Public Policy Dialogue.


Why was there a lack of foreign organizations represented at TWC programming? I’m not talking about multi-national organizations originating in the U.S., but their counterparts, such as Al Jazeera English or El Pais or Univision. There are so many foreign organizations based in D.C., yet, if my memory serves me correctly, I don’t recall any of them speaking at Monday programming. This wasn’t a big issue for me, but I overheard international students questioning why there weren’t any groups from outside the U.S. at TWC programming. Okay, we got to visit embassies, but, as I experienced at the Israeli Embassy, that isn’t always the most personable interaction.


I’ll stop complaining here to thank TWC for the good things, especially the International Festival event. It was incredible enjoying food, music, dancing, and fashion from many countries at once. It reminded me of cultural tours at an embassy, but confined to one building.


Now to D.C. as a city…


D.C. is a great city. Very accessible by bike, public transportation, and foot. It has some really nice neighborhoods hidden away from tourists. There are great (free) events, whether you like think tank sessions (check out or cultural festivities and touring embassies, there is something for everyone.  And of course the historical significance, the memorials, and the museums. However, I can see why Virginians I spoke to admitted that they had no desire to visit the city. Tourists, heavy traffic, cost of living are all reasons to want to stay away sometimes.


Work at ICP


In one of my earlier posts I mentioned working at a non-profit (Innovations in Civic Participation—ICP) with an all-female staff, including three other interns. So, how did I fair as the lone male in the office? Well, actually it was a great time.

The office culture was very relaxed but still serious. There was plenty of joking, eating, and fun activities. The office would celebrate birthdays with cake or muffins. We had brown-bag lunches with a former Peace Corps volunteer working in the State Department, and with a social media consultant. We went to the Phillips Collection Art Gallery and a Washington Nationals baseball game. But at the same time there was a lot of work that went finished.

We hosted and coordinated a three-day conference with American and Pakistani universities in March. There were many audio interviews from another project that were transcribed and then coded for data analysis. Reports were put together for the U.S.  Embassy in Islamabad, numerous project proposals developed, budget reports finished, etc. And this is just a slice of the work over the last four months.


All this while I tried not to fumble managing the organization’s website and social media, something I had never done before. I have a higher respect for computer science majors after my trial-by-fire learning of HTML coding and Drupal. This experience takes me back to advice I was given as I decided on my internship sites. A college advisor and a family friend both strongly suggested I choose an internship that would give me the most tangible work—so, a place where I was more than just a glorified coffee maker and document copier. I have to say I definitely did more than copying documents, and I never made coffee.

I couldn’t finish without mentioning the people of D.C. It was only appropriate that I was reading “Brave New World” during my time in D.C. As I read about a society stratified into Alphas, Betas, Gammas, etc. I began to think of being in a city of “Alphas.” There are a lot of A-type people in D.C. And there was always this sense that whenever I met someone I was being measured in some way, such as when I would tell them I was from Kentucky or that I attended Western Kentucky University. Neither Kentucky or WKU has any name-power, especially compared to New York or NYU. But, as my supervisor told me, it helps to just shrug it off, which I wish I would’ve done while I was in D.C. So, while I miss many things about D.C., I definitely won’t miss the people. I’ll come back once I’ve developed some thicker skin.


Thanks for following my time in D.C., and I hope you all have enjoyed reading.

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