I could have, I should have, I would have

I could have, I should have, I would have

Any time you spend time reflecting on an experience, you usually come across a few things you wish you would have known, or you wish you could have done better.  As I sit here and reflect on my summer with The Washington Center, a few things do come to mind and I want to share them with you.  Though they may be random, they are the best attempt I can make to ensure that you are most prepared before you head out to Washington, D.C.


I could have done a better job. . .

...preparing for the Civic Engagement portion of the portfolio assignment we have to turn in.  Now you are probably thinking . . . “Really Charity?  Why does it matter so much and should I really care?  It’s just a summer assignment.” Here is the way I see things: If you are serious about networking and creating an impressive resume and saving yourself from doing work later, then you will be interested. If these things don’t matter to you, then reconsider participating in the TWC program.

Basically, the Civic Engagement project is to help you prepare a compelling document showcasing your interest in a certain topic, your involvement in the interest, and how you engaged your Congress Representative on the topic.  You will only get what you put into whatever you do for The Washington Center.  This project can be easily an item that you can show future potential employers, or even a jumpstart on an upcoming class project.  What I wish I did better was plan more thoroughly and in advance.  I had several interests, but did not put much effort to secure a volunteering service activity that would enhance my knowledge and engagement on the topic of interest.  Since I started looking for a civic engagement activity later in the program, it took me two unexpected weeks to secure an activity that pertained to my topic of interest (education).

Before heading out to D.C., take some time to narrow down what topics of interest you would like to engage with once you arrive.  Take an early stab and start searching around to see if there are any discussions, lectures, volunteer activities that you can participate in when you arrive.  The earlier, the better and no rush.



I wish I knew . . .

...that you cannot take snow globes onto airplanes.  This is because there is a way to use snow globes to hold dangerous chemicals or fluids that can be harmful.  Too bad I did not know this while I was frantically looking for something fitting for my mother to showcase.  My mother enjoys the little collection items that I get her from the various places I have been. That being said, I figured a beautiful snow globe that held the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial would be perfect.  I bought it on a whim because the museum I was in was closing as I was purchasing the globe. The rush was not worth it because things like the snow globe are also sold at the airports that take them away from you.  Now if you do choose to purchase a snow globe for a loved one, just remember to pack it in your luggage, and not your carry-on bag. 


I usually do a great job abiding by the wonderful safety standards of TSA.  But once my little bag went through the scanner and the evil red light went off, my beautiful clean record became smudged.  I could have saved $15 and the heartbreak of buying that beautiful gift for my dear mother by just shopping in the airport shops after arrived at my terminal.  Though I had to throw away $15, one shop was having a great t-shirt sale...so in my depressed state, I bought everyone in the family a colorful D.C. shirt.  While picking out the perfect sizes, I happened to pass a few cursed snow globes . . .please explain why if you can’t take it on the plane then why the heck you can purchase the globes in the terminal before going onto the plane?  A little bitter, I was able to console myself with the nice matching shirts I found. 

Words from the wise: If all else fails during your family shopping time in D.C., just get everything at the airport – they will never know the difference because the merchandise is all the same!



I could have done a better job . . .


...mapping out everything that I wanted to see and do in D.C.  Because there is so much going on and there are so many free things to do, D.C. social life can be overwhelming.  I do not prefer spontaneity over planned events; however, I do like to have a balance of the two.  I had a roommate who went to every single Smithsonian Museum over the course of 5 or 6 weeks.  I did not have that kind of discipline, but I did go to Washington Nationals and D.C. United games.  Since I did most of my exploration and social activities with different groups of people, I found myself making repeat trips to certain attractions even though there were so many things I had not done. 


As you arrive to D.C., begin to look around and pick a handful of museums and/or events that you must see or do before you leave.  Then make sure that your social groups help you get there.  This way, you won’t be disappointed when you leave because you know you saw the most important things for you.  Some activities may take more planning than others, such as the Holocaust Museum, The U.S. Capitol, and the White House.  If you would like to see any of these items, be sure to plan ahead by visiting the Visitor Guide page of the respective websites. 


If you do fail to plan ahead, you can still find so many random things to do that you will never be bored.  Both sporting events were last minute decisions ($5 tickets at the Nationals baseball game and $15 college night deal for the D.C. United soccer game).  Random festivals happen all throughout the summer.  My friends ran into a free U.S. Air Force band concert that was being held on the U.S. Capitol building steps.  There are always outdoor film festivals as well (Screen on the Green at the National Mall on Monday evenings).


I cannot say that I am disappointed with myself for what I have discovered at D.C., but I believe there are several other things that I could have done if I had mapped out my time better.  I know that since you read this section, you will map out your activities with efficiency and spontaneity all at the same time.


I wish I knew . . .

...that the bus system in D.C. is not as scary as I thought it was.  I hate taking buses because they are usually unreliable, there are so many different stops, and there are so many different buses it is so easy to get on the wrong one.  Not true always!! Near the end of the summer, I became desperate to find a new way to transport myself around the city and found that the bus system was actually very sufficient.  When you have the mindset that the MetroRail is the only efficient way to get around the city, you can be very limited in what you decide to do.  I finally purged that mindset and began to venture away from the rail system and took the bus a few times.  Most times, the buses were right on time, or just a few minutes give or take.  Taking the bus saved me so much walking time because I would usually take the rail system and walk whatever distance to my destination – very tiring and not wise at night.  My advice to you is to purge whatever premonitions you have about public transportation and venture out early using all forms of transportation as you can!  The Metro rail system is great, but during the summer, it is not as reliable because of repairs and maintenance.  If you learn the bus system early, then you don’t have to be hindered from whatever delays or congestion you may find on the Metro rail (especially the Red Line).

I am certain there are several more “I could have done a better job” or “I wish I knew” topics from this summer, but I hope the ones I shared are useful to your journey through The Washington Center Program.

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