I had never been to Washington, DC until this past summer when I interned for the Department of State. While I come from outside of Boston, I haven’t spent much time exploring the city itself, so living in DC was an exciting experience. I spent the summer doing the typical “touristy” things many do when in the nation’s capitol, such as visiting the National Mall and all the museums and monuments that come with it, as well as going to iconic spots such as Georgetown Cupcakes, the Potomac, or Arlington Cemetery. Coming back for the DC Program this semester I not only feel like I have a good grasp of the city, but also as if I'm part of a community. DC is welcoming in a way other cities are not, possibly due to a combination of southern hospitality and the fact that very few people who live here are actually from DC. It’s an eclectic mix of people from around the country and the world, making for a truly diverse cultural experience.
As many have said, though, it is a “one company” city, with everyone drawn into the political atmosphere in some way or another. I have seen this in the two internships I’ve had so far. Working at the Department of State is clearly related to politics, as is Environment America, an environmental advocacy group, but it’s the connections between the two and the random encounters with people from very different fields who know of a colleague or have heard about the work we’re doing that really amazes me.
What also amazes me is the hope everyone keeps hold of despite the negative political climate and continual gridlock. Through both of my internships I have attended multiple interagency and NGO meetings, and while Congress is always the subject of a bad joke or talked about in an exasperated manner, people persevere and find another way to get their goals accomplished. At State that may have meant relying more on other countries to lead the way and pass legislation, or turning more to international organizations/agencies such as the UN to get the U.S. moving on environmental issues. At Environment America it means doing more in-state advocacy or working to gain public support for EPA rules such as putting a limit on carbon pollution from power plants. Congress may be a centerpiece of our political system, but agencies and organizations have been coming up with innovative ways to work around them, changing the way they think, organize, and distribute their resources in an attempt to change at least one part of our world for the better.