Having finally settled back into Austin, I can now stop and answer some of those ever-present FAQs asked by family, friends and readers about my time in Washington.
If you worked 40 hours/week and took classes simultaneously, how did you ever have time to stop and enjoy the city? Altogether it worked out beautifully. I had Fridays and Saturdays off, so I would use those days for fun. Since the other Archers would get Saturdays-Sundays off, I would participate in group activities on Saturdays, and have “me” time on Fridays…when everyone else was working.
How did being under 21 affect your experience? At first it seemed restricting, since I was only one of four people out of the group who couldn’t make all the happy hours and get into 21+ clubs. Obviously the Archer experience is a little more enjoyable if you’re of age, but all in all it wasn’t too bad. Toward the end, I was able to get into many bars and drink my non-alcoholic Shirley Temples and Ginger Ales just fine.
How did you feed yourself? We ordered all our groceries for delivery through Safeway.com and/or Peapod.com. There are no Walmarts or HEBs in the area, so places like Safeway and Giant are the next best thing. The delivery fees are usually $10-15, a relatively small price to pay for sparing you the hassle. Usually there will be some kind of special where you can score free delivery, which is what I would do.
Where did you live? The 22 of us lived in two three-story townhomes on Capitol Hill, just down the block from each other. About six blocks north is beautiful Union Station, a few blocks east is Eastern Market, to the west is the U.S. Supreme Court (probably a one-minute walk from my house) then the U.S. Capitol, and farther south is the Library of Congress.
The houses were awesome (see my video tour). We had everything we needed: beds, desks, appliances, dishes, washer/dryer units, furniture, plasma TV, even framed artwork and an endless supply of TOILET PAPER! To make the deal even sweater, we had maintenance people come in once a week to fix anything, and occasionally clean our house for us.
How did everyone balance responsibilities in the house? Colleen Davies, our wonderful program coordinator, created “CLEAN TEAM” sheets for both of the houses. For each week of the program, a new person was in charge of dish-washing, table-wiping, floor-sweeping and fridge-cleaning. If ever someone didn’t carry their weight, someone else would usually jump in to help. There were never huge confrontations about cleaning in our house.
What did you job consist of? I was an intern for ABC’s Good Morning America, and I had a fair balance of typical intern tasks and interesting journalism work. For example, I answered phones and dealt with story pitches, requests from correspondents and producers, etc. I also fetched a lot of tape from the tape library, made dubs, fed material to New York, and verbated many interviews and segments. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting and famous people, including Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer. I helped with a live show from D.C. during GMA’s “Whistle Stop Tour,” and conducted “man-on-the-street” interviews on the National Mall one day. And I was paid for it!
What was your favorite part of the semester? Everything was incredible, but it’s fair to say I really loved being on the East Coast. I was just an hour away from Baltimore, a short drive from Philadelphia and just a $5 bus ticket away from New York City. The beauty of the place is also awe inspiring: trees painted with all sorts of hues during autumn, perfect snowflakes falling on cobblestone streets during winter. Our neighborhood was picturesque. During Halloween, you’d see colorful leaves falling and filling the quaint sidewalks, the cast iron gates, and cute little jack-o-lanterns on the front steps of the townhomes.
You were in D.C. during the presidential race and election. What was that like? Amazing. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go when I did, even though the spring 2008 Archers had access to Obama’s inauguration and all sorts of fun inauguration balls. But in my opinion, this was better. We had the opportunity to volunteer and campaign in a crucial battleground state (Virginia), witness the bailout incident firsthand (and in my case, talk to members of Congress about it), and experience election day in all of its glory, among other things. On election night I left the ABC bureau only to hear the deafening roar of car honkings and people dancing for joy, chanting “USA!!” at the White House. It was a night to remember, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the day anywhere else!
What is one misconception about D.C. you’d like to share? Washington D.C. is so heavily associated with the government, it’s difficult to picture the city as anything other than a political tourism spot only history/government geeks could get excited about. You automatically think of eighth grade field trips going to the Capitol and dropping by Smithsonian Museums. But in reality, D.C. is so much more exciting than that. Places like DuPont Circle and Adams-Morgan are so hip, vibrant and bohemian. Parts of the city remind me a lot of the East Village in N.Y.C. Washington D.C. also has a huge LGBT scene, and is always Democrat-dominated in national elections. It’s a city that has everything…educational opportunities, history, culture, exciting nightlife.
What were your favorite places/neighborhoods in D.C.? Where would you recommend a tourist visit in the city? Of course, no visit to D.C. would be complete without visiting all the typical spots: White House, Supreme Court, Capitol (and the brand-new $600 million visitor’s center) and Library of Congress. Everything but the White House is located on the Hill. I would suggest spending no more than a day visiting those things. The next stop should be the National Mall, where one can spend hours upon hours exploring the many Smithsonian Museums and monuments, from Lincoln to Vietnam. A short distance away is the National Archives building, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are housed. However, some of my most cherished memories come from:
-Window shopping in Georgetown, and walking up and down the Exorcist Stairs
-Eating cheap Chinese food in Chinatown
-Souvenir shopping in Penn Quarter…specifically across the street from Ford’s Theater
-Going to the Sunday Drag Brunch in Adams-Morgan
-Ordering chili-cheese fries at Ben’s Chili Bowl (Bill Cosby’s favorite restaurant)
-Exploring the other, less-visited Smithsonian museums that aren’t in the National Mall
-Going to performances at the Kennedy Center in the Foggy Bottom area
Public transportation? How did that work? The P.T. system in Washington is great. The Metro works through a series of different-colored lines and also takes you to Virginia and Maryland. The Metro fare is definitely pricier than N.Y.C.’s, but let me tell you, the cleanliness and safety are is worth it. I spent about $1.35 each way to get to work and back. The circulator bus will take you to Georgetown for a dollar, and the regular buses are also relatively inexpensive and convenient. Getting around was definitely not a problem, and I only used a taxi about four times.
To pay for fare, you can either get a SmarTrip card (available at the Metro Center station) or use a paper Fare card. My advice? If you’re living in the city for an extended period of time, get a SmarTrip card. They’re sturdy and faster/easier to scan when you enter the station.
Well, have any more questions? Just e-mail or comment me to let me know!