Friday, October 5, 2012

Welcome to DC!

Adios Alaska, hello Washington, DC!  I've officially transplanted myself to the east coast and have been living here for 6 weeks now.  Graduate school started a month ago, and I'm in the midst of writing papers and preparing for mid-term examinations.  I have a new roommate, apartment, and new friends, but I'm still the same old Penny (just slightly more stressed and busy).

Row Houses
If you were wondering, graduate school at Georgetown is no joke.  I knew going back to school would be difficult, but this is quite intense.  I've been trying to make a concerted effort not to "complain" about school or try and get sympathy from my social networks (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) (I mean, I chose to come here and I'm paying lots of money for it, so why complain?), so I'll try keep it brief here, too.  Basically, I feel like I could be studying or reading about 12 hours/day, and I would still have more work I could do.  One of the biggest hurdles I'm facing is actually remembering how to be an efficient student again: note-taking during class, reading comprehension, critical thinking, concentration under pressure, time management, eliminating distractions...  It's been four years since I left undergrad, so it's been a while...  And Georgetown is more intense than any other educational experience I've had before.  I feel challenged, but as I told my mom, "I'm treading water, I'm not drowning yet!"

Georgetown University (bears a resemblance to Hogwarts Castle, eh?)
My classmates are very interesting and diverse; arguably the best part of the program (besides its location in DC).  About 40% of my incoming class (there are a little over 90 of us), is international.  Students have come from Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Germany, France, Spain, Columbia, Australia, Singapore, China, Japan, Moldova, Dominican Republic....  Of course, there are students from all over the United States as well (even another girl who grew up in Alaska!)  It's amazing to hear the different accents, opinions, languages, and stories from this diverse group.  What is even more intriguing is that we all share certain things in common: interest in the international community, intercultural interaction, politics, and the improvement of our shared world.  We've been organizing barbeques, parties and happy hours; along with study groups, and study sessions.  This makes for some extreme bonding.  Although I've only known my classmates for a month, I feel very close to many of them.  I know this group of people will be very important for the rest of my life, professionally and personally.  It reminds me a lot of Peace Corps: a small group of people going through the exact same experience together for two years, sharing the same stresses and joys.
My program's student lounge

Working on our international economics course
I've been trying to get out as much as I can into DC and nearby areas when I can escape from studying.  The summer is winding down and the weather is beautiful now.  Apples, pumpkins, and yellow leaves are everywhere.  Young people are the majority in this city and there is always something going on: concerts, cultural events, poetry slams, international leaders speaking, film festivals, new Smithsonian exhibits, disc golf tournaments...  I'm in a bit of shock after two years in rural Nicaragua, and a year in dark, cold Alaska.
Farmer's Market
Georgetown Law School Library I often read in
Washington, DC is very diverse.  On my walk from my apartment to the metro, I pass through a largely African-American neighborhood with a soup kitchen and large homeless population, the "Chinatown" neighborhood with its endless dumpling and noodle restaurants, and the Georgetown Law School, which is full of very smart (mainly white) students.  It's quite the juxtaposition...  DC is so small and so diverse, you can walk a few blocks and be a world away from where you started.  Obscure cuisine like Ethiopian is "big" in DC, also brunch and "Happy Hour" (illegal back home in Alaska since it promotes drinking).  I'm enjoying observing a lot of what goes on around me; people watching provides endless entertainment. 

View of the US Capitol building from the top of my apartment complex
More to come soon (and hopefully better written and better organized).  I just wanted to jot down a few of my recent thoughts about DC and graduate school and share some photos.

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