Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Nation's Capital

The alarms went off at 5;00 AM instead of 4:00 AM this morning, which was a bit of an improvement. We rushed to get ready, a process made more confusing by the fast clock in our room, and met Mr. Hillyer and Chris down in the lobby at 6:00. On our way to the bus station, we stopped by 7/11 to  grab something to tide us over on the ride to DC. We would be taking the Megabus there, which was a three hour ride.

The outside of Union Station
Unfortunately, the cream cheese that I chose to go with my bagel had mold inside, so I didn't eat much on our way to the capital. I did, however, take the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. I woke up right before we arrived at Union Station, the grandiose train station in Washington DC. From there, we walked down the street to another bus, the Circulator, which took us to Georgetown.

Georgetown University is surrounded by the larger Georgetown area, which is full of shops, restaurants, and beautiful townhouses. Mr. Hillyer took us to Saxby's, a coffee shop that I've seen a few times since coming to the east coast, in an attempt to perk us up. We were all running a little slow before this, but it helped me to get some caffeine in my system. Now, I was wide awake and able to take in the somewhat gothic architecture and plentiful greenery that we saw when we stepped into Georgetown's Red Square.

The Georgetown Coat of Arms features an eagle, a cross, and a globe
Our visit to Georgetown started in much the same way as the other college visits, with an information session. There, I was very impressed by what I heard. I am interested in political science and languages, so Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service caught my attention. We had not seen anything like it before, and that globally ranked program coupled with Georgetown's location makes it an almost ideal place for what I want to do. I also liked that, as a religious institution, Georgetown really stresses the importance of service towards others. Georgetown also has a pre-law track that exempts students who want to go to law school (which I do) from taking the LSATs. I know that that would save me a lot of stress in the years to come!

After the information session, the tour guides came up to introduce themselves, and we were told that we could choose which one we wanted to go with. We chose Christian, who was studying politics and art history. This was definitely the right decision! From the beginning Christian was so humorous and friendly, and I could tell how passionate he was about where he goes to school. In addition to taking us around and giving us all of the facts about Georgetown, which he did well, Christian taught us the school chant of "Hoya, Saxa!" This literally translates to "What, Rocks!" We even had a competition with another tour group to see who could do the chant the loudest and with the most spirit, which we definitely won. There was also a funny moment in which we sang happy birthday to Christian after another tour guide told us that it was his birthday. However, this turned out to be just a way that the tour guides use to mess with each other, and Christian informed us that it wasn't actually his birthday at all.

This is Christian, our tour guide, standing on the steps of Heeley Hall.
It really made a difference compared to yesterday having a tour guide who I connected with and who made Georgetown seem like it would be an easy place to call home. By the time the tour was over, I could definitely picture myself as a Georgetown student. After the tour, we went back to Red Square where the tour had started to meet ASB Vice President, Chris, for lunch. He told us about his background as a first generation college student from a large public high school, and was very interested to hear about our stories and what we were doing now.  As we walked down M Street trying to find a place to eat, he ran into a lot of friends and introduced us to all of them. Chris was very warm and kind, and it was easy to talk to him about all of the questions and concerns we had about Georgetown. Lunch ran long, because our food took forever, but this was actually a good thing because it gave us plenty of time to get to know Chris and talk to him about Georgetown, as well as some of the social justice issues that we will be no-doubt also be addressing in our program.

We said our goodbyes and hopped back on the Circulator, this time riding it all the way down to the National Mall. We proceeded to tour all of DC's famous monuments, beginning with the White House and ending with the Supreme Court building. For me, it was pretty surreal to get to see all of these places in person that I had heard so much about. Mr. Hillyer is also a history teacher, so we got to hear a lot of interesting stories about the backgrounds of some of the monuments. For instance, the wild party that Andrew Jackson threw at the White House after his inauguration. It was like having a tour guide with us without having to pay! It was also pretty cool to see the memorials from World War I and II, as well as the Korean War. Looking at them, you could definitely tell which one our country wants us to remember the most!

The view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

My favorite monument was probably the Lincoln Memorial, just because I found its size and construction to be the most impressive. I also liked looking out at the reflection pool and seeing the Washington Monument on the other side. We were in our nation's capital on Fourth of July weekend, of course, so all of the tourist spots were crowded. I was also sore from how much walking we had done in the past few days (16 miles in New York and DC combined!) As a tour guide once told Mr. Hillyer when he was in DC with another group, this wasn't    vacation. This was work.

   Before we left, we stopped to observe a demonstration supporting the abolition of the death penalty. Earlier, we had also seen a man sitting outside the White House who, for years, had been protesting against nuclear proliferation. The Georgetown admissions officer who had conducted the information session had said that the spirit of protest at Georgetown and in DC at large was alive and well, which we came to see was true.

Once back at Union Station, we loaded up on provisions for the ride back to Philadelphia. Once again, I fell asleep on the bus, which I think all of us did. It had been a long few days. Luckily, we had a full night of sleep ahead of us. And I don't regret doing so much. Although it did wear me out, I'm glad we got to know the cities as opposed to just the universities, so we could understand what it would be like to actually live there. It's always good to experience new places and new things, and I had been wanting to go the New York and DC specifically for years now. It was amazing to finally get a chance to.

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