Studying in Washington, D.C., USA – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
People say life is a book. Every step you take becomes a word, a sentence, or even a paragraph of your book. You are in charge of creating your own story, of writing every chapter the way you want. You are supposed to make the most out of your life and produce a bestseller. People also say that those who do not travel only read one page. I strongly support this statement. Traveling is living. Every trip is a new experience. From the moment you make the decision of traveling you are challenged, you are being pulled out of your comfort zone. From the very first moment, you are learning about life. You are opening your mind, your eyes and your soul to the world. Your naked self is getting exposed to life. It is in that moment where you find yourself immersed in inspiration to continue writing your book.
This past semester I had the opportunity of living in Washington, D.C. Washington is known for being the center of everything that happens in the United States, and even the world. As everything is connected, one can say everything begins in D.C. I was able to experience and testify this. Even though I had already lived away from home for almost two years, this semester was a completely different experience. I had already been in D.C. before, nonetheless, I did not know the city at all. I have always been an independent person, which made things easier for me. However, I cannot deny how challenging it was to live in an unknown city for a semester.
Let’s take things step by step. My semester in Washington was divided into three worlds: academic, professional, and social/personal. One would say the strongest aspect of living in Washington would be the professional environment; I can assure that is true. Yet, I can also say living in Washington not only opens your professional network, but also opens your eyes to the real world. Washington, D.C. is a cultural melting pot. In the time I was able to live in the city, I can say I met at least one person from each continent. In fact, I barely met people from Washington itself. This fact inevitably changed my view of the world, as I was exposed to diversity in multiple ways. Like it or not, I was being challenged. From my personal experience, I had to deal with multiple cultural differences that made my time there even more difficult. My views, my race, my culture and customs were challenged by others. I cannot deny the fact that accepting this was hard for me. Nonetheless, I was able to learn and embrace it. I was able to internalize the fact that there is no better culture than other. I was able to truly understand the importance of respect and tolerance.
This does not only apply to my personal life, but also to my professional field. I was able to intern at the Wilson Center. Located in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, this organization began as an official memorial to President Woodrow Wilson, which is often recognized as a ‘living memorial’. As part of its nature, this well-recognized think tank promotes diversity by having scholars and interns from all over the world. In such way, being able to learn from all of my fellow workers enriched my learning process.
In academic terms, I was truly challenged. The amount of work was more that what I expected, creating a tight schedule all the time. Accordingly, at the moment of looking back, I can see that in professional and academic terms, my Washington Semester fulfilled all my expectations. Indeed, the combination of the academic and professional environments I was immersed in allowed me to realize multiple things about my future. I was able to see my future plans from a different perspective. Something I am certain about is that I want to work towards the development of areas such as Latin America. D.C. taught me that there are multiple ways to reach one same goal. There is no wrong path in life. In such way, D.C. opened my mind to multiple possibilities and ways of reaching my goals. I was able to understand that hard work actually pays off. As long as I have my goals clear, there are infinite ways to reach them.
Washington, D.C. is not only about business suits and meetings. It is not only about waking up early in the morning to go to work, creating a routine, doing research, networking, and international events. For me, Washington D.C. is about memories and experiences. Whenever I think about Spring 2015, I think about one of the best decisions I have ever made. I think about all the people I was able to meet, all the memories I was able to create, all the mistakes I had the opportunity to make, all the places I was able to visit, all the dreams I was able to make true, all the hard times and the knowledge I will take with me forever. Some of my favorite lifetime memories come from D.C. Going from January snow, passing through cherry blossoms, and ending with some warm summer sun, in just a couple months I was able to get to know how life works beyond my own world.
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).
For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu