Studying in Washington, D.C., USA – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Studying in Washington, D.C., USA – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and


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.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ( 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 ( 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 (

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

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 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)


Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

19 responses to “Studying in Washington, D.C., USA – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

  1. Carley Nadeau

    I really enjoyed this article! I liked how in order to analyze your trip, you split it up into three parts. Even though it sounds stressful with your tight schedule, I’m glad you were able to have fun. I’m happy the challenge was able to pay off for you.

  2. Holly Kampa

    I really enjoyed reading your post about your experiences in Washington DC. I have never been to DC but hope to travel there in the future. I thought your comments about how DC is a melting pot and full of culture was very interesting. I didn’t realize how diverse it was, and the fact that you met more people from other countries other than our own was very surprising. It sounds like this trip and experience helped you solidify your future and opened many doors for you. Thanks again for sharing Ana!

  3. Matt Breeze

    The book of a persons life can definitely be filled with travels, I like that you point this out. When people travel they not only learn about another place and people, but of themselves and their people. I think you did a great job writing about both the cultural and academic experiences you experienced during your semester abroad. The pace of life must of been much quicker than in Duluth, but I am glad you had a chance to reflect on it and write this piece, thank you.

  4. Elisabeth Bergstedt

    I have traveled a lot around the U.S., hitting all but two states. Although, Washington DC has been on my top list to visit for quite some time. Growing up my dad had an office in D.C. so he divided his time between home and there. The little trinkets he brought back every time for us kids was all I knew about D.C. Your article has given me a little preview of what D.C. would be like if I were to visit- and I am more excited now than ever. I have always liked the busy, city life, so maybe D.C would be the place for me! Thanks for the article!

  5. Catherine McConnell

    Like you, I also had the opportunity to study in Washington D.C and I would completely agree with everything you said in the article. D.C., like you pointed out, is the epicenter of all political happenings, not just nationally but internationally. Walking down the street you would see all people looking similar in professional western attire but as soon as you would get close enough to hear you would be unlocked to a world of differences and not just linguistically but ideologically. Most of all, and as you mentioned, I am very thankful for being able to be exposed to the possibilities there are in Washington. Work is surprisingly plentiful for all the careers you could image and I know I will unavoidably end up working there in my professional career.

  6. I really like how you pointed out how no culture is greater than the other and how DC is a melting pot of different cultures. I travelled to Washington DC with the Close Up program during my junior year of high school, and something I will never forget about DC is the multitude of different ethnicities. Coming from the Iron Range of Minnesota where 99.9% of the population is of European descent, I found it shocking to see so many different types of people. It was very eye opening for me at 16 years old to meet others from all over the world and hear their languages and traditions. Getting back to your point, people may come from different cultures, but no culture is better than the other. Thats a great observation you made!

  7. Roman Schnobrich

    Awesome writing!! This really made me want to travel more, which is a sign of a good article. Was there a culture shock at all, being surrounded by all those different kinds of people? Also, did the size/population overwhelm you, or have you gotten used to living in/experiencing such gigantic cities? It’s important that you spent so much time in such a prominent city when you did, as I think it’ll have a large impact on how you view the world and those that share it with you. It must’ve also made you feel much more humble about your own culture, realizing, like you said, no one culture is any better or worse than another.

  8. Kyle Dosan

    I really enjoyed this article, especially your first paragraph where you compare life to a book. The ability to travel around the U.S. for some is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I look forward to someday traveling as well. It was very interesting to hear that there are so many different people that you ran into that were not necessarily from D.C. Sounds like you had a great time learning and experiencing a different part of the U.S.

  9. Nichole DeBoom

    Comparing life to a book was a brilliant idea. Traveling to D.C. the first thing I think of is the president, professionalism, and museums. You made it sound like so much more, almost like a perfect place. I had no idea that so many different cultures venture to D.C. Coming from a tiny town in Minnesota, it would be a hard adjustment for me as well, but with the mindset you had there was no better way to approach it. I loved your point of view and your descriptions throughout the whole article. Fabulous job!

  10. Meghan Lozinski

    What you said in the beginning about traveling is so true and I definitely agree. Traveling allows us to see different people, cultures, and ways of life. This is so important because sometimes people can get a little ethnocentric and think everyone does things their way, and when we are thrown into a place that is different whether it be what you eat, when you eat, how you get places, etc. it makes us open our eyes to other people and other ways to live our own lives. And realizing these things is what can help us all feel more connected to one another.

  11. I love how you compared our lives to a book, and that we are writing our own stories. I also agree with you that traveling is a great way to challenge us and get out of our comfort zones. I think it’s awesome how you were able to do this by spending a semester in D.C, and it seems like you have a learned a lot by doing so. I have been to D.C. myself and can relate to what you’re saying how everything seems to have started there. I’m glad that your trip was so fulfilling — you have inspired me to take a trip back there as well!

  12. Sarah Burton

    This article was very enjoyable to read. Thank you for sharing your experience in Washington D.C. I am a huge believer in how traveling is the meaning of living. Traveling can open someone’s eyes to the beauty and diversity of the world. It is amazing how much diversity Washington D.C. holds. How surreal that must have been to experience a place that had such a variety of people. Traveling is important because it challenges people to think about their own culture and behavior. I am happy to hear your experience in D.C. was great. I hope that one day I will be able to experience D.C. as well.

  13. Thomas Landgren

    I really liked how you started this article! The metaphor is so relatable! I thought that splitting the article up into three parts was very helpful! Did the size of the population scare you? Or did it just add more to your experience in D.C.? This was such a great article, I now want to go and travel to add more chapters to my book of life!

  14. Martti Maunula

    Very interesting analogy on life. I had never really thought about it like a book. Putting it into that perspective definitely changes the viewpoint. During late 2014 and the first half of 2015, I had the opportunity of being in Missouri for two months and Texas for five months, and it was quite an eye-opening experience. I went there because of the military and so there were many different people from all over the Unite States and Puerto Rico. Early on I felt bombarded with all the differences that I had with everyone, but by the end and now looking back I miss my time there, it was such an experience to see the world through so many people’s different experiences than my own. Traveling definitely is something that allows you to live, if not more, than at least from a broader perspective.

  15. Bryce Gadke

    I am very interested in studying for a semester in Washington within the next few years and this article has definitely made the need to do that even more important. Thank you for reaffirming the need to travel and explore different cultures, in the US and abroad. What was the most difficult adjustment that you had to make? The college life is so intriguing because right when you get settled into a place like Duluth, there is opportunity to explore elsewhere as well! Thanks again for sharing your story of travels.

  16. I loved this writing! I am a firm believer in traveling and the eye opening experiences brought on by traveling. Studying in DC is absolutely something that is a special experience for all undergrads, so congrats to you! DC is an amazing place with all of the diversity offered in all aspects of life.

  17. Andrew Bailey

    Hello Ana Maria, it was great to learn about your experience studying in Washington DC. What a unique academic environment to be involved in the public policy process and take courses (I take it that you were enrolled in a few courses during your semester there). I had the opportunity to intern this past summer in Washington DC, and I agree with you that it was an amazing experience. One thing I was impressed with in Washington DC was the amount of professional networking opportunities for young people. It’s not too often that you can attend an event with the top lobbyists, leaders, and public policy experts in the nation & world, and in Washington DC, these opportunities take place almost every day. It’s also one thing to see the public policy process in work rather than just read about it in the newspaper or watch television.

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