Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in [Arizona] anymore.

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Places like Arizona lost the culture battle compared to places like D.C. due to urban sprawl, suburbia, and uniform, unimaginative zoning and architecture. There’s magic in great cities like Rome, New York City, London and Washington D.C. These places make you feel like anything is possible. They have so much culture, history, and detail that it’s impossible to ever see and learn everything they have to offer. They are the epitome of human achievement in physical form because of the odes to past leaders and future innovation. As an urban planning major, I’ve been geeking out being in a place that has so heavily influenced my field of study. I’m sure everyone in the program has heard me say ‘did you know…,’ followed by multiple facts about the metro, street layout, buildings and the city beautiful movement. The Supreme Court had a wall dedicated to the McMillan Plan (the principles that guided D.C.’s layout and character) and the City Beautiful Movement (the principles that guided the McMillan Plan). This was probably the coolest moment of my academic career. So often I ask ‘why is this important,’ or ‘what does this mean for real-world issues’ and this affirmed that my field is pertinent to human culture and quality of life. Not only that, but D.C. has such a major impact on domestic and global relations that just walking its streets invites a greater sense of purpose and future goals than anything I’ve ever known.

Not only does the city itself have so much to teach us, but the people have infinite experience and knowledge. Some people we’ve met (i.e. Antonio’s supervisor from the National Defense University) seem like people I could ask questions to for a week straight and still barely scratch the surface on the things they have experienced and understand. Not only this, but everyone knows everyone somehow. Networking is key no matter what city you’re in, but in D.C it’s necessary for moving up and moving on to more important roles across agencies and offices. Then there are people like Matt Caruso who give people purple pens and mini hockey sticks as the best D.C. initiation present one could hope for. This summer has already and will continue to force me out of my comfort zone and grow. I think that’s the purpose of D.C. It pushes people to define their goals, learn how to network and work in high-stress situations.

I can’t even begin to imagine what will happen in D.C. this summer. I already know between my fellow Capital Scholars peers, my internship, and networking, I’ve met people who will change my life likely my interests and understanding of the world around me. At my internship, I’ve already read over 700 pages is legislation, audits and Semiannual Reports to Congress and surprisingly I’ve loved every second of it. These aren’t topics I was ever interested in, but now I’m enthralled by the minute details and processes that go into making the reports and audits. My Capital Scholar peers have already taught me so much about their interest areas and have pushed me out of my comfort zone in many ways. Antonio encourages me to practice my broken Spanish with him and teaches me new words and how to grammatically say more complex ideas and sentences. Monica’s colloquialisms have already begun showing up in my speech and how I react to everyone’s shenanigans. Everyone in the program will influence each other in ways this summer that’ll make us better, more intelligent and successful humans. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to explore D.C. with.

If I could recount everything I learned this week, then I think I would have a new superpower. The legislative advisor from Senator Jeff Flake’s office gave a sneak preview in describing how federal government actually works compared to what I was taught in school and Congresswoman Krysten Sinema’s advisor gave us an even more in-depth view of the nitty gritty part of the political side of D.C. The tour guide at the Supreme Court gave a lot of insight on both past and current news related to controversial decisions and administrative processes that I had never heard of before. I also learned that while D.C. is full of a lot of intimidating, professional people, many of those same people would love to help college kids like us achieve our goals if we worked for it. Likely, I forgot the majority of what I learned, but I will take many people’s advice and begin journaling to keep track of the future lessons I learn.

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