This is a compilation of blog posts current WMI students have written about their experiences while living in DC.

The Time I Got My Own Seat

By Makena Kelly

A few weeks ago, after I had straggled my way back from the Federal Communications Commission, my editor walked up to me and said, “Welcome back. I have another story for ya’.”

Whenever my editor tells me that I get excited.

He assigned me to cover an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on anti-doping. A little boring—not really in my jurisdiction. I don’t know much about no sports. But, more excitingly so, 28 gold medalist Michael Phelps was going to be testifying.

What?

They’re sending the intern out to do this?

Yep. They sent me.

So, that Tuesday I went to work a little early and did a little pre-write because I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus throughout the entire thing. I studied past legislation. How much money does Congress appropriate to the Olympics? Who are all these people who are not Michael Phelps? How do I turn this into a policy story?

I rolled up to Rayburn House Office Building that Tuesday morning wearing an outfit I was proud of. Who knew if I was going to be on TV?

In the corner of the press section was a little chair with a white piece of printer paper. It said, “Reserved: Makenna Kelly, CQ”. Ok. They spelled my name wrong, but having a reserved seat in a packed house of fanatic Congressmen was pretty cool.

And, the hearing began. It was the standard Chairman and Ranking Member remarks. These Congresspeople didn’t have any specific policy-centered questions prepared—you could tell they had this hearing just so they could meet Phelps. Eh, I don’t blame them.

Leaders from various Olympics and anti-doping organizations spoke and gave sly, grief-ridden remarks to each other out of the corners of their mouths.

Michael Phelps gave his personal testimony. It was pretty standard to say the least, but the press went bonkers. Camera people were all over the place; ESPN, C-SPAN, CNN. You name it, they were crouched on the floor looking for the perfect angle of the most-adorned Olympian of all time.

And throughout all of the hubbub, I had to write my story and have it in before the hearing was over.

There’s something you learn on Capitol Hill after a few months that no one really tells you about. You learn how to stop listening. At some point, you need to be able to close your ears and write, because Congresspeople love to say the same things over and over again.

So, that’s what I did.

And by the end of the story, I realized there was no policy angle. This committee invited Michael Phelps to the Capitol with no plan for legislation. I was angry. They seriously just wanted to have a cool hearing with an Olympian.

Right when I was thinking that, Chairman Murphy adjourned the hearing and the press secretary walked over to my seat and said, “Press availability afterwards.”

So, I threw my computer in my backpack in an angry fit thinking, “I am going to have a clip where I quote Michael Phelps, God damn it!”

And, I rushed to the front of the press pool. The reporters in front of cameras asked questions first—all focused to Phelps. And after a few questions there was a little silence and I blurted out, with ESPN and C-SPAN cameras pointing at me:

“Excuse me, Chairman Murphy, what does Congress plan to do though? What is the next step in enforcing these anti-doping rules?” I asked.

Chairman Murphy said something to the effect of, “Oh, we’ll have another hearing in a few months and see what happens.”

In typical Congressional fashion.

I wrote my story, spoke with my editor, and threw together somewhat of a policy-oriented lede and it was published.

And now, I get to say that the most decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps, had to step aside from the limelight so I could be on television over him. Just so I could ask a question to a Congressman.

Good Food, Better Friends

By David Jensen


Coming to D.C. was a big change of scenery for me, and I mean that literally. Growing up in a small town of less than five thousand people where the tallest building is probably the tip of a church steeple, doesn’t exactly prepare you to live on your own in a metropolitan area of over 600 thousand.

However, the size of the city was not what I was most nervous about while pondering what my semester in D.C. would be like. I had maneuvered my way around cities like Chicago and London before, and was fairly comfortable with my ability to do so here. What I was more concerned about was whether or not I would have cool roommates that I could spend time with.

While I knew that I would be extremely busy with my internship, classes, projects, and tours, I also knew there would be plenty of free time to explore the city and didn’t want to do so alone. I also knew that my best shot to make friends would initially be with my roommates. I really wanted to like the guys I would be living with because as anyone who’s ever had roommates knows, they can either make or break an experience.

Fortunately, they turned out to be better than I could’ve ever hoped for. Scott and Zack are both great, and we have plenty of good times together. Whether it’s going out for drinks and dinner on the weekends, exploring new places, or just chilling in our apartment after work farting around or binge watching Game of Thrones, we have a great time. All I was hoping for were people that I could get along with. But what I got, are two guys who I can genuinely say are good friends of mine, which is pretty special after just under two months together.

Something I wasn’t worried about before coming to D.C. but should have been is food. There are way too many good places to eat, and they are all within walking distance of my apartment and office. So of course and soon as I got to the city I was eager to try as many new places as possible (and maybe the fact that I didn’t want to grocery shop or cook played a factor as well…just maybe).

I’ve found that grocery shopping is much more of an inconvenience without a car. When you have to carry all your groceries back with you or pack them in the back seat of an Uber, it discourages you from buying in bulk. So needless to say, the first few weeks here I found out the hard way how quickly and seamlessly a bank account can plummet when you are spending $10 a day on lunch and going out to eat every weekend.

There was one bright spot in my restaurant excursions. Scott, Zack and I found this awesome seafood restaurant just down the street called Hot N Juicy Crawfish and it’s become our go-to favorite place. I even recommended it to my boss and he proceeded to thank me the following week after he went with some friends. I recommended it to everyone in the D.C./Woodley Park area. But the food wouldn’t taste as good if I didn’t have some awesome friends to share it with.
Moral of the story: friends are important, and so is food. Find a happy medium between eating out and grocery shopping, and your bank account will thank you. I also highly recommend Amazon Prime Pantry if you’re already a member. It’s clutch.

Now I Know How to Make Copies

By Madi Bowers

So, it’s not only a copier, apparently, it’s a copier/printer/scanner. 

My direct supervisor at work, A, asked me to make copies of 43 pages of important business documents. She said the copier is self explanatory and just to be sure that I kept everything in the same order as she had given it to me. Easy enough. I seriously thought it would be a simple task to get me away from the computer and spreadsheets I had been working on for the past 2 weeks at my internship. So, of course, I happily carried the paper pile down to the copy room in the back of our office space.

The room is typical, with cabinets and boxes of files and bins of markers and pens surrounding a huge grey machine, complete with ceiling lights that are motion-sensor. After waving my arms around like a lunatic trying to get the lights to turn on for a minute or so, I casually strolled up to the copier machine and put my pile on the open space where printed documents come out.

I clicked, “Copier,” on the touch screen (high-tech but slower to respond than I was as a teenager being asked to do chores) and was immediately confused when it asked for the code. What kind of copier requires a password?! I’m not trying to get into a frat party or use meal swipes, I’m just trying not to screw up the simplest task I’ve been assigned.

Accepting defeat, I asked another intern how to use the copier, to which she quickly laughed and replied, “Good luck.” I thought I would have to admit to my supervisor that I, a tech-wiz millennial, capable of creating and sending documents on my phone in seconds, had never learned how to use office machines.

This is when the hero of the story, K, walks in and without a word, points to a paper directly above the copier that says, “How to use the copier.” I’m sure I turned a shade of red unknown to even the depths of the universe because she giggled, told me it would just take some time, and left me with my pile.

As it turns out, the password is 888 (I feel like you can have this information because it’s posted on the wall above the machine anyways). After you click those magic numbers, the copy screen loads, displaying 3 different sizes of paper, 2 preset options, and a variety of scary looking “Settings” options on the side of the screen.

Applying my recently acquired knowledge of acceptable resources, I looked up at the paper on the wall for it to tell me how to finish this task already. I clicked 2, for the 2 copies I needed of everything, placed my first of 43 pages on the copy/scan screen, closed the top, clicked Start, and was not even surprised to hear the machine scream at me in a high-pitched and monotone sound. At this point, I was so embarrassed and defeated that I didn’t care when K came through the door and began fixing my mistake before I could even get a word out.

To my surprise (and a smidge of delight), K didn’t know what the problem was either! Until she opened the top, of course, and saw that I hadn’t placed a piece of 8.5″ by 11″ paper over my much smaller paper so the scanner could detect it. I gave a sincere thank you, she left, and I continued on.

I am happy to report that I finished the adventure on my own, without misplacing a paper, forgetting a step, or stapling the finished documents incorrectly. Now, I’m not saying you should call me if you have copy room problems of your own at work, but I know a thing or two about how to read “How to” instructions. I have even learned how to print and scan! The point is, although it took at least a half hour longer than it should have, this millennial learned how to use an old-timey copier machine with a touch screen from those children’s iPads.

I feel pretty confident now in my copy room knowledge, as I can copy/print/scan anything on my own and in a timely fashion.

But this is only for the black and white machine. The color printer is another monster entirely.

Life as a DC Student in WMI

By Merdie Nzanga

It was April 4, 2014 – the day I received my acceptance letter to American University. Oh yay me! I’m going to Washington, DC! Here I was leaving my home in Seattle, WA and going all the way across the nation’s capital. Although I later left AU, I transferred to Howard University (also in DC) because I still loved living in DC.

Living in Washington, DC is so special to me because it is our country’s capital. It is so historically and culturally rich, and there are so many sights to see – from museums to national monuments, to restaurants!

While I’ve lived here, I’ve also had the chance to visit the Newseum several times.  The Newseum is a large, interactive museum that focuses on journalism and the media in our understanding of historical events, located right in the middle of the city. Every time I visit this museum it gets me excited about journalism.  My favorite place at the Newseum is the Vietnam War coverage presentation – the first televised war. It is amazing to me how much of an influence  Americans had on the war just by watching it on their television screens.

Because I could have a new experience and stay in DC for the semester, I decided to attend the Washington Media Institute. My experience at the Washington Media Institute has made my experience in DC even better. This semester I am interning at DC Witness where we track homicides in DC and write about them. I go to court everyday, and then I come back to our office and get to write . I like this internship because it has been helping my writing. During class, Amos, the director, and Jon, the associate director, give individual feedback to each student on their work. I’m being pushed more professionally than I ever have and it’s all thanks to WMI!

If you haven’t had a chance to visit DC, please come!

The nitty gritty of everyday court life

By Thamar Bailey

Going to court is not what TNT movies make it out to be. There’s not a mass crowd in the room, there’s no gavel calling for attention or crowd outbursts. As an intern for a homicide tracking blog, I’ve had the honor of going to court almost everyday and let me tell you there is definitely a break between reality and fiction.

For starters the judge is almost always late.

On a good day I leave my apartment in the morning around 8:45 and end up settling into a seat at the courthouse around 9:20 for a 9:30 case – only for the judge to stroll in anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes late.

And in that time delay I sit patiently watching lawyers walk in and out and court marshals talk about their night and catch up on how each other’s morning is going.

Also, in that time there has not been a case that goes by that I haven’t learned something I really didn’t need to know about a court clerk.

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but there’s a seat to the left of the judges chair where the court clerk sits. The clerk essentially orchestrates the entire production. He/she tells the marshals when to get the inmate from holding, coordinates with the judge and takes in whether or not a lawyer or witness is missing.

One day a clerk got into an argument with the court marshals before the judge got in. This was after she had an over 20 minute conversation with her sister about how she wants to be a real estate broker because the commision is “crazy,” – her words, not mine.

According to this clerk, she runs the court, and even the court typist (the person who creates a transcript of every case) weighed into the argument, and agreed as she applied a full face of make-up.

The typist literally sat down, whipped out a makeup pouch the size of an elementary school pencil case, and pulled out so many different utensils you would think her pouch had some magical connection to the nearest Sephora.

By the time the judge finally appeared, the typist had miraculously put everything away and looked as if like she’d undergone a complete makeover.

So maybe I’m just too attentive and you’ve never really thought much about what happens in a courtroom prior to a case, but ever thought about what happens during the case?

From Law and Order I assumed that there was a serious amount of court jargon and strict formalities.

After a month of consensus I’d say that there’s a firm yes to the jargon and big no to the formalities.

I’ve witnessed a lawyer outright complain to the judge that her schedule was too busy to accommodate a speedy trial.

The day before I saw an inmate escorted into the room and declare to the room he was no longer angry with the judge – I didn’t know he was angry with the judge in the first place.

As for the lawyers, some of them are super nice and strike up conversation. Others will give you the side eye until you remove yourself from the front two rows of the pew. And if you stick it out and sit in “their space” (they only have rights to the first row) then you’ve just made an enemy – or at least that’s what it feels like.

Overall, the next time you head into the D.C. courthouse make sure you sit away from the lawyers and bring a notepad (electronics are prohibited in courtrooms) because the amount of things you hear will be priceless stories for the future.

A Different Kind of WMI Student

By Kristina Orrego

Most days, I’m up by 5 a.m.

6:30 is nothing short of glorious.

Then, I hop in my car and make the 45-minute pilgrimage from Stafford, Virginia (I chose to live with my uncle there to save money on housing) to the Franconia-Springfield metro station, swerving on the EZ pass lanes past all the other cars like I’m in a Fast and Furious movie. It’s a miracle I haven’t gotten pulled over. 

The blue line at Franconia is the first of the two metros I get on before I get to my internship, making my commute total a little less than two hours.

Seriously, there’s nothing I hate more than being late. And being on time is the same as being late in my book. I signed up for this. There are no excuses.

I heard about the Washington Media Institute at UF’s College of Journalism Career Day they hold every semester. I was soon to graduate, and soon after, I proudly walked across that stage in December 2015. I had the textbook-typical freak out moment of realizing I was an unemployed college graduate and scoured Craigslist for anything I could do to at least put gas in my car and buy groceries on my own.

I took up as many freelancing gigs I could at three different publications and became a scribe at a business transcription service. All the while, I never forgot about the WMI I was so enthusiastic about as an undergrad. I got back in contact with the staff.

I’ll be 90 and still remember the first conversation Jon, the Associate Director, and I had about the program. He asked me where I wanted my journalism career to go and about some of my experiences so far. He told me Gainesville and Alachua County Today, the main paper I was writing for at the time, were simply too small. His exact words: I had to get out of Gainesville and in front of the right people.

Someone I respected enormously saw something in me, and my heart could’ve actually exploded. For just a short time, the voice of doubt I’ve wrestled with since I can remember was silenced. I knew if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, I would always wonder what could’ve been or where it could’ve taken me.

That was a long time ago. After working as a receptionist and a road trip to D.C. with my parents so they could meet Amos, WMI’s Director, I’m here.

I would be lying if I said that it hasn’t been hard.

I sleep in longer than I’d like to admit on the weekends to make up for what I lose during the week. I’ve had to spend all night and the wee hours of the morning finishing video projects because my commute cuts severely into my work time.

But so far, it has been absolutely worth the blood, sweat and tears. It’s pushed me to the point that I truly feel like I can handle anything.

And the greatest outcome so far?

I’m starting to believe I can, too.

Top Ten Emojis and When to Use Them

By Scott Silberstein

Here is the definitive list of the 10 best emojis (in no particular order), what they mean, and when to use them.

 

2. Yikes – basically that face you make when your roommate asks what you’re doing this weekend but you already made plans without them. Use sparingly, this personal favorite of mine can get out of hand quickly.

 

2. Fire – a term used for when something is really good, or actually on fire.Use in above situations, especially when it’s “lit”.

 

3. Chicken Leg– can be used in the broader sense to represent any food, or chicken specifically. Best used at lunch or dinner.

 

4. 100 – popularized by the phrase “I keep it 100” this emoji symbolizes the best, the cream of the crop, a 100% effort.

 

5. The Sailboat – Everyone knows the best way to travel is by boat, the scenery is unmatched by any other. Use this whenever you want to escape a boring conversation.

 

6. The Disappointment – to express disappointment or shame of oneself or others. Use whenever your faith in humanity is dwindling.

 

7. The Flag – this is the flag of South Africa, you can use whatever flag you like, but this one is my personal favorite. Use to express patriotism, or to be difficult when telling friends where you are traveling.

 

8. Love Eyes – used to express significant feelings towards a person, place, or thing. Important to note this emoji has never been used in relation to the DC Metro.

 

9. Money on my Mind – show others your appreciation for money through this little guy. Best used on payday — make it rain emojis.

 

10. The Dude – sunglasses make anything cooler – fact. Best used when accompanying an impressive feat, like scoring courtside Wizard tickets.

 

Now let’s use them in a sample conversation:

David: “Hey Scott, want to get KFC for dinner tonight?”

Scott:      

Translation: “Yikes. It disappoints me that you like that restaurant. Let’s go to Nando’s Peri Peri instead. They have delicious flame grilled chicken with a South African flair. Every time you eat there they give you coupons, so you can save money (which is cool). Nando’s keeps it 100, I love it there. Every time I eat Nando’s Peri Peri chicken feels like sailing off into the sunset.”

*This is not a paid promotion of Nando’s Peri Peri

Budgeting Done Right in the District

By Molly Farrell   

When I first moved into my apartment at WISH, I knew I was going to be doing a lot of cooking because going out to eat all the time was going to get expensive. In my opinion, cooking is so much more fun and healthier because you can make anything you want in the comfort of your own home. All you need is the right cooking tools and the right ingredients, then you’re set to make a delicious meal.

When I grocery shop in the city, I always come prepared with a shopping list so I don’t forget anything. It’s important to bring any coupons as well, so you can get the best deals. No matter which store I go to I look for the best prices, that way I am getting something for every penny I use. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned that going to the stores or markets in Woodley Park can be really expensive. Instead I go to Safeway or major grocery stores. But don’t get me wrong the stores near me are nice if I need two or three items to complete a meal I am making. Also, it’s walking distance, so I can get there quickly.

Another point to keep in mind: remember to keep your receipts, so you can reference back to them when you need to – even just to see how much you
spent for the next time you go to the store. I also found out that DC has a tax on plastic bags, so remember to bring reusable bags so you don’t get charged – that tax will add up really quickly.

Even though grocery shopping is a major element to budgeting, you also need to think about shopping and going to different places in the city. There are some great places to shop here, but you need to be cautious of what you buy because little by little it will add up. I suggest you go to different museums in the city instead. Most of them are free so take ad
vantage of them. Learning something might even be more fun than wasting money on another pointless shirt. “Think before you spend” is a line that people should remember while living in a city like DC.

In general, shopping or grocery shopping on a budget in DC is something that’s important and everyone should take note of. Keeping a budget is way more effective and enjoyable to do with friends. So the next time you are looking for a place to eat, or a clothing store to shop in, instead go be with your friends and live in the moment.

A Clown Wearing Heels to Work

By Makena Kelly

I look like such a buffoon in Washington. You might as well stick a clown nose on my face and give me unicycle to help me commute into work.

It’s not like anything horrible has happened. In fact, these past two weeks have been the most fun I have had in a long time. However, I’m a girl from Lincoln, NE. I travel frequently so it’s not like I’m incompetent, but there are a few things I have noticed about myself that make me go, “Oh, crap. I’m that girl.” – you know, that girl who obviously is not from here.

For one, I’m trying way too hard to look like I know what I’m doing. I’ll wear pretty heels into work and by the end of the day, I’ve tripped and scuffed my knees while going up the infamously steep Woodley Park Metro elevator. Heels that click on tile make me look like I know what I’m doing; when I fall in them, it
just looks like I need medical attention.

Walking around the city is the best means of getting anywhere. A fluorescent man means “go”, but apparently a flashing red hand also means “go” when it’s 5:30 pm and you’ve had a busy day and you don’t care whether or not you live or die. Let God decide whether or not you matrix your way out of traffic as other pedestrians watch you dodge cars like Morpheus dodges bullets.

Escalators are here to help—not here to haul. And, if you want to be hauled and herded, stay on the right hand side. Otherwise, I will grumpily huff at you from behind at a volume that doesn’t disturb you, but lets the people around me know that I hate you. I want everyone else around me to also recognize my escalator strife.

When I grabbed my credentials to get into the Capitol building with CQ Roll Call, I realized why they call them “Press Galleries”—they’re actual art galleries. George Washington on the Potomac? That painting is bigger than my apartment.

When I was headed down to the cafeteria in the Capitol, I saw Senator Tammy Duckworth and threw my hands to my face. The man who was pushing her wheelchair looked at me like I had just had a stroke.

I also thought it was a brilliant idea to leave for the presidential inauguration at 4 am. I emphasize idea, because I woke up at 5:30, threw on a pair of hole-y jeans and froze my butt off waiting for a parade of motorcycles and flag-twirlers to lead President Trump from one end of the street to the other.

I’m bound to make mistakes while I’m here. I’ve been fortunate enough that my mistakes haven’t resulted in jail time, but just a couple bruises and confused looks from strangers. Washington is wonderful and it’s an absolutely crazy time to be here. It has only been two weeks, but I’m already certain that it will be an equally as enjoyable four months.

If you Hate the News, Go to the Newseum: A museum dedicated to all things news

By Prachi Parmar

Washington, D.C is a city that is rife with possible weekend excursions.

I have been here since the first week of September and somehow after 12 weekends of almost nonstop exploration, I still have a checklist of places that I want to see. There is history from before the beginning of the nation to be seen within the city limits. The best part lies in the fact that people are able to see this history for free for the most part.

But this blog post is not being written to tout the very well-known, well-supported idea that one should come to DC and take advantage of the free sights/history this city has to offer. Rather, it is here to argue that one of the most stunning things to do in the city is actually considered “new”, and in fact costs money – $24.27 after tax, to be exact.

While I understand that paying such a comparatively absorbent cost might be a hard sell, I argue that my visit to the Newseum located on 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW was unquestionably one of my favorite memories in DC.

The DC Newseum opened its doors in August of 2008 and is a seven floor, interactive modern-day tribute to anything and everything news – ranging from generations ago to the latest news.

I argue that one need not be a news fanatic to enter. In fact, I would say if you are skeptical about today’s media and potentially disgusted by modern day news partisanship, the Newseum is an honest, sometimes uncomfortable, review of how the news has done over the years. It showcases mistakes and rewards triumph.

From the front pages of newspapers around the world that are refreshed daily and run across the border of the building to the bathroom tiles that are inscribed with faulty headlines for a little lighthearted reading, this museum has something to offer the spectrum of news consumers.  

Beginning with a wide shot view of the Capitol from the seventh floor, visitors have the chance to walk down winding hallways while discovering the history of the news.

One of my favorite stops: An exhibit  that allows people to look at glass encasings of preserved newspapers, some dating all the way back to the 1600’s. Among these encasings lies a newspaper detailing the USA’s miraculous triumph against Russia. Next to that, the front page of a newspaper that detailed the hurt the US felt after the explosion of the Challenger.

Other notable exhibits include a curving glass memorial to slain journalists, a room filled with Pulitzer Prize winning photographs, and a wall mural dedicated to all of the First Dogs this nation has seen.

News has two different definitions: first, the people, programs, networks that report on the stories that occur in society and second, the stories themselves.

In one exhibit, on a widescreen TV, the stories from our lifetime continuously flash, causing people to stop and reflect on the good, the bad, the hurt, the saved. Even if you hate the news and no longer engage in it, news is still happening around you.  And being in this museum forces you to realize, its problems aside, how important the documentation of news is. More importantly, what things in our history that we can’t afford to forget.
It might not restore your faith in the system, but it will show you just how damn important the system is. And maybe, just maybe, it will inspire you to go fix it.