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

Storming of the Bastille

By Mona Mirmortazavi

This weekend, my roommates planned a great trip to Gettysburg to experience one of the most powerful moments in American history and appreciate the multitude of President Lincoln statues.  It’s a truly humbling experience, rich with history, and makes you think about how, after all we’ve been through, the US still remains divided today.

But I went to a concert instead because it’s much more fun and way less educational.

Over the summer, the London-based band Bastille announced their sophomore album, Wild World, after three years of waiting, and a mini-tour along with it.  Originally, the tour was supposed to go to three cities in the US, one of which was in Colorado.  Being a Colorado native, I was so excited – but that lasted for less than a second, as I realized that it would be in October, and I would be in DC doing the WMI program for the semester.  I seriously considered postponing my relocation to DC because of this.

I didn’t end up doing that because it’s a ridiculous reason to delay moving to a different city.  And then, as if to reward me for not making a colossal mistake, Bastille announced a few more dates, and one was in DC.  Thank you, concert gods.

While DC is usually a ghost town on the weekends everywhere but the National Mall, 1,200 people showed up to the 9:30 Club to witness one of my favorite performers. Thankfully, the venue is so small that it didn’t matter, and you could get a great view regardless of where you were.

The band was incredible, but that’s nothing new.  I have seen Bastille three times now, and they never disappoint.  The entire band wants you to be involved, not just standing and nodding along.  They want you to scream the words, clap and jump along all night.  They ended the concert with a rendition of Pompeii, their usual closing song, and I’ve never experienced so much pure joy before from a crowd.
The next day, Bastille announced their full tour for Wild World, starting in March.  None of them are in Colorado, but who knows, maybe I’ll avoid making a colossal mistake and get to see them again.

Originally posted October 20, 2016

Finance and Hunger in D.C. – A Savage Journey to the Heart of an Undergrad’s Checking Account

By Chris Vest

Having grown up in a small, rural town with maybe five fast food restaurants, a few mom-and-pop diners and a questionable Chinese place for dining options, I have few reservations about making reservations at various eateries when the chance strikes. Any food that might be considered ‘unique’ where I come from (see: any ethnic eatery or even any place with a semi-decent atmosphere) draws me like a moth to a flame. I’ve spent many week-long vacations in big cities, and weekend outings in some of the more culturally oriented parts of my home state of Michigan, but never before have I settled in for a months-long stay in a cultural mecca like the District.

My first week here I don’t think I cooked a single meal in my apartment. The second morning I made a brief stop at a nearby grocery store to pick up a handful of essentials (for posterity’s sake if anything else) and some of them still remain untouched in the cabinet, waiting to find purpose. Whether it was Portuguese chicken, pad thai, sushi, Lebanese, or crepes, I never found myself want for options. Worse yet, all of these options were within 15 minutes walking distance of my apartment. At first, I was in heaven.

I spent the better part of my summer preparing for this semester working a minimum wage job, keeping my spending lean and my wallet fat. Little did I know that my efforts were in vain. After my second week here, I decided it might be a smart idea to check my bank account. What did I know? As far as I was concerned I had been fairly responsible – only spending my budget on the necessary components of integrating myself into a new area. What I saw was perhaps a reflection of my own hubris – possibly how a large portion of Wall Street felt before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. I had blown through my finances in (relatively) small transactions faster than I think I ever have in my entire life. With the occasional necessary Smart Trip card refill or Uber interspersed, I was presented with a wall of restaurant charges so large that I sincerely wished we could make Mexico pay for it.

From that point on, my diet was purely despair-inducing. While I watched my classmates go out to try new restaurants and go to group dinners, I stayed in to eat affordable, $2.00-or-less-per-serving meals. My shameless self-indulgence had put me in a financial situation where I had to keep my wallet in my pocket for about as long as I possibly could. I wasn’t broke, but my budget for activities was nearly spent.

Do not let my story serve as a warning against going out and seeing the sights, or indulging oneself; rather, treat it as a cautionary tale. Ration your precious opportunities to eat out and experience the local cuisine well. Don’t eat out alone on impulse, share in the experience with friends. Make the culinary arch of your trip a rich tapestry of personal experiences instead of a brief flavor binge. Give yourself time to process and digest the culinary marvels you experience rather than mindlessly consuming as fast as you can. For now, I’m going to go defrost several pounds of black beans and rice that I made in the days following my financial revelation. Don’t be like me, keep your impulses in check and your wallet close.

Originally posted October 5, 2016

No Reservations About It: Skip the Museum of the American Indian

By Austin Bruno

“Make your way around the monuments, late at night. And check out the Smithsonian museums!”

I heard those two bits of touristy “advice” more than anything else when I told people I’d be spending a semester in D.C. This town is famous for having some of the best museums in the world, and if you were to visit the Museums of Natural History, American History, or the Gallery of Art, you’d be in agreement. So I’ve naturally made my way around the museums during the time I’ve spent here, and had just one left on my list. One that I was particularly excited for, because it was dedicated to the history of the people I regrettably knew little about, but have always been fascinated by: those who inhabited this country long before my ancestors immigrated to this Promised Land.

I approached the Museum of the American Indian this past Monday and was struck by its external beauty. The smooth, flowing curves at its edges suggested something uniquely Southwestern carved out of the Grand Canyon, a structure shaped over the eons by water, wind, and erosion. The architecture alone was enough to excite me for a place that would soon let me down.

Upon entrance, I was put off by the lack of actual display pieces for visitors to look at. I saw the maps suggested that one start at the top floor, the fourth, and work your way down. A bit unusual, but I played along. I went to the fourth floor. Then the third, the second, and I soon realized I had seen all that the museum had to offer. I don’t think I was even there for ninety minutes.

I didn’t rush through the place by any means. Each exhibit had little in the way of artifacts from throughout history, which is what I expected to see in a museum. Most of what I saw appeared to be from the modern day, which was all well and good, but I was really hoping to get a taste of the ancestral roots of some of these tribes – a concept most of them pride themselves on. I did enjoy the Hawaiian exhibit, though that too was fairly empty.

The museum seemed to rely on text more than anything, with a large section devoted to the some 400 treaties brokered between native tribes and the United States over the centuries. But lack of artifact displays aside, this exhibit really irked me. I know that a museum like this has to walk a fine line when it comes to discussing the relationship between native peoples and the U.S. But it all seemed to gloss over what these treaties ultimately did for American Indians, and that was to push them ever westward so the fledgling United States could fulfill its Manifest Destiny of spreading Columbia’s arms from coast to coast, destroying ancient cultures in the process. It’s hard to discuss in this museum without igniting controversy, but I feel that the exhibits could somehow show reality a little more honestly, instead of tending to only showcase the positives during times in history when they were outweighed by the negatives.

American Indian history is such a dense subject that the museum could surely offer more to visitors than what is currently on display. The place feels barren, empty, and utterly lacking in museum content. We owe it to the United States and to the hundreds of sovereign Indian nations existing within it to have a proper museum experience in the nation’s capital. The sister museum in New York City appears to be the superior of the two, so perhaps Smithsonian could learn from another one of its own institutions, because the one we have in D.C. is hardly worthy of bearing the Smithsonian moniker.

I’ll continue my novice explorations into native cultures on my own until then, but I really wish the Museum of the American Indian could have been of more help in that area.

Originally posted September 30, 2016

Thank you, Mr. Metro Man

By Christy Flom

There is no good mode of transportation, but every option is available – from bikes, to cars to buses and even trains. Plus, people seem to be impenetrable to sweating from the sun and humidity. Ah the humidity. This heavy and sticky sensation that drenches me the second I walk outside may be the sole reason I can never permanently live in or around D.C. But perhaps fall and the mild winter will change my mind. Coming from Detroit, a winter without heavy snowfall is unimaginable, but I hear it can be quite nice walking around without a parka, neck warmer, hat, mittens, and two pairs of pants on at all times.

But I didn’t come to D.C. to be a weather analyzer; I came to learn about creating, editing, and delivering media content. I will admit, my second reason for coming is to investigate in all my spare time if events seen in House of Cards actually occur on a daily basis, but my first mission is to find the metro station where Kevin Spacey pushed Kate Mara into an oncoming train. Which thus prompts my second mission of forever avoiding that station and men in suits with big hats at night.

As an intern reporter at Roll Call, I take the red line to Union Station on a daily basis. The Metro is where I found my happy place – and I owe it all to one announcer. He is not the voice I hear every morning listing off the stops and transfer lines along my route, but when he’s in charge I know it is going to be a great day. I was on my way to explore the Pentagon City mall when I first heard his voice. It was the perfect day thanks to the happy metro announcer who so very clearly let us all know which stop was what rather than mumbling into the mic.

Let me describe the way the announcer speaks, as I am sure no on can understand the impact this man has already had on my life. He speaks like an auctioneer on A&E’s Storage Wars: fast, and yet oddly calming. You can tell he makes the most of his job and commits each ride to brightening the days of passengers, whether my hero realizes it or not.

On the second day of my internship I purposefully took out my headphones that I usually wear on the metro to avoid awkward silences and stares to listen to him announce each stop. The effect it had on my day was nothing short of magical. I hopped off at union station to the sound of “Have a fantastic day everybody”, and I already knew the day was going to be wonderful. That morning I got to put together a story on WordPress for another reporter and then publish my first (albeit short) article for the site. But hey, I’m official now, and I owe it all to Mr. Metro Man.

Yes, I know I need to find new things in life that give me happiness; however, navigating DC and Roll Call’s work atmosphere has made me realize that it’s the little things in my life that will make the biggest impact on my days. So for now, thank you Mr. Metro Man for making my travels a little bit easier to comprehend and substantially enhancing my day. And, to quote an elderly couple I overheard on the metro, “you deserve a raise.”

Originally posted September 22, 2016