My International Experience in our Nation’s Capital

In case you haven't noticed from the other HawkTalk bloggers, one of the awesome things about Wagner is how many opportunities they create for students to go abroad. Students can study abroad or go on EYH trips. My friends have been all around the world from Costa Rica, Australia, Spain, Kenya, Haiti, London, Rome, Ecuador, Peru and more! Last semester I left the country for the first time to go to Germany and Austria with the Wagner College Choir. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

If you've been following along, you are aware that I am currently almost the opposite of abroad, living in our nation's capital and working for the federal government. It's been absolutely phenomenal to see the history of the US and be a part of its changes (like the recent Supreme Court ruling on DOMA. holler!). I'm planning on writing a blog post on all the awesome patriotic things I've seen and done while here along with all of the mushy goodness that is me loving my home country.

Our beautiful Capitol Building

Our beautiful Capitol Building

But this post is not about the United States of America. This post is about my international experience in the heart of my own country. Like I said, I've only just recently been out of the country and I am not bilingual like most of my friends. I've always wanted to go abroad but as far as summers go, I have an internship with NASA so this is exactly where I want to be right now. I was fully prepared to have a patriotic summer full of American history, people, politicians and hot dogs. But once I arrived, I found so much more.

I work with the Fermi group at NASA. They are the best and brightest people I have ever met. A large portion of them (I'm gonna guess half but I really don't know) are from other countries. There's a few Frenchmen and a couple Italians, a woman from Ireland and more. I guess I wasn't too shocked by this, but I did not realize there would be so many people from outside the US at a federal facility. It was an awesome surprise. I've talked with many people about astrophysics opportunities in other countries. Not only are there schools and research facilities everywhere, but there are gatherings and conferences all over the world that happen all of the time.

The gang from the International Space University with their van named "Big C"

The gang from the International Space University with their van named "Big C"

Probably one of the greatest things to happen to me this summer was meeting an interesting group of gents (and one lady), who all live in one house, from the International Space University. Since they seem to be invested in this post, I feel like I should list them: Szymon from Poland, Enea from Italy, Matthew from Ireland, Tom from Wales, Taylor and Kristina from Canada, and Gerhard from Austria, along with his beautiful girlfriend and baby boy, Dagmar and Raphael. I could go on and on about each of them, but it might get more mushy than any reader can handle. As soon as I met these guys we hit it off. Not only was it fun to hear about their lives in Europe (or Canada), it was awesome talking to them about their space studies in other countries. We also just clicked very well with stuff that has nothing to do with space or being from another country. It is now my last day and I have been hanging out with them every day. I don't know what I am going to do when some of my greatest friends are living on the other side of the world.

This is me with baby Raphael!

This is me with baby Raphael!

Through the people in my research group and my new friends, I have not only learned new things and had an awesome time, I have reevaluated my life. Being monolingual and having a great space agency in the United States, I never thought too much about being abroad. I always knew I wanted to but I never thought the opportunity would present itself. With most of my friends being bilingual and wanting to work with people who spoke Spanish, it made sense that they would want to be in another country. I only recently realized that I could live abroad without being bilingual or wanting to work with a specific culture. People are studying space all over the world! That is the best part about math/physics: it's the same everywhere. (Yes, that is said in Mean Girls, but it's still true.) I am currently adding graduate schools abroad to my list. While I never thought I would feel this way going into this summer, I can honestly say that by living in our nation's capital and meeting these wonderful people, I have an even stronger curiosity and desire to explore the world.

Carrie Holt

Author: Carrie Holt

Carrie is a senior physics major from South Carolina with a passion for astrophysics and music. You can most likely find her geeking out about physics and outer space, singing with Vocal Synergy or hanging out with her best friends.

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