I've been to Washington, D.C. three times in my life- each visit has been while in college, and each time in the past year alone.
My first time in Washington, D.C. was in March for Alternative Spring Break, with Dean Curtis Wright, Rev. Martin Malzahn, and a group of students. My second time was a weekend trip in July with PRPLA, and the third time was last weekend with the Honors Program. Each experience has been as fulfilling and wonderful as the last, because I fall in love with the place more and more every time I go. All my life, Washington, D.C. seemed like a foreign place- farther than it actually is, and being a hub for politics and politicians. However, when I got the opportunity to spend my Spring Break there earlier this year, I was opened up to a whole new metropolis that I had never seen myself fitting into before.
A huge reason why being in Washington, D.C. is so special to me is because it is our country's capital. You might be thinking, "Yeah, so what?" But, it is so historically and culturally rich, and there are so many sights to see, from museums to national monuments, to restaurants! During my trip for alternative spring break, we had the pleasure of grabbing lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl. I thought nothing too special of the place, probably because I was surrounded by cheese fries and chili at every turn, until Mr. Bob served us more food and some historical context of the place. Ben's Chili Bowl was opened up in 1958, became a hit in the neighborhood for its delicious food and fresh ingredients, and was able to survive the 1968 Riots following the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Bob went on to tell us that in the 1960's he traveled down to the Deep South to help with voter registration with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). I was so incredibly amazed by this, because this place carried so much history in it , that I never would have even thought about. Likewise, I was taking History of the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. Reynolds and I was focusing my final research paper on SNCC, so to find out that someone who works there was an active member in voter registration was absolutely humbling for me, and really brought a sense of reality into all that I imagined history to be.
During my visit to D.C. with PRPLA, we visited the Newseum. 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. I am a museum enthusiast, but just like the next person, I get bored easily. This museum, though, kept me on my feet, and excited to go into the next gallery and movie screening. One gallery that stood out to me was the way that the media broadcasted the Vietnam War, the first televised war. Because Americans were viewing the war on television, there was a large movement to end the war and get Americans out of Vietnam. It is just absolutely stunning to me how much of a push back the American people had to the war because they were literally watching it on their television screens, and to see those atrocities really gave them that courage and power to speak out against the government's choice to invade Vietnam.
Personally, my favorite part of Washington, D.C. is visiting the many historic locations. The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, White House and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial are just a few that I had the privilege to visit throughout my trips. I can't place my finger on why it is so special for me to go to these places, but I just love being present there. Our nation's capital is immense and densely packed with history and culture, so it is really important for me to just take that all in.
The Washington Monument is one of my favorite places, ever, because you can see so much from there, and with the gorgeous weather in D.C., it is so refreshing to just lie in the grass, reflect, and appreciate the location. It is also located in the center of all the monuments and exquisite places, so you can see it clearly from any location. Also, as a history nerd and passionate activist, it is so exciting to have this grand view of the Lincoln Memorial, where so many activists have spoken, and so many people have assembled to peacefully protest racism, wages, and war.
Now, I can go on forever about all that Washington, D.C. has to offer, but I don't think a 10,000 word blog post would be enjoyed by many of you. As students in New York City, we see the City as the top of the world, the only important place to us, a place we want to settle into and rise to the top of, but there is so much more out there. Going to D.C., especially in my college years, has removed this idea that New York City is the greatest, grandest city in the country, and world, and has instilled in me an appreciation for other cities and populations. My visits have shown me that a world exists outside of the City, and that there is a place for me outside of here. D.C. is home to immense history, culture, food, and people. From the Lincoln Waffle Shop (another favorite place), to the Smithsonian Museums, to the universities, and the monuments and historic locations, there is so much to do, so many places to see, and so many people to meet. So, use your time as a college student to get out of the city and explore what the rest of the country, and world, has to offer to you, because the country, and the world, is so much bigger than you.