Just when I try to escape for a semester to Washington, D.C., nearly 600 miles away from Brunswick, Maine, it seems there's no escaping Bowdoin College. During my first full day here in the heart of our nation's capital, I have run into a recent Bowdoin graduate on the street, and have learned that many other Polar Bears are within a brief metro stop away from where I live, or where I'll be going to school for the next couple of months.
After a drawn-out orientation to American University's Semester in Washington program at a church near the university's main Tenley Campus, I made my way to the newly constructed and world renowned School of International Service (SIS), where I was informed I would be having my first meeting with my Foreign Policy class and its professor, John Calabrese.
Astoundingly, I quickly found out that Professor Calabrese was once Bowdoin's associate dean of students, as well as a faculty member in the Government and Legal Studies Department. For such a small institution, I realized, it was clear that the College punches way above its weight, at least in terms of post-graduate placement in prominent positions in places like Washington; Polar Bears are everywhere, and it feels good to know that I have had the opportunity to be a part of the family.
Understanding that I have a tendency to overwrite, I will try to be concise about my arrival here in D.C., but thorough, in order to paint and accurate and detailed picture of how my time here has been so far, and what I will exactly be doing until mid-December.
The American University's (AU) Semester in Washington Foreign Policy Program allows both domestic and foreign students to work within D.C. as part-time interns for a variety of foreign policy related organizations, while simultaneously taking seminars on the subject. In my case, the program has three components: a research course that requires students to produce a research paper of about 35 - 50 pages on a relevant foreign policy topic; participation as a part-time intern for two days a week at a relevant organization or institute; and completion of a foreign policy seminar that looks at a variety of foreign policy topics, and includes frequent meetings with high-level officials and scholars who have been indispensable drivers of policy and debate here in D.C.
Thus far, it seems as if I am studying abroad in a foreign country, as the vast majority of students who I will be taking classes alongside, and the friends I have made and am living with, are from locations as far away as Japan, France, Germany, and Norway. The diversity within both the city and my classroom will undoubtedly have a valuable impact on the way I will begin to learn about issues both domestically and abroad in faraway regions such as the Middle East, to places like the Asia Pacific.
I have also found that my previous studies at Bowdoin have helped me start exciting and intriguing discussions with my fellow classmates, and with complete strangers I've come across on my exploration of the city. For example, I have enjoyed discussing the territorial island disputes between China and Japan to students I've met from Tokyo; with my friends from Germany and France, I've inquired about how they view the current Eurocrisis, and what they believe will unfold within the foreseeable future.
I also have students from Bates and Tufts in my class; interestingly, it's as though I've not stepped a foot outside the NESCAC, yet at the same time have journeyed to exotic lands far, far away from home.
And so here, I'll cut the story short and leave you hanging--at least for the time being. Within the next week, I'll be able to share much more about the internship I have (hopefully!) secured, the research project topic I've decided to pursue, and the myriad speakers I've had the chance to speak with and question. I'll also have had the chance to experience the city a little bit more, and will be happy to candidly describe my experiences to anybody who would be interested in hearing about hints, tips, tricks, or tidbits about living in D.C.
Until then, friends.