Because my family has never been exactly rich, I have never had the opportunity to do a lot of travelling. So when I left the small town of Roanoke and went to Washington, DC for the first time, I was utterly amazed and stupefied. I realize this may not sound as impressive as the kid who went to Mozambique or Burma, but for me this was as good as it gets. I had raised funds all year long to be able to attend the Junior Statesman of America Summer School at Georgetown (http://www.jsa.org/summer-programs-homepage/summer-programs-homepage.html), and I was finally here. The first thing I noticed was the city smell. Unlike the crisp mountain air, here the atmosphere had a heavy quality, almost like trying to breathe in an entirely new substance. However, even the acrid odor couldn’t dampen my excitement. Everywhere I looked, there were new wonders to see. Pristine buildings rose out of the ground like monoliths, and their bases were swarmed with people who all seemed to have very important tasks. I felt highly insignificant, almost overwhelmed by it all. I had known, of course, that DC is a very large city, but it’s one thing to know that mentally and another to actually see all those people living in such a small space together. The campus of Georgetown (http://www.georgetown.edu/) was a marvel itself. Beautiful gothic architecture dotted the area, and church bells rang melodically every fifteen minutes. For three weeks, I lived in the Village C West dorms (http://explore.georgetown.edu/locations/index.cfm?Action=View&LocationID=35) , with a beautiful view of the surrounding area. Although I was there to learn Foreign Policy, I did have days off. One Sunday, I rode in a taxi with my roommate for the very first time. Never before had I not had my own car readily available, or plenty of friends to carpool with, and the experience was a novelty even though the cab was hot and the driver smelled poorly. Despite its faults, the taxi took us to the Holocaust Museum (http://www.ushmm.org/)- I wanted to see it for curiosity’s sake, and my roommate Alyssa had a more vested interest as she is Jewish herself. The museum was desperately poignant. The entire atmosphere conveyed a solemnity respectable for the magnitude of the tragedy that occurred. I entered merely curious, and I left feeling as if I myself had lived through the Holocaust. Our serious faces could not be maintained for long in so ebullient a city, however. We took the tram home, and the repeated jerks of this oddly shaped vehicle were further complicated by the maze of stops it made; I would have become desperately lost if not for Alyssa’s inherent city abilities. The next week our thirst to explore was still not quenched, so we ventured into the city to see a movie at AMC Theater 2645. Although I was having the greatest time of my life, I still felt oppressed by the size and proximity of the buildings, and simultaneously depressed by the constant presence of concrete, rats, and trash. Once I overlooked these slight flaws, I was able to see that the city glowed like a new toy on Christmas morning, a toy that only got more exciting the longer you played with it. Our final night, we took the Moonlight Monument Tour (http://www.historictours.com/washington/) as a group, a great privilege because it temporarily relaxed our strict curfew. While these monuments were only physical reminders of great deeds, they still served to inspire reverence in all who saw them. They seemed to condense every aspect of American spirit into them, and of course aroused great feelings of patriotism. While I learned much on my month long stay in DC, perhaps the most important lesson I took home was one not learned in the classroom, but something that every traveler learns eventually: there’s no place in the world quite like home.
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