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New Student Orientation

Explore DC

Through Explore DC, you will navigate and learn about Washington DC through a targeted lens. You will have the opportunity to meet other new students with similar interests and will understand why AU considers DC to be our laboratory of learning. You can select from a variety of topics that fit your passions; topics are detailed below. Specific programs are organized by topic area, and can be viewed by clicking one of the eight buttons at the bottom of the page! All programs share the common theme of understanding the nation's capital from an insider's perspective, but are broken into three formats: Faculty-led, Orientation Leader-led, and Service-based. Each lead a trip of about 20 to 25 students, and will venture out in to the DMV area. Explore DC Registration costs $100, and covers the cost of the program, a t-shirt, food and refreshments at the opening and closing ceremonies, and evening programming.

REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED.  We will be accepting walk-ins from 10-3pm on Tuesday, August 23rd.

Early sign up is encouraged, as we have a limited number of spots available.


Explore DC Through 8 Topic Areas:

Food Justice

Food is a fundamental staple in life. However, In DC access to healthy food is beyond the reach of some residents as a result of food deserts, areas with little or no access to grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods. AU students will learn about food justice by working with nonprofits, urban farming, and understanding how to increase access to healthy food.

Housing Justice and Community Engagement

Nearly 20% (110,000) of Washington DC residents struggle with finding affordable housing. Contributing factors include gentrification, inflated housing costs, poverty, and disparities in income. AU Students will explore the complex aspects of this issue and how communities are responding while engaging with multiple District neighborhoods.

Community Health

Public health aims to protect the health of the population, prevent disease, and promote healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Community health issues can range from disease and illness like HIV/AIDS and asthma, to non-traditional health concerns like domestic violence. AU students will learn about health disparities and work with organizations making preventative and routine healthcare more accessible, regardless of ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic status.

Arts and Media for Social Change

On a community level, DC public art and media help promote cultural diversity, build ties between Washingtonians, and even reduce crime. AU students will work with impactful nonprofit organizations focused on arts for social change, learn about the positive impact media can have, and publish articles on issue facing the D.C. community.

Environment & Urban Sustainability

Washington, DC has made strides to lessen human impact on the environment through policy and community organizations. However, DC lags in addressing poor air quality and water pollution disproportionately affecting lower-income communities in the District. AU Students will go into neighborhoods and support environmental justice programs seeking to empower residents and being to understand their own environmental footprint.

Identity & Civil Rights

Washington, DC is the home of iconic events such as the March on Washington, Million Man March, Capital Pride, and the Women’s Suffrage March. This city serves as a hub for issues around identity and civil rights. AU Students will have the chance to engage with diverse topics in community organizing, and learn how to take issues of marginalized peoples to the national stage.

Education & Community Building

DC has one of the highest achievement gaps regarding K-12 education, depending on where students reside in the city. Local organizations work to lessen inequalities and prepare students to have a successful future.AU students will learn about the city’s education system, work with local advocacy groups, and engage with programs working to close the gap.

Global Human Rights, Immigration, and Refugee Issues

Washington, DC has long been a destination for marginalized peoples looking to build a better life for their families. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, there are more people displaced by conflict and persecution now than at any other point in history. Students will learn why this region has been a destination for newcomers and meet with local organizations working on current resettlement initiatives. Additionally, students will explore local neighborhoods that have been transformed and enriched by contributions of immigrant communities in the DC.

Arts and Media for Social Change

Arts and Media for Social Change (Explore DC topic area)

See Arts and Media Programs

Education and Community Building

Education and Community Building (Explore DC topic area)

See Ed and Community Programs

Environment and Urban Sustainability

Environment and Urban Sustainability (Explore DC topic area)

See Enviro and Urban Programs

Identity and Civil Rights

Identity and Civil Rights (Explore DC topic area)

See Civil Rights Programs

Global Hum. Rights, Imm., and Ref. Issues

Global Human Rights, Immigration, and Refugee Issues (Explore DC topic area)

See Human Rights Programs