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Moving to Washington, DC

Living in Washington, DC, has both rewards and challenges, and knowing as much as you can about the city will enhance your experience. Washington is much more than what appears on the nightly news. Beyond politics and power, the city is a premiere communications and technology hub and a culturally rich community.

First, it's best to do a bit of planning and research. Because so many people move to the city every year for school, the military, government or business, there's a wealth of information available. A simple Web search can find dozens of guides written by real estate agents, government agencies and local communities. And there are even a number of companies that, for a fee, will help you move to the nation's capital.

Here are a few specific suggestions to help you make a smooth transition:

  • Plan an advance visit to Washington and the AU campus
  • Make a schedule of key events during the transition:
    • Long-range items include ending a current lease, contacting movers, finding a place to live and making travel arrangements.
    • Short-term items include changing bank accounts, canceling utilities and buying supplies for the move.
  • Buy a map (the DC metropolitan area is huge)
  • Choose a neighborhood (Will you be bringing a car? That will have an impact on where you live.)
  • Check to see if you'll be living near the Metro or a bus stop
  • Calculate moving budget and living expenses

Finding a Neighborhood

Washington offers a variety of lifestyles in distinct neighborhoods and suburbs. Most students choose to settle in Northwest Washington, near AU's campus.

Foxhall Square is just a few blocks from the main campus down New Mexico Avenue. There are lots of apartment buildings and you'll be near a dry cleaner, bank, florist, upscale grocery and restaurants.

Spring Valley is on Massachusetts Avenue near the Washington College of Law. This neighborhood has several restaurants and banks, a gas station, tasteful furnishings at Crate and Barrel, sandwiches at Wagshal's deli and coffee at Starbucks.

Tenleytown is a subway stop on Wisconsin Avenue surrounded by restaurants, a hardware store, grocery store, movie theaters, bicycle shops, and much more. The National Cathedral is nearby and there's an AU shuttle bus that runs from the metro to campus.

For details on Washington and its other neighborhoods, go to www.washington.org. For more information on Northern Virginia suburbs go to www.virginia.org, and Prince George's County and Montgomery County in suburban Maryland also have Web sites.

Sources for Housing

Rental housing can be found online. Extensive housing listings for Washington and its suburbs are available at the Washington City Paper, Washington Post, and Washington Times. The Apartment Connection is a free apartment locator service specializing in the Washington metro area that guarantees a response within 24 hours. National Temporary Apartments, Inc. has listings for short-term stays in furnished apartments throughout the city. Many students have recommended Craig's List for housing and just about anything else you would need.

Graduate students may live on the AU campus. On-campus housing is administered by Residential Life and Housing Services. Students have a choice of dorms or apartment-style housing off campus.

Living Expenses

There are a number of Web sites that compare the cost of living in Washington, DC to other metropolitan areas. Homestore and Bankrate.com have easy-to-use comparison calculators. Based on recent student surveys, American University estimates a budget of $41,701 for tuition and living expenses for a year of study.

Public Transportation

AU is located on Washington's Metrorail system and a number of bus-lines. Metrorail and Metrobus provide the most efficient means of getting around the city. Five rail lines and an extensive bus system connect Washington with the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Metro lines are named for colors: Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, and Orange. Metrorail stations are marked by brown pylons with the letter "M" and color stripes for the line. Rail fares are paid with farecards that can be purchased at any station. Buses accept cash or Smart Trip cards, which can be purchased at any station that has a parking lot (ask a station attendant for more information). The starting fare for trains is $1.35 and, for buses, it is $1.25. Fares go up depending upon the distance and time of day you're traveling.

petrapub.com/newcomer/dc/ - A good site for visitors and newcomers. It has lots of entertainment options and information on services from health care to hairdressers.

Soyuwanna.com - Offers free guides on how to do almost anything, including relocating to Washington.

dcregistry.com - Almost 10,000 Web pages by Washington natives.

When your family visits the area, remember that most congressional offices offer constituents special tours of the Capitol and tickets to special exhibits. Just contact your senators or representative at www.senate.gov or www.house.gov.

The AU campus offers many orientation sessions to get you acquainted with the campus. And students who already live in the area are a great resource to help in your transition.

Email us tips and sources of information you find helpful and we'll pass them along to future students. 

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