Alyssa CluneAmerican Politics
November 19 | Wow, I can’t believe it’s already my last blog post! It seems like just last week I was applying to be a Program Ambassador, and now we’ve hit the countdown for the final month of the semester. I am beyond thankful for the experiences I’ve had this semester, from the students I’ve met to the speakers I’ve seen to the events I’ve attended.
The first weekend of November, I visited Philadelphia with a group of WSP students, and we rented an AirBnB in the heart of the city. It was definitely a little tight with all 11 of us squeezed into a tiny 3-bedroom apartment, but so worth it! We toured Independence Hall (where I made wayyyy too many National Treasure and Nick Cage references), climbed the Rocky Steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, and ate Pat’s famous Philly Cheesesteaks (satisfyingly greasy but still a little overrated in my opinion). One of my friends was really reluctant to see the Liberty Bell, muttering hilariously about how silly of a metaphor a broken bell is for liberty, but we dragged him along anyways. My favorite part might have been eating my weight in food at Reading Terminal Market. The spot consists of rows and rows of stalls selling every kind of food or gift you could imagine, and I was in heaven.
On the trip back, we stopped to take a hike at a small state park right on Susquehanna River. The scenery was beautiful, and it was the perfect weekend to experience some of Philadelphia’s fall foliage. We passed by a cute little farm, a mill, and even an archery range. It was a wonderful little detour, and might have been the best part of the whole weekend.
In my Law & Society class, we’ve been ramping up for Moot Court competition, which is part of our final grade. It simulates a Supreme Court Oral Argument, and I am serving as one of the nine Supreme Court Justices. The case emulates a death penalty ruling, so to prepare, we have been studying past landmark death penalty cases like Furman v. Georgia, Ford v. Wainwright, and Atkins v. Virginia. Also, as part of our study of the Supreme Court, we had the chance to visit the Supreme Court Building and hear the clerk, Scott Harris, speak about what it is like to work with the justices on the highest court in the land. He talked about how the justices argue their own stances to other justices through questions to the lawyers, and the way they sort through the massive amount of cases brought to them by lower courts. It was an awesome experience to visit the court house and get a first-hand account of the process.
Thank you guys so much for following my semester, and I hope you’ve found it helpful and entertaining!
Alyssa CluneAmerican Politics
November 5 | With midterms finally out of the way, there is a huge weight off my shoulders, and I finally have time to myself. Lately, I’ve been having a lot of unique DC experiences, that have really engaged me with the Washington community, and I am so thankful for that!
The other week, I participated in A21’s Walk For Freedom, an event that raises awareness and donations for human trafficking victims and prevention programs. The silent walk took place around the reflecting pool of the Abraham Lincoln memorial, and was an incredibly powerful and emotional experience. A21 hosts these walks around the globe, but I am proud to say that DC’s Walk for Freedom raised over $65,000, the highest amount of any individual city. Those funds will have a tremendous impact, and go towards hotlines, “Freedom Center” rescue clinics, and legal action against traffickers. I was so happy that I was able to be part of the fundraising efforts and experience the walk with my Washington Semester friends.
That same weekend, my internship office offered me tickets to the White House Fall Garden Tour. I got to see the grounds of the White House and be closer to the president’s residence than I’ve ever been before. My friend and I kept joking about how it was our future house, but hey, you never know! It was interesting how much smaller the White House and the West Wing seem when you are right next to them. The grounds were fun to tour, and included a vegetable garden, bee hive, fountain, and tennis court.
Last Thursday, my Political Communications class visited the Center for Strategic and International Studies to hear a talk from H. Andrew Schwartz, VP of External Relations, who also happens to be an alumni from my home school, Tulane University! He spoke about how communications in DC have changed in the era of Trump and "fake news," and how think tanks use social media and broadcasting to enhance their reach and engagement. Afterwards, I stayed behind to talk to him about his Tulane experiences, and it ended with him offering me a personalized tour of CSIS’s iDeaLab, which is a fully functional media platform the organization uses to broadcast their findings. He was definitely my favorite speaker that I’ve seen so far in any of my classes, and it was amazing that I got to speak one-on-one with him!
Also in my Political Communications class, we got to watch a live filming of Meet the Press as the second part of our visits to Sunday morning talk shows! My family and I are lifelong watchers of the show, and are all a little in love with Chuck Todd, so I am not embarrassed to say that I was fangirling the whole time. Unlike Face the Nation, where we were in the control room getting a birds eye view of the show’s operations, we were right on the set of Meet the Press, watching the interviews occur in real time. My parents were definitely jealous when I sent them a picture, and my mom even told me to give him a kiss for her (I did not).
Alyssa CluneAmerican Politics
October 22 | Wow, the last couple of weeks have been even busier than the rest of my semester. With projects from work, midterms, and visits from family and friends, my schedule has been jam packed. Aside from becoming very familiar with a particularly cozy nook of the AU library, I have been exploring many new areas and sites of DC as well.
Over Indigenous People’s Day weekend, my twin sister, Sophia, visited. We got brunch at Boqueria, which charges a flat fee for unlimited tapas and mimosas. It was definitely the most elaborate brunch I’d ever had, and although we attempted to try every mini dish on the menu, we were so full we were struggling to finish it all by the end. Then, I took her around the National Mall so we could tour the monuments and the Capitol. Afterwards, I showed her the National Portrait Gallery. She really loved the neon Electronic Superhighway piece, but my favorite part was the tinfoil throne exhibit, titled The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly.
That same weekend, my sister and I also attended a Masquerade Gala at the Italian Embassy with the tickets my team won from the Amazing Race. Throughout the night, there was a waltz lesson, delicious desserts, a professionally trained opera singer, and classic party line dancing. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am so glad my sister was there to experience it with my friends and I.
After all of that excitement, we were up bright and early on Sunday to attend the Face the Nation filming for my Political Communications class. We got to sit in the back of the control room and watch as the show’s executives manage everything from the timing of segments to the amount of makeup reapplied to the host’s face during commercial breaks. Unfortunately, but hilariously, there was one guest whose moustache had not been shaved evenly, resulting in two editors in the back corner snickering about the mishap and sending around a staff email.
At my internship, the House of Representatives took the last couple of weeks of session off to dedicate more time to their campaigns, so the office has been a lot quieter lately. However, out-of-session definitely has its perks, like being asked to work on projects by the Legislative Assistants and Correspondents. Lately, I’ve been given the responsibility of drafting a lot of letters to constituents, which involves researching legislation and initiatives that my congresswoman, Rep. Gwen Moore, has cosponsored. It has been helping me learn a lot more about her specific actions in the Financial Committee and how the issues of her constituents affect her policy decisions.
We are entering the beginning of the more rigorous end of the semester, with projects, tests, and essay due dates from now until the end of the semester. One midterm is down, and I have one still to go, so wish me luck, and I can’t wait to give you more updates on DC soon!
Alyssa CluneAmerican Politics
October 8 | Greetings! Last I posted, I talked about how crazy it felt to be launched into such a new and fast-paced environment so quickly. Now that I’ve been here for a little over a month, I finally feel like I am getting the hang of DC life. I am starting to know my way around the city, visiting different farmers markets, sites, shops, and events around the city. Last week, I even directed tourists on how to get to the Jefferson Memorial. The tunnels below the Capitol, House, and Senate buildings are still a challenge, but I no longer spin in circles figuring out which direction the Rotunda is.
Besides being navigationally impaired, I am loving my internship! I attend briefings and events almost every single day on issues ranging from gun violence to LGBTQ immigration, and fiscal policy. I write memos on almost every brief I attend, which is doing wonders for my professional writing skills. Milwaukee Night, an annual celebration for my office’s district, was a few weeks ago, so the staff threw an event in our building, and I got to see Senator Tammy Baldwin and Paul Ryan in person!
I also finally got a tour of the Capitol building (which helped a LOT with my wayfinding skills) and was encouraged by the Capitol staff to just take a couple of hours, get lost in the building, and wander around until I knew it like the back of my hand. I never thought I’d have Capitol Hill staff encouraging me to get lost wandering around one of the most important and heavily guarded building in the country, but hey, what do you know?
In both my classes, we have had some amazing speakers and site visits. My favorite was probably the Newseum, where they had exhibits on everything from 1st Amendment rights to 9/11, and the Berlin Wall. We also had to the chance to hear Congressman Ryan Costello (PA-6) speak about his political experiences and how they led to Congress.
In my most exciting development, I celebrated my 21st birthday last weekend! My Washington Semester friends and I celebrated in style at The Front Page, a classic journalism-themed restaurant in Dupont Circle with the #1 happy hour in the city. Coming into the program, I was a little nervous about celebrating such a milestone birthday with people I had only known for a month, but all my new friends went out of their way to make the day special for me with cookies and little gifts.
This weekend, I’ll be attending the Embassy Masquerade Gala I mentioned in my first blog post, and am beyond excited to eat cannolis and tiramisu with Italian diplomats! On top of that, my twin sister is visiting me, and I can’t wait to show her around DC. My professor gave me permission to invite her to our Face The Nation filming this Sunday, so it should be a crazy, jam-packed, amazing visit.
If you’re interested in hearing more about this weekend and my other DC adventures, follow @WSPIntern for my Instagram Takeover, where you can follow my week post by post. It will be October 15th–18th, so make sure to tune in!
Alyssa CluneAmerican Politics
September 24 | You know that feeling of standing on the edges of a rapidly moving treadmill, knowing that as soon as you set your feet down on the belt, you’re going to have to sprint like crazy to keep up with the pace? That zero-to-100 sensation is the most accurate description I can give of my wild, fun, and all together unpredictable time here in DC so far. My name is Alyssa Clune, and welcome to my crib. And by crib, I mean student blog documenting the highs and lows of what promises to be my craziest semester yet.
As a native Bostonian who chose to pursue their undergraduate degree in New Orleans, I thought I knew exactly how to dive headfirst into the new and unpredictable. Turns out that even after 2 years of college in a city known for its spontaneity and nonstop events, the start of the Washington Semester was still a little overwhelming. The adjustment to a new environment with new friends and new sites to see made me feel like a freshman all over again.
The first week was a whirlwind of introductions, interviews, and incredibly confusing metro trips. The biggest highlight was definitely the WSP’s version of the Amazing Race, which had my team and I running around DC collecting menus, campaign posters, and postcards from famous restaurants, museums and monuments. But our long, frantic day was worth it when we won first place, and all scored tickets to a Venetian Ball at the Italian Embassy (more details coming in October)!
Not being one of the greatest navigators, and notorious for my laughable directional confusion, learning a new subway system proved to be a slight challenge for me. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve ended up on the wrong platform of Metro Station, missed my bus, or taken the metro a couple of stops in the wrong direction. However, between my morning commute to Capitol Hill, seminar fieldtrips, and exploration of DC’s monuments and restaurants, I’m finally getting the hang of DC public transportation.
My classes have been fantastic so far, and involve a lot more experiential learning than any coursework I’ve done before. As a double major in Political Economy and Philosophy at my home school, most of my courses are lecture-styled, so the WSP seminars are a refreshing change of pace. My Public Law & Society class took us to the National Archives on our first day, and the following week, my Politics & Policy class visited the American Enterprise Institute to hear from an expert in the field of polling analysis. Meanwhile, my Political Communications course is planning a date to see the live filming of Meet the Press, my favorite Sunday morning political talk show!
Finally, I started my internship on Capitol Hill last week. I am working in the House of Representatives with Congresswoman Gwen Moore’s office, and am so excited to see what it is like to work in a congressional office. So far, I have been learning the lay of the Capitol Hill campus, researching legislation, writing constituents, and attending briefings. This week was the Congressional Black Caucus’s Annual Legislative Conference, so our office has been busy hosting briefings, scheduling events, and catering luncheons. I am excited for what is to come with this position, and to take on more responsibility in my office as I learn more and more.