Washington Semester Program students on the National Mall in Washington DC

Bita Kavoosi Internship: Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Washington Offic

March 21 |Spring break was good! I kept in contact with my Washington Semester friends, and saw my family at home, which I really needed. I live in Southern California, so my twin brother took me straight to In-N-Out after he picked me up from the airport. I know I said I’ve been healthy, but I broke the diet that night; I went all out, and got a double double, animal fries, and a chocolate shake (that I had only 1 sip of before passing it off to my brother to finish). I went to the gym for 2 hours a day almost every day I was home, and saw some of my extended family that I haven’t seen in a while.

I am Iranian, so my family spent the week preparing for Persian New Year (Norooz), which was on March 20th. The Tuesday night before Norooz, there is an event called Chahr-Shanbe Soori. We jump over a fire to symbolize moving into the New Year. I went to a nice Persian restaurant with my family, went shopping for New Year clothes, and jumped over the fire. I have missed being surrounded by Persians, and this practice was good for the soul.

Big scoops of chocolate colored gelato in a cone with a purple spoon On a different, but still amazing, note, I reunited with my car, the Aquamarine Enforcer (my ‘06 Tahoe). I drove a lot, mostly to the gym, which was therapeutic. Lastly, I reunited with my dear friend from home, and we got gelato together one night before sitting on a hilltop with a view of downtown LA and catching up. The entire trip was very needed and made me feel refreshed before I had to come back to DC.

I also prepared for Norooz in DC; I brought Persian sweets that I will share with my friends, and I’ll see my cousins in the city as well. I know the month and a half that’s left in WSP will pass quickly, and I don’t know how I feel about it. On one hand, I already miss my family and want to see them again; on the other, I don’t want to leave my friends and this experience. I started the semester off thinking I wanted to live close to home, in SoCal, after graduation, and that I was just here for job experience; now I’m conflicted about what I want. Either way, this semester is an amazing opportunity to determine what I plan to do, as it exposed me to realizations I might not have otherwise come to. Regardless of the outcome and where I end up, I’m entering the New Year grateful for the chance to experience a new city with new people and good food.

Blog History

Washington Semester Program students at the Wharf in DC

Bita Kavoosi

International Law & Organizations

March 7 |

In honor of Black History Month, my classes and internship focused on Black history, both through lessons and on-site visits. My International Law seminar took me to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where I learned about several figures and movements in Black history I hadn't known about before. For example, Richard Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal denomination and Mother Bethel AME Church because he didn't appreciate that St. George's Church discriminated against African Americans. Spirituality was, and continues to be, key in African American culture, since it created a sense of community among slaves, and was a venue for them to share local news, support, study, read, and organize politically.

In my #BlackLivesMatter and Beyond class, we continued our discussion of the exploitation of black bodies by white Americans, and how some prominent black figures didn't consider themselves American because they couldn't vote. I also learned a new perspective about Brown v. Board of Education I hadn't considered before. When schools were desegregated, a white flight occurred wherein wealthy white students left the desegregated public schools to go to segregated private schools, while black students were marginalized by other students at the newly desegregated schools. This created a new segregation that gave them a poorer education where they were victimized in their schools, and left several black educators unemployed. Further, the struggle for black life persists through movements like Black Lives Matter because similar themes and parallels exist between historical events and the present day. Education about these topics is invaluable to finding a solution to these problems and preventing similar issues from arising again.

Black Men in STEM brainstorming session This past Friday, my internship supervisor at MIT Washington Office sent me to an event called "Celebrating Black Men in STEM," at the National Academy of Sciences. Hearing their experiences, struggles, and triumphs is honestly one of the most inspiring experiences I've ever had. Everyone there, despite almost all being of prominence within US politics and STEM, was so welcoming and kind. Though I was surrounded by people I didn't know, I didn't feel alone. I instead felt grateful to be hearing marginalized people's experiences, celebrating their accomplishments, and happy that I was making connections with such generous and kind people.

I'm so lucky to be in DC this semester, going to events and sites that showcase to me the importance of education and black excellence. Learning about such subjects from a textbook will never be the same as seeing these subjects come to life in person, and the best place to do that is DC. On a different note, my friends and I went to the Fire and Ice Festival at the Wharf this past Saturday, and saw the ice sculptures lit up with fun, bright lights and fire throwers. It was truly an experience.

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Kramer Books & Afterwards in downtown Washington DC (Dupont Circle)

Bita Kavoosi

International Law & Organizations

February 22 |

My internship at the MIT Washington Office is a very relaxed office experience, but one that still encourages my personal growth and learning by sending me to a lot of events that are relevant not only to MIT, but also to me.

Since I'm a student, a lot of what I learn at events pertaining to higher education institutions is useful for both MIT Washington Office, and for me. For example, at a recent event at the American Enterprise Institute on bridging the gap between liberal arts education and employment, I found out that people at liberal arts schools like mine usually only have the soft, interpersonal skills employers are looking for, but generally not the hard, technical skills they also need. Hearing that not only has me worried about my future employment prospects but has inspired me to look into online classes to build my hard skills repertoire. I also am a feminist, so the policy memo I wrote for the Code Like a Girl initiative better informed my interest in the subject. That initiative also passed out of committee recently! STEM education needs to push forward, and the support MIT Washington Office shows for those initiatives is inspiring. Though my interests lie more in environmental and national security issues, as well as human rights, migration, and refugees, I'm learning a lot and expanding my horizons, which is the reason I came to Washington. I didn't come to DC expecting my interests to stay the same; I came hoping what I learned here would help shape what my interests are, and hopefully turn that into a career path later on.

Outside of my internship, most of my semester continues to be centered around gastronomic experiences. I plan my day around where and when I'm going to eat. Since I still haven't given up on being healthy, I tend to eat at salad and bowl places. Recently, my pal Wes and I discovered Triple B Fresh, when we tried going to Rice Bar but it was closed. Both of those are Korean build-a-bowl places, and they're so good! I have tried both and appreciate the price of Triple B Fresh and the various fermented vegetables at Rice Bar. That night, we also went to a quaint bookstore that had so many travel books I will be going back to consult when trying to choose a study abroad program for next semester. I mentioned in my last post that I saw my cousin at a rally downtown; since my last post, I went to get dinner with her on her campus, at George Washington University. We got knockoff Chipotle and coffee, and planned a spring break trip to Trinidad that we both know will never happen. Even now as I'm writing this post, I'm getting hyped to celebrate her birthday this week.

Though I've met so many cool people here, I'm thinking a lot about my friends from my home school. Leaving my friends was one of the hardest parts of leaving Colorado College for the semester and would've been the main reason to hold back. I miss them, and want to be home to support them, but am finding that being away has made all of us so good at long-distance love and communication. I can't wait until the day we reunite so I can feel their hugs again and am so happy I'll be meeting up with some of them soon. Perhaps we will share a healthy meal and work out together.

Washington Semester Program student Bita Kavoosi enjoys some delicious food with a friend in Washington DC

Bita Kavoosi

International Law & Organizations

February 8 | Hey! My name is Bita Kavoosi, and I'm an international political economy major from Colorado College! My concentration in the WSP is International Law and Organizations, and I'm passionate about climate and migration related issues. I love going to group fitness classes (especially Zumba), watching sitcoms, and driving my '06 Tahoe named the Aquamarine Enforcer.

The adjustment to D.C. was, and continues to be, interesting. Because I want to explore the new city I'm in, my friends and I are always eating out. We all got the cheapest meal plans possible (obviously) which means we have to eat out more, not that I'm complaining. I consider myself a foodie, and make it a point to eat at the most recommended, random, and hidden places I can find in any city I visit. I also go to food festivals frequently, and am looking forward to attending one of those. I'm trying to be healthy this semester, so I'm working out frequently and eating healthy foods almost exclusively. D.C. has good healthy options, and I've noticed that they're usually clustered together throughout the city.

My internship is right next to Union Station, which is really convenient for several reasons. First, since my internship requires me to go to a lot of events around D.C., I can stop at intern row or at the shops at Union Station to buy food on my way back to the office, and eat it at my nice big desk while reviewing my event notes. Second, Union Station's food is both really good and healthy, since it has all the places I expect the aforementioned healthy food clusters to have: Roti, Chopt, Chipotle, and Cava.

As I mentioned, my meal plan doesn't have a lot of money on it, so my friends and I spend our weekends eating out and exploring our new city. Last Saturday, we went to brunch at Ted's Bulletin before going to the National Gallery of Art and the Capitol, after which we finally went home. Ted's Bulletin was a recommendation from one of my home school friends, and we did well to listen to him; the pancakes I had were unhealthy, fattening, and delicious.

Cat, owned by a friend of Washington Semester Program student Bita Kavoosi Last Monday, one of my friends at Colorado College, my home school, who lives in D.C. took me to dinner with her family, and I tried Peking duck for the first time. It was so good, words can't do it justice. I cannot emphasize how good it was. I also met her lovely cat Scout for the first time, which is something I've been looking forward to for two years. I don't know what made me happier, the duck or the cat.

Most recently, we went to Wicked Waffle and visited the Washington Monument, the World War 2 Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. Between memorials, we stopped at two different protests, one supporting trans lives, and the other opposing the Muslim ban. D.C. is truly amazing; it is the nexus of both activism and reunions. While at the protest supporting trans lives, I saw my cousin whom I hadn't seen in over a year, who goes to GWU. We hugged, I cried, and we made plans for dinner this week.

While I know that my descriptions so far have made me seem like I do nothing but break my diet, workout, go to class, and intern, I promise I do more than that. You might be thinking, "wow, you already have so much on your plate already, Bita!" It's true, I do. I have a lot of salad on my plate. That's why I have two plates.

Participants in the 2018 Women's March On the second plate is all the exploring (read: getting lost) and being with friends. I do both in the city and on campus. On Thursday night, after my #BlackLivesMatter and Beyond elective course from 5:30-8 P.M., my friend Wes and I rushed to a cardboard boat building race at Bender Arena's pool. We were joined by Kala and Chris, who were our moral support, later on in the night. Wes was very into building the boat, but our boat was the worst. It collapsed upon water impact, but it was a valiant effort on Wes' part. In fact, the team that joined with only ten minutes left to build their boat got first place, when Wes spent the entire allotted time building his. An unexpected phenomenon: The teams won in reverse order of when they started their boat building, with only one exception. The people in this program are fun to get lost with, and I look forward to taking more Ls than ever before with them.