Washington Semester Ambassador Maggie Gates with three friends in front of the U.S. Capitol

Maggie Gates Sustainable Development

November 6 | As this crazy and amazing semester continues, I've been able to reflect on how beneficial the Washington Semester Program really is. I can't believe it's already November and there are so many exciting things to look forward to this month. The National Foundation for Women Legislators, the organization I am interning for, is hosting its Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota in a week! I am lucky enough to go with the team to the Conference and have the opportunity to meet women legislators from all over the country. I could not be more excited to work at such an exciting event!

These last two weeks, I have been blown away by the intelligence and dedication of the speakers that my class has met. It is definitely not an easy time to work in politics in the United States, especially in the realm of environmental sustainability. My Sustainable Development class visited Greenpeace, The Wilderness Society, the National Zoo, and an ABT event on Coastal Restoration. The complexity of the issues threatening the Earth, including climate change and environmental degradation, are difficult to tackle in the current political climate. Greenpeace was probably my favorite out of the site visits because the organization takes creative approaches to environmental activism like dropping banners, calling out corporations, and creating "report cards." Hearing from people who are working at my dream job is the perfect supplement to informational lectures about Sustainable Development!

I have always wanted to work on a campaign, and the speaker that my Political Communications class visited was one of my favorites! After hearing from a producer of TV campaign ads at Beacon Media, my perception of political commercials completely changed. The speaker emphasized the importance of understanding one's target audience and what type of ad works in certain districts. I had never considered how campaign ads were built, so it was extremely fascinating to learn the ins and outs of what makes an ad successful.

Washington Semester Ambassador Maggie Gates with her mom Last week I was lucky to have my mom visit DC! It was great to be able to share my experiences with her and show her some of my favorite neighborhoods and DC gems. We spent the weekend doing some of our favorite things like taking long walks, sipping strong coffee, exploring DC's food scene, and doing yoga. We visited one of my favorite museums, the National Portrait Gallery and explored Georgetown - a part of DC I had never been to before!

With only 4 weeks left in the semester I've been focusing on crossing off all that's left on my DC bucket list and reflecting on the experiences I've had so far. I really love DC, and I am saddened that my time here is coming to an end so soon. Everyone in this town is working towards something bigger than themselves; it's inspiring to be surrounded by hard workers and ambitious energy. I know I'll be back someday.

Blog History

Maggie with friend in front of United States Capitol

Maggie Gates Sustainable Development

October 23 | I cannot believe we are half way through the semester already; it's crazy how fast time has flown by! I'm trying my best to take full advantage of every day I'm here in DC. My weeknights are often spent at events, speakers, or networking and my weekend nights at one of the many free events DC has to offer. I've learned to appreciate my alone time on the Metro to and from work, and I love being able to have thoughtful, intelligent conversations about politics and the world with my peers. Both class and my internship are going well, and I'm loving DC life.

The past few weeks have been jam-packed with impressive speakers and visiting exiting places. I've heard from the external director of a think tank, a former UN official, an executive director of a nonprofit, the president of the World Bank, a gender specialist at an international organization, and even the successful author of Politico's Playbook, Daniel Lipman. One of my favorite parts about the Washington Semester Program is learning from speakers who are excelling in their field. Learning their stories, getting their advice, and hearing their expertise on issues always leaves me feeling inspired.

Exhibit at the African American Museum on the national MallSpeaking of great experiences in class…I need to give a BIG shout-out to my amazing professor for getting my class tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It's nearly impossible to get tickets as it only opened a year ago and is extremely popular, but she somehow made it happen. My favorite part of the museum was the exhibits on culture on the top floors. I learned so much about African American culture and history; it was an extremely special experience.

Maggie with a group of friends at Illuminasia on the national MallAs I've mentioned previously, I LOVE the constant free events in DC. Just this past weekend I enjoyed free fireworks and music at the Wharf opening and Illuminasia, an event that celebrated Asian culture! I saw the coolest beat box performance ever and a ...? This city is never boring, that's for sure. In fact, after two months of living in DC, I still hadn't had made it to the classic tourist attractions! But having a friend in town was the perfect opportunity to play tourist. We braved the crowds and whipped out our smartphones to take shameless selfies next to the grandiose monuments that form DC's skyline. The beautiful National Mall, extravagant monuments, and huge museums are definitely worth a visit in DC.

My Sustainable Development class with Virginia Ali, founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl

Maggie Gates Sustainable Development

October 9 | Fall is finally here, my absolute favorite season! And as much as I miss fall days spent apple picking in Spokane, I am definitely loving DC's 70-degree weather in October! I'm starting to settle into life at WSP through finding the perfect outdoor study spot, discovering a yoga studio walking distance from campus, and mastering public transit.

My sustainable development class and I ate at Ben's Chili Bowl! Ben's Chili Bowl is an iconic DC restaurant with historical significance, incredible charm, and the best chili half smoke on earth (I'm convinced). After a delicious meal, an incredibly kind woman came up to our table; it was Virginia Ali, one of the founders! It was an honor to meet such a remarkable woman and eat at such a great DC classic.

Working the registration table at NFWL's State Director Leadership SummitThe Washington Semester Program focuses on the professional development and interning in addition to our concentration. I am interning three days a week at the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL), and I am absolutely loving it! NFWL is a bipartisan educational non profit organization that provides elected women with resources to harness their full potential as leaders in government. My day to day responsibilities include organizing events and programming, communication, and administrative work, but I really just help with whatever is most pressing on that day. NFWL is a great organization and I am so grateful for the opportunity to advance my professional skills.

My favorite part of interning for NFWL are the opportunities to meet incredibly inspiring women legislators from all over the country. Last week I helped out at NFWL's State Director Leadership Summit and was able to speak with accomplished female leaders. I loved hearing different women's stories, opinions on politics, and advice.

Learning about sustainability on American University's campus!

Maggie Gates Sustainable Development

October 2 | 4 weeks into the semester and I couldn't be happier. Every day is a new adventure with opportunities to grow both personally and professionally.

This semester I am studying Sustainable Development, a subject I have always been interested in but have never studied! A large portion of the course focuses on Environmental Sustainability and combating climate change. Studying this has made me more aware of my surroundings and how they are effecting the environment. Washington D.C is one of the greenest cities in the United States, which is visible exploring D.C. Green roofs, accessible recycling, abundance of public transportation, environmental preservation, and tax on plastic grocery bags are only a few of the noticeable ways D.C. is environmentally friendly.

My Sustainable Development class went on a guided environmental sustainability tour of American University and discovered AU's immense focus on being a green campus. I learned valuable ways AU is environmental conscious, examples including: American is an arboretum, has multiple LEED certified buildings, has bees and community gardens, and is aiming towards eliminating waste. These ideas are great inspiration for ways I can help my home campus become more eco conscious.

This semester I am challenging myself to take increased personal responsibility of my own environmental consciousness by focusing on reusing plastic ware, cutting down on animal product consumption, reducing water use, picking up trash, etc. It's so important to take personal responsibility for the environment as well as supporting politicians and businesses that are taking action as well.

Seth and Maggie eating turkey legs at a street festivalThe past few weeks in D.C have been an absolute blast. I love meeting new people and experiencing all this city has to offer. I've created a D.C bucket list and have started crossing things off the extensive list! Last weekend I spent taking advantage of fun and cheap activities like going to a Nationals game for $7.50 and walking and dancing around at the H Street Festival. At the H Street Festival, my friend Seth and I discovered a wonderful way to connect with strangers in the middle of a crowded festival…by carrying around a giant turkey leg! Who knew?? 15 people commented on our delicious week's worth of protein, asking where they can get one or just simply congratulating us on the magnificent meal. It was a pretty cool experience and definitely the best turkey I've ever eaten.

Maggie with a classmate at NBC headquartersOn Sunday my Political Communications class went to Meet the Press to see how a "Sunday show" is created. It was a unique and fascinating experience to see the full process of filming a live program for millions of viewers. I am so grateful for all the interesting speakers and organizations that my classes are visiting here in D.C. In the past four weeks I have learned so much about D.C, politics, and myself.

Breakfast food: eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, toast, and coffee

Maggie Gates Sustainable Development

September 18 | Hi there! My name is Maggie Gates, and I am a Political Science and International Relations student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. This semester I am attending American University's Washington Semester Program, taking the Sustainable Development concentration. I grew up in Denver Colorado and I absolutely love traveling, skiing, yoga, dance, art, and of course politics. I am most passionate about women and children's rights, environmental sustainability, and education. I am pursuing a career in international development and protecting human rights.

"You feel like you are at the center of the world" - a former employer's perspective on living in D.C.

Before coming to Washington D.C., I had the impression that it was strictly a political atmosphere, yet my first impressions showed me how much more the city has to offer! In addition to being the country's capital, D.C is full of rich culture, unique neighborhoods, free museums, and an amazing multicultural population. My high expectations of D.C. have been exceeded in the first two weeks. I've visited seven incredible museums, my favorites being the Newseum and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Navigating the metro, learning D.C. lingo, visiting monuments, understanding escalator etiquette, subscribing to politico, and "brunching" are just a few of the D.C "must do's" I've done so far! I'm excited to keep crossing things off my D.C checklist!

The word on the street in D.C is that Sunday brunch is the place to be. So my Sustainable Development class took the streets to find out if this rumor could possibly be true…after 45 minutes of waiting in the rain, a hearty meal of eggs & bacon, coffee & bloody marys, we collectively decided the rumors are true: BRUNCH IS THE BEST.

Wet shoes PRO TIP: wear water resistant shoes and carry an umbrella to ensure a dry commute on a rainy day…don't make the mistake I did. :/

On Monday I started my first day interning at the National Foundation for Women Legislators. Did I get on the wrong metro? Yes. Did I somehow magically make it into the office by 8:55? Yes. Success!!! Turns out, jamming to Odesza during my hour commute is actually a great way to start the morning and the office has free coffee, so I might just turn into a morning person. My first day was a bit intimidating. I am very excited to advance my professional skills with a great bipartisan organization that helps women legislators unlock their full potential. I hope to meet inspiring women and gain relevant experience through the internship.

Sustainable Development class with a poster of children raising their hands as background My Sustainable Development class visiting Save the Children!

My concentration this semester is Sustainable Development, primarily focusing on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals or "SDG's." These SDG's include a wide range of difficult issues from climate action to ending hunger and gender equality to quality education. Our first speaker was Erin Lauer at Save the Children! She spoke about the work Save the Children does to protect children's rights worldwide. I want to pursue a career in international development, so doing site visits and listening to people in the non profit field is fascinating and inspiring!

Fascinating class lectures and guest speakers, making new friends, starting an internship, and exploring a new city, has made the last two weeks so fun. I am incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to live, study, and work in D.C. I'm so excited to see what the rest of the semester has in store!