Meeting at 1776Mirela Spasova Global Entrepreneurship & Business | Journalism & New Media

November 19 | I remember standing in the giant, I mean absolutely giant, immigration line at Dulles International Airport a couple of months ago after a long flight from Europe, both tired and extremely excited, with my backpack, passport in hands, and a huge dose of curiosity. I had my questions, I had my doubts, but I also had a vision of something really gratifying and worth coming for.

Barack and Michelle Obama muralI actually get goose bumps thinking about how fast the semester has flown by. In my previous posts I shared many insights on how my classes and practicum were going as well as how I have been discovering Washington, DC, and its diamond-shaped puzzle of charming streets. Now I want to share with you my feelings about the bigger picture and why it is worth the thirteen-hour flight and the four months of hard work and commitment to be here.

Fox news studioI’ll be honest: sometimes it was hard. It’s not only the glamour of exciting site visits, cool practicum events, inspirational speakers, and lovely evenings out with friends or cozy weekend trips. I have found it hard at times even though it’s not my first time living abroad. It has also been difficult to find the rhythm of all the classes, assignments, site visits, and practicum tasks. But this is part of the experience, and somehow you find your way to balance it all. Four months in DC may not sound like that much, but it could feel way longer if you don’t put in the effort to make the most of it and enjoy it. You could take it easy and just enjoy the privileges of your comfort zone, but if you decide to come here, you’d better choose the harder way and dive into the deep end as much as you can. DC may be a great classroom but not just because you have meetings with your class at prestigious companies, Capitol Hill, or Fox TV. The whole experience of living on another continent and getting to know the daily beats of other cultures as well as all the challenges that come along in all spheres of life are part of the learning experience.

An intern at 1776Every time I leave the comfort of my home country, I feed my creativity and broaden my horizons. For instance, I’ve learned a lot about the DC startup scene, especially in fields of education and health care, at my practicum at 1776, and I’ve even developed my own startup idea that I am going to present at a competition at our company in the beginning of December. I am quite excited about that! DC, the university, and the company you are working at may offer you a lot, but it’s important to be smart and organized in order to take a sip from everything you want to experience. Timing is really important here! You may happen to be at the right place at the right time and with the right people, but if you don’t seize the opportunity then, it may not come again! Just be curious, try to make the most of your experience, and seize every opportunity that knocks on your door.

The Chuck Todd ShowMy curiosity has lead me to discover many off–the-beaten-path places in DC. For me, getting to know other cities has never been just visiting museums and famous places of interest. It is about the stories I create or hear from other people. For me, Washington, DC, is the Latin American guy from Martin’s Tavern who told us the story of how former presidents came to eat there and what their favorite meals were. It is the owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street who got a picture with Obama when he unexpectedly went there to order a hamburger the day before his inauguration in 2008. It is the guy from the Supreme Court staff who has worked there for more than twenty years and actually had his wedding celebration in the courtyard there. It is the lady who used to work for President Clinton who told us how he and his staff used to enter event venues through back doors and kitchens for security reasons. President Clinton would always stop and shake hands with all of the kitchen staff and take pictures with them because it would be the only opportunity for people working there to meet the President of the United States. For me, DC is also the homeless guy sitting in front of the café on the corner of 15th and K Streets who shouts every morning, as loud as he can, “Good morning” to all of the people passing by. I go past him every time I have my practicum. DC is the time spent watching the sunsets on the hill in front of the Lincoln Memorial. And all the great new friendships with people from all around the world!

Yes, it was all worth it for me.

And the best part of all: Many of the stories I started here are yet to unfold, even after the semester is over.

Blog History

Mirela in front of Washington DC street artMirela Spasova Global Entrepreneurship & Business | Journalism & New Media

November 5 | US midterm elections are approaching; there was a slide in the stock market for the first time in a decade; a migrant caravan from Central America is heading to the US; mysterious bomb packages were delivered to former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joseph Biden Jr., former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and other prominent politicians as well as to actor Robert De Niro and CNN offices in New York; and there was a deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. As you can probably guess, that was all integrated into the agenda of my classes. With this turbulent background, it’s been two intensive weeks, full of compelling discussions, exceptional site visits, and valuable meetings.

M street in the DC neighborhood of Georgetown‬So let’s start with my Global Entrepreneurship & Business class. After the midterm exams, we started a new chapter with a focus more on multinational companies rather than entrepreneurial ventures. A big topic we’ve been discussing is the 2008 financial crisis, the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and their impact on the US and world economies. We also visited the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to hear from Owen Donley, Chief Counsel of the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. He took us to the Trading and Markets Watch Room where we focused on the current dynamics of the stock market as well as on the daily working life behind the big screens in the watch room. I am quite excited about the upcoming topics in that class, as we will be studying different issues multinational companies are facing in today’s globalized world.

Mirela's friend enjoying a Georgetown cupcake‬When it comes to my Journalism in Washington class, in the past two weeks we had the chance to meet with a Washington Post journalist, Valerie Strauss, and the NPR Deputy International Editor, Didrik Schanche. Very impressive women, successful, and dedicated both to their families and their careers! To hear them talking was very inspirational! Schanhe and her team of correspondents, who are based all over the world, cover issues of international policy and national security. Their international coverage is consistently recognized for broadcast excellence and has received many journalism awards. Our other speaker, Valerie Strauss, has been working at The Washington Post for nearly thirty years. She used to work at Reuters and The Los Angeles Times, too. Strauss covers and investigates education issues and everything connected to them and runs one of The Washington Post’s most successful blogs. I was quite impressed to hear how she uses journalism as a tool to bring about reform in the field of education. Of course, we also discussed with both of them the current events I mentioned earlier and the way they were covered on both the national and international level.

Besides my courses, I have also been enjoying the cultural beats of the city. Last week, I visited the National Air and Space Museum, which is pretty impressive with its giant aircraft exhibits. I also went to the Renwick Gallery to visit The Art of Burning Man. The exhibition represents an annual cultural festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert where thousands of people gather in honor of creativity, and large art installations are built and sometimes ritually burned. And, of course, I have to mention the creative Halloween costumes I spotted on the streets in the night of Halloween!

The Air and Space Museum‬As promised, I challenged myself to go on a food adventure around DC with my friends. What is the first thing that comes to your mind about American food? Burgers? Steaks? Fries? Of course! However, I was thrilled to realize that DC offers a great variety of international culinary experiences! Last week, we had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant in Georgetown. Ethiopian cuisine is quite common here in DC. To my surprise, even Adams Morgan surrendered its unofficial title as Little Ethiopia long ago. What I really love about food is that there is a unique story behind every country’s traditional dish or the way it’s served. In Ethiopia, for instance, the whole dining routine is an act of friendship and love. It’s not only about what you eat but also who you share it with. Moreover, people there eat with their hands to strengthen the connection with food. As our waitress said, “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.” And so we did! The food was delicious, spicy, and definitely worth trying!

Washington DC locals in Halloween costumes‬Some other popular ethnic cuisines here are Afghan and Lebanese. I tried Afghan, and it’s also very delicious! Lebanese is still on my to-do list. If you want to indulge in American food, you can go to Ben’s Chili Bowl, an emblematic place for DC, and try the Half Smoke, or of course go to one of the famous burger chains. If you are keen on more healthy lifestyle, as I am, you would definitely enjoy the bunch of organic and farmers markets in DC! The quality and taste of the products there are incomparable!

There is not much time left until the end of the semester, but I will try to make the most out of it and enjoy it to the fullest! Exciting things are coming up at my practicum, which by the way is going great, so I am really looking forward to that!

Washington Semester student Mirela Spasova at the Supreme Court

Mirela Spasova Global Entrepreneurship & Business | Journalism & New Media

October 22 | As my professor always says, it’s a wild time to be a journalist in Washington! There are some big things going on in American politics right now, and I had the chance to explore them from a front seat. Literally!

‪‬ ‬Roughly one month ago, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, was accused of sexual misconduct by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Accordingly, his place on the bench was put into question. This news became the spotlight of the media – and therefore a frequent topic of discussion in our class – ever since. Kavanaugh’s allegations led to demonstrations, both in Washington and around the country. His testimony and Dr. Ford’s were emotional and emblematic. Everybody here was talking about it. Last Saturday, after he was confirmed to the Supreme Court by the Senate, many protestors occupied the steps in front of the High Court building, holding signs and chanting. Some friends who happened to be there that day told me that demonstrators even went up the statues. Two days later, on Tuesday, Justice Kavanaugh officially started his new position. Coincidence or luck, the day after, my Journalism in Washington class attended a hearing at the Supreme Court, so we happened to sit just in front of the newly formed justice bench! It turned out to be a historic visit.

Newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh protests at the Supreme Court.To my surprise, everybody can attend an oral argument at the Supreme Court. However, seating is limited and on a first-come first-served basis, so a huge line forms in front of the Court long before the building opens! That day, the guys in the beginning of the line had been waiting there since 1 am in the morning! 1 am! Luckily, we had a VIP green light and a very warm welcome by staffers working there.

‪‬ ‬The hearing itself was interesting but hardly understandable due to the attorney-style language used by the justices and the attorneys. However, it felt terrific to be there and to observe how attorneys do their best to prove their arguments and to see how justices respond to that! The courtroom is majestic and rich in ornamentation just as the whole building is! If you ever consider attending a hearing, here are three things you should know: First, you better try not to even think it’s possible to close your eyes for long! Security would think you are falling asleep and would kick you out. Apparently, there are dozens of other people waiting in the line to get in. Second, it is not acceptable to speak up or ask questions during an oral argument. In fact, there is a high chance you would get arrested. Third, getting into the courtroom is a whole routine. There were around ten people besides the security regulating the procedure of letting people into the room.

Mirela with her class and professor at a Stop Gun Violence GalaAfter the hearing, my class and I were invited to the East conference room to have a briefing from a court’s PR representative. The conference room was so fascinating! It had large portraits of justices and, oh, the view to the court yard was so beautiful! On the whole, our visit to the Supreme Court was informative, very interesting, and enjoyable!

My Journalism class was also invited to a gala evening at the Museum of Women in the Arts: An Evening To Stop Gun Violence. Victims of gun violence and activists who want to tackle that issue, which is apparently big in America, were invited as speakers. To hear them talking was extremely emotional and inspiring! The event was organized by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. Both organizations pursue their goal through policy development, strategic engagement, and effective advocacy. It was pretty impressive to be there and to feel the vibe of a very engaging community that strives for a better future.All in all, I am having great time in DC. Now I am up to exploring more of the culinary side and the art scene of the city. More about that in my next blog post!

Mirela on the set of Fox News. Mirela Spasova Global Entrepreneurship & Business | Journalism & New Media

October 8 | Within the span of just two weeks I was at the set of a Fox News evening show with Tucker Carlson; had the opportunity to meet with Michael Isikoff, a New-York-Times best-selling author; heard from JJ Green at WTOP radio station speaking on key news happening now both in DC and worldwide; visited Politico and got to know some behind-the-scenes insights on how a story is produced; met with White House reporters; and last but not least, met great entrepreneurs, who are transforming not only the DC scene but also driving changes worldwide by contributing to global issues. Nothing short of amazing stories!

Mirela and fellow students with Fox News Anchor, Tucker Carlson‬It’s tremendously exciting to be here, to absorb what’s happening and learn from it. I’ve been to a lot of places in different countries, but there isn’t a better place to be than in someone’s personal story. All of the people I am meeting, from professors, friends, classmates, and colleagues to politicians, entrepreneurs, reporters, authors, etc. bring different experiences and perspectives to the table. At WSP I’ve been crossing paths every day with people who not only trigger my interest in unexpected fields but who also make me question and doubt what I know and what I see. The people I am meeting encourage me to find my original voice, to speak up, to challenge myself, to go beyond my expectations and boundaries of previous habits, to make me a better thinker and a better person.

Mirela at her internship site, 1776.‬Thinking back over what has been going on at my internship at 1776, I would say it has been very, very dynamic! Last week, I was interviewing the founders of the new companies that just joined our accelerator program about their personal lives before becoming entrepreneurs and how they came up with the ideas to found their own companies. Many of them left their previous jobs and dedicated themselves to innovations in different fields. They are tackling issues such as gaps in the education system and character development of middle school and high school students, women’s safety, life expectancy of black men, food waste, personal development of future health care workers, etc. It was very interesting, and sometimes even funny, to hear what the “aha-moment” of each one of them was, the moment when they decided to create a whole new company with a certain mission. Funny in the sense of “Oh no, that can’t be true, what a coincidence!” Keep an open mind – you never know when an opportunity is calling!

(By the way, I would be remiss not to mention the very lovely Georgetown neighborhood. I’ve discovered a new place there: Martin’s Tavern. It’s the restaurant where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jaqueline on June 24, 1953. It has happened at the table right next to the one I was sitting at with my friends!)

The Jefferson Memorial near the Tidal Basin in Washington DC Mirela Spasova Global Entrepreneurship & Business | Journalism & New Media

September 24 | Hello everyone, I am Mirela! Only half a world away from home, here I am, taking part in the Washington Semester Program (WSP) at American University. Even though I am majoring in Communications and Media Studies at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Germany, I am also very interested in international relations and economic and social development. That’s why I decided to take the Global Entrepreneurship & Business and Journalism in Washington seminars at WSP.

Ever since I heard about the Washington Semester Program, I have been very excited about expanding my practical skills in both of these areas and using the whole city of DC as my class-room. I have the privilege of being in the political capital of the world and one of the most powerful cities in that sense. This is where nation’s law is made, where global policy is shaped, and inter-national news happens every day. It’s a great place to be in terms of experiencing journalistic life from the front seat! I am very curious to know more about how media reacts to as well as shapes American politics, and I am glad to be here to discover the answers. We have already met a few well-renowned journalists who covered topics on the importance of media and who definitely in-spired me!

The National Geographic MuseumThere isn’t actually a major industry or profession not influenced by the decisions made in Washington, DC, which also makes it a crucial place to study Global Entrepreneurship. It is not enough to have an idea of how you want the world to change; what is more important is how you are going to successfully bring your vision and mission to life. That’s the beauty I see in entrepreneurship and what inspires me to study it. Some of the most successful start-ups, such as Apple, Google, Uber, AirBnB, etc., have their origins precisely in the United States. What’s the common thing behind their stories of success? In my Global Entrepreneurship class I will have the opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of many issues faced by entrepreneurs and multinational firms, including strategy, decision making, finance, ethics, and organization.

A great way to blend theoretical aspects with practical experience will be my practicum at 1776, the Northeast Corridor’s largest entrepreneurial incubator. It provides start-ups with access to knowledge, mentorship, capital, markets, and talent they need in order to succeed and reach their full potential. I am really passionate about contributing to solving global issues and having a long-lasting social impact, so I am curious to discover different entrepreneurial opportunities to do so. It’s all about bringing #IdeasIntoAction!

National Geographic Museum in DuPont CircleIn the past three weeks, I’ve also had the chance to get to know the city and its many facets better. It was interesting to discuss with my class and professor the history of US business, economic, and foreign policy as we visited era-relevant monuments including the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the Old Post Office Tower. The National Press Club, one of the nation’s leading conference centers, has a stunning collection of pictures from events held there with global leaders in government, politics, business, music, film, and sports that really fascinated me! As a huge fan of National Geographic, there was no way I could miss a visit its headquarters on 17th Street. I have also been enjoying the wide range of cultural expressions along the streets in political Downtown, Alexandria’s beautiful waterfront, nightlife’s Adams Morgan, and charming Georgetown. (Yes, I tried the famous Georgetown Cupcakes, and yes, they are really good!)

I am passionate about meeting new people and getting as lost as possible in cities I’ve never been to before. Well, in Washington, DC, it’s not very easy to get lost because of its diamond shape with logically structured streets. But it is full of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path places to explore, which makes me very excited about what is ahead in the next couple of months!