April 2 | For my final blog post of the semester, I take you on one last tour, one last time (cue: One Last Time from Hamilton), of my last couple of weeks here in DC. Let me just preface my last blog post by saying that this semester has been one of the busiest and most exhausting yet fulfilling and exciting semesters I have ever experienced. I feel like I have lived every moment to its fullest (so far) and I cannot wait to come back to DC and remember all the fond memories I made and experiences I had with friends. I can't wait to keep in touch with my classmates and friends I made here - they are all such incredible people.
The Wednesday after Spring Break, American University was closed for a snow day and it was the most amazing thing ever! I spent the snow day sleeping in, doing homework, and walking around the monuments with some friends. It was so incredible to see the monuments covered in snow. We stopped at Compass Coffee on our way back to campus and I got the most amazing lavender latte. Now, I feel like I have seen the monuments in almost every weather pattern… cherry blossom-covered is next!
That weekend, the March for Our Lives took place in DC and nationwide. I had the incredible opportunity to attend and it was my favorite thing I have done in DC so far. A couple of friends and I left Leonard Hall on American University's campus at 7am and arrived at the March around 8am. The March didn't start until noon, so we had quite a bit of time to get to know each other more while we waited. Because we arrived so early, we were very close to the front, and we helped form the pathway that the Parkland families and friends used to walk through to their seats. That was an incredible experience in itself because we had the opportunity to talk with some of them. Their words about their pain and trauma and passion for this subject deeply moved me. Two of the Parkland family members also gave me a red wrist band that says "#DouglasStrong #NeverAgain" inscribed in silver with 17 Angels on the inside.
Once the speakers and performances began, the atmosphere seemed to change. The experiences of the Parkland survivors moved all of us to tears. The performers were incredible and were also certain to make clear that they were not there for a concert but rather as a statement for the rest of the world; to put a spotlight onto the message of the Parkland survivors and the #NeverAgain movement. I really appreciated their constant redirecting back to gun violence in communities like in Chicago, LA, and other impoverished communities.
That same weekend, my Foreign Policy class had the opportunity to talk with alumni of my professor's class about their experiences in Washington and important things they have learned during their young professional lives. They talked about their paths post-Washington Semester Program, options they had post-graduation, and what made sense to them realistically. I learned specifically how to get housing in the DC area (step 1: join the housing pages of the universities in the district). It was great to meet with these alumni because they showed us that they were able to keep in touch after they left the program, which was something that I really was hoping to do with my class. I hope I will have the chance to move here in the future and keep in touch with the friends I made this semester.
Currently, the main purpose of my internship is to assist with the Memorial Plaque Ceremony that AFSA hosts at the State Department. Last week, we had our walkthrough at State for the Ceremony, which was basically a planning session with all the people helping us. This was an amazing experience for me because I got to walk around the State Department and see where Civil and Foreign Service work takes place.
Something I haven't really talked about very much is that while all of this was going on, it was also March Madness. I hail from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA and last year we made it to the championship game. This year, our Zags had a great run and ended their 2018 March Madness season in the Sweet Sixteen against Florida State. We went down fighting. However, because we got out in the Sweet Sixteen I really haven't been paying much attention to March Madness. It just ended the other day in an unexciting and expected Villanova victory (no offense to 'Nova fans) and now we wait until next March.
Easter also happened recently! I was able to celebrate the holiday with my dear friend Claire from Portland, who goes to school at Sarah Lawrence in New York. She came down to her grandparents' house in Maryland and invited me over for the weekend. It was the best way I could think of spending the holiday weekend. It was so peaceful in the suburbs! This was my first Easter away from my family and it was nice to spend it with someone I love from home.
Finally, my class these past couple of weeks has been a whirlwind. We have tackled China, India, and peace itself. We visited the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, the US-India Business Council, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Global Taiwan Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute. In the coming weeks, we will be attending panel discussions with the State Department, Human Rights Watch, and the Chinese Embassy.
Many of us living in Leonard Hall watched the Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes interview together and then hung out for a couple of hours after. We had a great time all talking and laughing together. One of my friends from my class and I solidified our idea for a radio show (stay tuned!). I am thankful for that group of people who with I can laugh, talk, and think critically about diplomacy and current events. I am also so thankful to this program for bringing us together!
March 21 | Time is simply flying by! Somehow, this is the fourth time I have had the opportunity to engage with you all as an Ambassador for the WSP, and I cannot believe how little time I have left in DC. Since I last wrote you, I have been on many adventures with my class, in my internship, and with my friends. Let me fill you in…
First, I have talked with many speakers who are experts in the region of Pakistan and Afghanistan. My Foreign Policy class is structured so that we look at different regions and/or countries every week (with some regions/countries requiring more than one week to tackle). Our Pakistan/Afghanistan unit was quite the rush of information. Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2003, American teens today have grown up with the war and it is so deeply embedded into our historical memory as a nation. Therefore, it is difficult to disentangle our emotions about the war from the policy decisions being made regarding the war. The key learnings I have from this unit is it is a complicated and complex issue and 2 weeks on this subject will only give you a cursory understanding of the subject.
Then I spent one weekend getting to know Woodley Park and Adams Morgan with one of my friends. On Saturday, we did homework in an Adams Morgan Starbucks and on Sunday we had brunch at The Diner (which I highly recommend, they have the best home fries). I especially loved getting to eat at The Diner because we looked up from our meal and conversation at one point to see none other than the Washington Monument peeking out in between buildings and trees. The feeling of looking up from your food to see one of the most well-known national monuments in the U.S. really is incredible.
The next week, my Political Communications class had the opportunity to meet with Daniel Lippman, reporter for POLITICO and co-author of POLITICO's Playbook. If you are reading this and are unsure what Playbook is - do not fret. It is a very DC thing, and something you will learn to follow daily. Playbook is sent out around 6:30 am every weekday to thousands of subscribers. It sets the tone of the day in DC and decides what news is important each day. These reporters begin writing Playbook everyday at 3:30 a.m. so that everyone in DC is informed each morning before work. Daniel is a very influential person in DC, and my Political Communications class met with him for 45 minutes.
My Foreign Policy class then went to panel discussions at the Atlantic Council to understand the merits of sanctions. This first panel was about how the political side of sanctions; the second panel focused more on what sanctions look like on a business end. Later that day, we went to the Stimson Center to hear from an expert about Pakistan. These class meetings challenged my class colleagues in new ways, and our post-class discussions were opinionated and exciting.
After spring break, I came back to DC and met up with two of my friends who I knew from my time living in China! It was so wonderful to see familiar faces in a new city and to catch up with some of my good friends. The best part about my friendships from my time in Beijing is that when we reunite (this time after many years apart), we are always able to jump right back to where we left off. That trait in a friendship is so important to me, and I cherished my interactions with these girls with my whole heart.
Spring break marked a halfway point in the semester, and now I can't believe that we are on the downward slope of our time here. I have learned so much about the world and diplomacy while in the Washington Semester Program and I just can't believe that soon I will have to say goodbye to these friends, the program, and DC. I'm very thankful to all the people I have met for their patience, welcoming hearts, and open minds. I can't wait to see what the last couple of weeks have in store for me, my class, and my internship! Until next time!
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March 7 | Hello again all! It's Molly and the last time you heard from me, I was participating in the #InstagramTakeover. When giving you a peek inside the life of a Foreign Policy student, I showed you embassies, talked about going to internationally-motivated think tanks, and illustrated the extensive opportunities provided to me by this program. But for me, in general and especially now, it's all about the people. The lunches we have gotten as a class in between our sessions, the dinners we eat after an evening speaker, and the level of intellectual discourse and thought we have as a group is amazing. From all over the world, our minds come together to create a safe space where not only diversity and inclusion and thrive, but our viewpoints can be challenged and changed by the thoughts of others. Could this be a practice experience of what diplomacy is? Well, the art of persuasion is not intertwined in our encounters, but perhaps…
Since I last wrote you all, I filled 1 entire composition notebook of notes. Yes, I am learning THAT much. This week, my class and I got to attend an event put on at the Navy Memorial by the McCain Institute for International Leadership titled "Nuclear North Korea: Is War the Way Ahead?" We heard from 4 qualified, experts in the field on the subject in a debate-format talk. As a budding foreign policy nerd, this was very exciting to me because I had the chance to discern which "side" I agreed with. Luckily, the panel (though divided into two "teams") agreed on many of the topics and ideas they shared. That is one thing I love about foreign policy - the capability of diplomats to engage with people that they might perceive as "the other side" to be able to come to an agreement, because it is in everyone's (literally, everyone) interest to agree.
With my Political Communications class, we had the opportunity to hear from Marco Rubio's former Communications Director as well as a VP from Spotify. I have loved getting the variety of experience by adding the Political Communications class to my workload this semester. I began the semester feeling woefully underqualified for the class, as I have absolutely no background in Communications as an area of study (not to be confused with my experience communicating, which I do have) but our professor has made the transition seem seamless and easy. Our class also attended Meet the Press and got to ask Chuck Todd how he keeps up with President Trump's tweets before his Sunday morning show (his answer: usually Trump does not tweet that much right before his show, so he can usually keep up. However, the morning we attended the show, Trump had tweeted 13 times, and Chuck had to be given a print out from his aide for each one of them).
My internship has also been going very well. I love getting to work at AFSA, and love getting to engage with people in the office who are dedicated to helping US diplomats. My supervisor is so great and funny, and I feel like the work I am doing is important and matters. Currently, I am working on AFSA's National High School Essay Contest, gathering submissions and talking with potential applicants. This is one of my favorite parts of the job because the contest is specifically geared toward high school students with parents NOT in the Foreign Service, who are people like me!
I have been experiencing as many aspects of DC life as possible in these short months I am here. I subscribe to Politico Playbook and read it every morning on the train in to work and TWO times I have been asked for directions, so I feel like I have totally assimilated into DC culture. I'm also frantically applying for future internships and trying to get enough sleep every night, so I must be a university student. Recently, I also went to the Air and Space Museum. Something you should know about me- I absolutely love stars, and going to see the sights at the Air and Space Museum was incredible for me. Two of my friends and I got to see the Discovery Space Shuttle launch through an incredible video. And though it was inspiring to see inside the Museum, I learned one important DC lesson: ALWAYS. CHECK. THE. WEATHER. I decided it was going to be a good idea to wear my lightest winter coat, which did not have a hood, and the weather decided it was going to be a good idea to rain/snow (also known as graupel) throughout the duration of the time we needed to stand outside to be let into the museum. I also went to Chinatown for a Chinese New Year Parade. This was an interesting cultural experience, as I actually lived in China for 2 Chinese New Year's and saw 2 years of celebrations by Chinese people. Though the parade was not as Chinese as I was hoping, it was wonderful to be in Chinatown and to see the arch over the main street off the metro stop. My friends and I then went to get Chinese food in Friendship Heights (because it was SO crowded in Chinatown after the parade). It was a beautiful day, and fun to be out and about with friends! In all, I cannot emphasize enough the amount of opportunity, experience, and excitement this program has brought me in the past couple of weeks. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this city's ins and outs through multiple lenses: as a student and as an intern. I know that the people I have met here will be forever friends, and people that I will keep in touch with for years to come. I can't wait to live more life and see where all my friends from WSP wind up, because I know they are going to do BIG things for and in this world. See you next time!
February 8 | My name is Molly Quillin, and I am a sophomore at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA where I major in Political Science and International Relations and minor in Spanish. Here at the Washington Semester Program (WSP), I am in the Foreign Policy Concentration. I am originally from Portland, Oregon, and had the life-changing experience of living in Beijing, China for two years with my whole family. I love theatre, reading, writing, laughing with friends, my dog, travel, and I am extremely passionate about social justice, international relations, and advocacy and politics in general.
Three weeks ago, I moved into Leonard Hall at American to begin my journey in DC with WSP. These past three weeks have been an absolute whirlwind; from the classes, to the internship I started, to the friends I have met, I feel absolutely and completely overwhelmed, but in the best way. I feel like I'm on the edge of something great, something that is just beginning and that I can't wait to further explore.
So far in DC I have done a myriad of things. I started my Foreign Policy Seminar and my seminar is simply AMAZING. My professor is engaging, my classmates are wonderful, and the subject matter is so intriguing. In our class, we have a great balance of lecture and discussion with visiting speakers. I have thoroughly enjoyed his teaching style so far and find that each class feels like a discussion with the amount of eye contact and personal connection that our professor gives each student. So far in class, we have talked about the Liberal World Order and America First Foreign Policy. These subjects have been excellent introductions to US foreign engagement and relations.
I am also enrolled in an elective class called Political Communications, where we have begun learning how a Communications Director would go about advertising a candidate, book, or song. We have been using Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff as an example and talking about how Twitter was an essential component of the marketing strategy.
Additionally, this past Monday I began my internship at the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). So far, I love my office and work at AFSA. At AFSA I am the Special Awards and Outreach intern, and I collect nominations and award current Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) for their achievements, as well as coordinate the High School Essay Writing Contest AFSA hosts each year. Already I have learned the value of organization and what makes an exemplary FSO.
And finally, I have explored DC with my new friends! So far in DC, I have…
- Wandered around the National Mall (in the oddly warm weather) at night.
- Went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument with a group at AU.
- Explored Georgetown's wealth of cupcakes: Sprinkles and Georgetown Cupcakes.
- Went to the Cato Institute, the Center for New American Security, and the UN Foundation with my Foreign Policy concentration class.
- Participated in the Woman's March on Washington with people who live on my floor, who are in the GAP Program in addition to the WSP.
- I mastered public transportation in DC, finally deciding to take the Metro train over the bus and planning a route and time to leave my dorm each morning (this was much harder than I was anticipating).
- Explored a few of the many coffee shops of Dupont Circle friends from my class (Emissary and Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café).
I am having a grand adventure in DC, and I have also reserved time to catch up with my friends from my home university, my family, and my Jane the Virgin. I have made some great friends: some who have also lived in foreign countries, some who know my friends from my home university (it's a small world!), and some who are simply dedicated to a life of justice. These people are enigmatic, and it is energizing to be around a group of people who want to talk politics, current events, and foreign policy all day, every day. I cannot wait to see where this semester will take me, and all the people I will meet who will inevitably become my forever friends.