Washington Semester Program student Wes Nichols competing in a boat building race at the American University Wilson Aquatic Center

Wes Nichols

Global Economics & Business

February 8, 2018 | Hello! My name is Wes Nichols, I am an Economics and Environmental Studies student at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. I will be joining the Washington Semester Program at American University for the Spring semester, taking the Global Economics and Business concentration. I enjoy being outdoors, reading, meeting new people, anything involving friendly competition, and showing people pictures of my dogs. I am passionate about international trade and world development and am interested in a career in international development. DC has proven to be an excellent place to start


On my first day in the program, my roommate Steffen and I walked to the Spring Valley Building for our orientation, where we heard all about AU services, DC life, and important things to know about getting around the city.

After getting my unlimited student metro pass, I headed downtown and ended up wandering into the Smithsonian American History museum a few hours before closing. There, I saw the same flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner. I even touched fragments of the shells that were the original "bombs bursting in air."

Weekend Scavenger Hunt!

For the last orientation event of the week, we did a team scavenger hunt across the city, which was exhausting but so fun. To complete the challenges, my 10-person team went into banks asking for 2 dollar bills, went up the tower of Trump International Hotel, and visited close to a dozen other sites. All told we ended the day with some light blisters and a third-place finish.

Getting Started with my Seminar and my Internship

In my Global Economics and Business seminar we have been learning all about trade and globalization. We address questions like: "How do countries decide to produce or import a good?", "What explains the populist movements around the world?"

Washington Semester Program students attend an event at the Wilson Center in downtown Washington DC Class begins with a two-hour lecture, and then we break for lunch and meet up again to hear from our guest speaker for the day.

The first week, we met a representative from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a national security think tank. Later, we went to the Newseum and heard about the role of a free press in democratic life.

For my internship, I work at the US Trade and Development Agency and have really enjoyed it so far. The purpose of USTDA is right in the name: pursue the development goals of international partners, by promoting US trade. At USTDA I spend a lot of time writing about what the organization is up to, whether it's through tweets, press releases, or summaries of relevant events I attend around the city. Recently I attended an event at the Woodrow Wilson Center about NAFTA. Ambassadors, mayors, and business leaders from the US, Mexico, and Canada spoke on the importance of preserving (and updating) this critical trade agreement.

It was interesting being inside a federal agency during a shutdown, even if it didn't last long. Everyone compulsively saved their files through the day, checked for news updates, and debated whether those leftovers ought to be left in the lounge fridge if the government didn't reopen soon.

Adventuring Around DC

Washington Semester Program Global Economics & Business student Wes Nichols explores Washington DC on his ownAfter my last class on Wednesday, I spent some time exploring downtown and ended up in the Renwick Gallery. Inside was an exhibit I would never have anticipated! Originally intended to hone the observation skills of Harvard forensic students, a criminologist and artist named Francis Lee created miniature dollhouse crime scenes with hidden clues, which are now on public display. The scenes are partially inspired by real cases, but the exhibit doesn't have a horror vibe. It's as if you stepped into a miniature I Spy/Nancy Drew crossover as museum goers crowd around detailed dioramas and swap theories about what really happened. Each scene has a backstory which may or may not be true, so the challenge is to find what pieces don't fit the story.

Later that day, friends and I attended a competition on campus to race cardboard boats. We had one hour to build from leftover cardboard and duct tape. The fastest to cross the 40m pool and back won. I went for a canoe style, which earned me a solid last place finish.

It's weird how everything seems to have happened so fast, but how normal things already feel. I can't wait to see what this upcoming week will hold! Thanks for reading!