Deana and three friends at Artechouse exhibit

Deana Dibenedetto
Justice & Law
American Politics

From NY Ave...

On Saturday, November 9th, I travelled with some friends to Artechouse, an innovative art space in Washington, D.C. that is dedicated to showcasing technology-driven works of art.

Upon arriving at the gallery, we walked into the main exhibition room, which contains large screens that wrap around the circumference of the room. The exhibit is characterized by a dancer, whose moves have been recorded and then edited to add dramatic visual effects. My friends and I sat for quite some time on bean bag chairs provided by the gallery and watched the artwork take place before our eyes. We were all fascinated by the beauty of the scene.

We then proceeded throughout the several other rooms featured in the gallery. At some of the exhibits, we were supplied with an iPad, with which we could hold up to a sculpture or painting to reveal a dancer with a unique performance for us. Other exhibits had cameras that captured our own movements and mirrored them within the artwork.

The museum was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The intersection between technology and art at Artechouse was truly mesmerizing.

After leaving the art gallery completely in awe of the work that we had seen, we hopped on the Metro and travelled to a stop named “NoMa-Gallaudet U Station.” Upon exiting the Metro train, I was instantly reminded of home by a sign that read “New York Ave.” While I had not in fact made it all the way back home to New York, I had nonetheless arrived in a completely new area of D.C. yet again. Each stop on the metro is so unique, and this experience served to be no different.

Deana at a wall with hearts in Union MarketTogether, my friends and I walked to Union Market, an authentic food venue with numerous stands featuring different ethnic foods that I had never had the opportunity to try. Each of my friends ordered food from a different place. I went to DC Dosa, which sells South Indian lentil crepes stuffed with a variety of fillings and sauces. The food was amazing, but I think what we all enjoyed more than anything was the richness of culture surrounding us. We had staggered upon an incredibly diverse and unique community within D.C. unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

…TO NYC

November 15th marked my first time leaving the DMV (the title given to the area encompassing the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) since August. For only $15, I was able to hop on a bus at Union Station and, before I knew it, I had arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, New York.

While in New York, I was able to take a break from my studies, relax, and spend time with my family, many of whom I hadn’t seen since the summer. My cousin Deanna was kind enough to meet me at the bus terminal and, from there, we began what would soon become a journey throughout four of the five boroughs that we would visit that weekend.

After arriving in Manhattan on Friday night, our next stop was Staten Island. While there, we spent time with my Aunt Lil, my cousin Diana (are you catching on to the abundance of names beginning with the letter “D” in my family?), and Diana’s young son, Vincent. Over dinner, we caught each other up on recent happenings in our lives. We also enjoyed jamming to Lizzo, as I was completely destroyed by Vincent in Candy Land.

Baby shower held for Deana's cousinOn Saturday, our next stop was Long Island, which, to the surprise of some, is not one of the five boroughs. It did, however, require travelling through both Brooklyn and Queens, which marked the third and fourth boroughs that we would pass through that weekend. Together, we joined the rest of our family at a baby shower held for my cousin Steven and his wife Jenn to celebrate the coming of their soon-to-be baby boy.

Finally, on Sunday, we joined my cousins Nicky and Jamie with their young daughter Aria at Dennys for one final meal together before I began my trip back to Washington, D.C.

I am so thankful to have been able to spend my weekend seeing and catching up with my family in New York. As a very family-oriented person myself, it was incredibly reassuring to know that so many of my family members are only a single bus ride away from Washington, DC. I’ve also learned through this experience of living in DC, however, that no matter the distance between us, my dearest friends, family, and loved ones are always close at heart.

Here, There and There

While the expansive Metro system helps WSP students experience the numerous activities available within the DMV, there are also a surplus of bus and train services from D.C. providing transportation around the entire Northeast that are incredibly accessible as well. I would encourage all my peers, as well as prospective students that will take part in the Washington Semester Program in the future, to take full advantage of this remarkable location and all that it has to offer.

Blog History

Two decorated mini pumpkins

Deana Dibenedetto
Justice & Law
American Politics

Falling More in Love with DC

November 11, 2019 | Autumn, also known as fall in North American English, is the transition from summer to winter that takes place between September 23rd and December 21st. While Andy Williams once sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in reference to the Christmas season, fall is personally one of my absolute favorite seasons of the year. It is at this time that the weather cools down, sundresses are replaced with sweaters, and the leaves begin to change color and fall to the ground. The season is also characterized by its own unique colors, smells, and tastes (yes, I am referring to the pumpkin spice flavored latte that every Starbucks barista assumes you’d like to order).

In celebration of fall, my friends and I decided to make homemade apple crisp. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that apple farms are not in as close proximity as I am used to back home in New York and at school in Vermont. We were not going to let this stop us though! After a quick trip to the supermarket, we gathered our ingredients and were ready to begin cooking. Each of us were tasked with a different step in the assembly-line-like process: Who was warming the butter? Measuring the sugar? Mixing in the flour? The kitchen was truly a sight to see with all of us crammed together. After baking the apple crisp in the Instantpot, it was finally time to serve our dessert and give it a taste. To our surprise, the apple crisp came out very good.

Deanna and friends with mugs of apple crispAfter finishing our dessert, my friends and I decided to head downstairs to watch “Haunted Mansion,” a movie starring Eddie Murphy, who plays the role of a real estate agent that, in an attempt to take his family on vacation, stops off at a haunted mansion that needs his help to break a decades old curse. I had not seen the movie in years, and it was fun to get into the holiday spirit with a funny Halloween classic.

Finally, one of the most prominent aspects of fall is Halloween. After several trips to a number of different stores and much deliberation, I decided to dress up as little red riding hood. For most of my friends, it was our first time trick-or-treating in many years. I quickly discovered that DC brings trick-or-treating to an entirely new level than anything I had ever experienced before. On Halloween night, many college students head to Embassy Row, a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue concentrated by embassies and other diplomatic residences. Rather than moving from house to house, we were able to travel together from nation to nation. The night was a lot of fun and it was an incredible experience viewing the breathtaking sites of the embassies at night.

Deanna and friends dressed up for HalloweenThe only downside of fall is the realization that November is now here and more than half of the semester has already flown by. While I feel as though I have seen and done so much during my time in DC, there are still other places that I am yet to explore. Nearly every time that I talk to a professor or a friend, I am provided with another item to add to my DC bucket list. The next few weeks that lie ahead will certainly be busy for my friends and I as we continue to try to take in every last thing that DC has to offer- stay tuned!

Deanna visiting the Natural History Museum with her family

Deana Dibenedetto
Justice & Law
American Politics

October 21, 2019 | To my complete and utter surprise, this past weekend was fall break at American University. When I first moved to Washington in August, this occasion seemed lightyears away. Yet, within the blink of an eye, it was already here.

While some travelled home in celebration of the long weekend, I was so fortunate as to have had home brought to me. This weekend marked the first time that I had seen my family since my arrival in Washington, DC this past August. During their time here, I was given the opportunity to be both a tour guide and a tourist myself.

On Saturday, we traveled from our hotel in Arlington, Virginia, to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. As per my brother’s request, we first walked upstairs to the gems and minerals exhibit, which features an incredible display of over 2,000 minerals, rocks, meteorites, and gems from all over the globe. It was truly remarkable to see the beautiful creations that grow naturally on earth.

Next, we walked over to the White House. A few months ago, I reached out to the offices of Senator Gillibrand and Senator Schumer requesting tickets to some sites of significance in DC. To our luck, the congressional staff members were actually able to secure tickets for my family and I to tour the inside of the White House during their visit.

Deanna with her family just outside the Oval OfficeUpon going through a number of extensive security checks, we finally arrived in the East Wing. The walls were lined with several photographs and paintings of presidents and their families throughout history. The doors to several different rooms were open for display, including a library, the vermeil room, and the china room. Upon ascending the stairs, we were also able to walk through and view the East Room and the State Dining Room, both of which have been used for receptions, ceremonies, press conferences, dinners, luncheons, and other events. In between these two rooms lay the green, blue, and red rooms, named in part for the color schemes that remarkably characterize the rooms.

Later in the day, we visited the Holocaust Museum. Upon entering the museum, we were given an identification card that details the experiences of an individual who was persecuted by Nazi Germany. We then entered the elevator and traveled to the top floor. The museum is setup as a timeline, which features Hitler’s rise to power as the chancellor in 1993, the outbreak of World War II in September of 1939, the evolution of Nazi policy toward the Jewish population, a reflection of the possibilities of responding to the Holocaust, and finally ending with a U.S. memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The museum was truly moving. It teaches the dangers of unchecked hate, confronts antisemitism, raises awareness about genocide, and advances democratic values and ethical leadership.

Deanna with her mom at the Lincoln MemorialTo end our tour of DC for the day, we walked the National Mall together, which is home to the iconic Washington Monument, World War II memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. I await the day that I view the monuments and am not just as awestruck by their beauty.

I was so fortunate to have been joined by my mother and brother this past weekend. I am glad that I was able to share a small piece of this beautiful city with them.

A copy of the book

Deana Dibenedetto
Justice & Law
American Politics


Go Everywhere, Talk to Everyone, Eat Everything

October 7, 2019 | On Sunday, September 15th, I decided to hop on the metro and head with my roommate Melina to the Wharf, a mile-long stretch along the Potomac River filled with restaurants and shops. We walked until we reached the waterfront. When we arrived there, we saw many people out and about- grabbing a bite to eat, boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, and swimming. We sat down by the waterfront and enjoyed taking in the view together. It was almost hard to believe that we were still in the city of DC. After sitting by the water for a while, we decided to walk into some shops. In one store, I saw a sign that really stuck out to me. It said, “go everywhere, talk to everyone, eat everything.” As simple as this phrase may seem, I think that it serves as a good message for all of us throughout our time here in DC, as well as into the future.

Go Everywhere

Deana and friends at a museumWe have all arrived in DC from different parts of the country and the world on an adventure to experience a new place.

These past two weeks, I have personally been able to visit several amazing sites, including…

  1. The National Archives: home to the original 1297 Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, and several other important documents of significance that helped to create the foundation of our great nation.

    Even though National Treasure is a hit movie, it still does not compare to the real-life experience of seeing these documents in person. It truly was an incredible feeling to stand right in front of America’s most treasured documents.
  2. Fairvote: a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms.

    The organization acknowledges some of the problems that exist within our current electoral system’s usage of plurality voting and proposes a transition to ranked choice voting for our future elections.
  3. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at the Catholic University of America: the largest Catholic church in the United States and in North America.

    From the stained glass to the carved statues, I was in awe.
  4. The National Portrait Gallery: a historic art museum that focuses on images of several famous Americans.
  5. The Smithsonian American Art Museum: an inclusive collection of art from the colonial period to the present.

It is in these acts of travel, even just throughout the DC area, that I have been able to expand my views of not only our country, but the world.

TALK TO EVERYONE

While it may involve stepping outside of our comfort zones, using our voices to communicate with others allows us to meet new people.

When I first arrived in DC, “talking to everyone” entailed reaching out to my peers in the Washington Semester Program, some of whom have become my closest friends.

As time has progressed, some of the individuals that I have spoken with have even helped to advise me about choices for my future as well. For example, this past Friday September 27th, my U.S. Political Institutions seminar class met with Jane M. Adams, an alum of the Washington Semester Program and the current vice president of U.S. federal government affairs at Johnson & Johnson. During our discussion with her, she provided us with several important tips for navigating life in DC. Her story was inspiring and really showed the importance of pursuing a career that you are passionate about.

Eat Everything

Deana and friends eating at a restaurantAs an Italian, this line is nothing new to me. In my culture, food certainly is a way to the heart.

During my time at college in Vermont, “eating everything” translated to eating a whole host of maple-flavored foods. On the other hand, DC is known for its wide range of foods from different cultures that I am eager to try while here.

Recently, I traveled with a group of friends to Thai Chef Street Food in Dupont Circle to celebrate my roommate Melina’s 21st birthday. Since it was my first time at an authentic Thai restaurant, I decided to order Pad Thai, a dish that consists of stir-fried rice noodles with a peanut sauce. The restaurant was super hip, cool, and had great food.

Moving into an apartment also serves as a new experience with food for me, as it has meant cooking all my meals for myself for the first time in my life. While I was quite nervous about this, I have come to love cooking. Two of my favorite meals so far have been apple cinnamon pork chops with cinnamon sweet potatoes, as well as home-made pasta from fresh squash with a chicken pesto sauce.

My question for you this week is… How will you expand YOUR horizons by embodying this message to “go everywhere, talk to everyone, eat everything” in the coming weeks?

The inside of Deana's room

Deana Dibenedetto
Justice & Law
American Politics

September 23, 2019 | After counting down the months, weeks, and finally the days until my move to Washington, DC, I can now say that I have safely arrived and have begun to explore this beautiful city and all that it has to offer.

In all honesty, I had very mixed feelings upon beginning my semester at American University. While I was undoubtedly excited about this amazing opportunity that I was being granted, I was also quite a bit nervous. I knew that this was going to be a very different experience for me for a multitude of reasons. While I was born in Brooklyn, New York, spent the first few years of my life there, and have returned to the City (and by that I mean New York City) time and time again, most of my life has been spent living just South of Albany in upstate New York. In a rural, small-town known as New Baltimore, my family purchased a large piece of property and built a home that is surrounded by more wildlife than people.

In 2017, upon graduating from high school, I began to pursue my bachelor’s degree in political science at Saint Michael’s College, which is located in a rather rural area of Northern Vermont that is known for its hiking, ski mountains, and location only about an hour South of the Canadian border. Living in Washington, DC, would mean returning to life in the city again, something that, while not unknown to me, still felt unfamiliar and therefore a bit uncomfortable. I was nervous about once again being thrown into a crowd of thousands of hustling and bustling, fast-paced people.

To my amazement, Washington, DC, is nothing like anywhere that I have ever lived before. It is significantly quieter, cleaner, and the buildings are not so high in comparison to New York City, making the city feel less overwhelming to me, if at all. On the other hand, there is so much to do and see in Washington compared to back home in New Baltimore or at college in Vermont. There are hundreds of great stores and restaurants that are all within walking distance. Moreover, the expansive metro system provides residents of the area with a quick and easy way to travel throughout the entire city, and even into Maryland and Virginia as well. I am eager to explore some of the amazing museums, art galleries, and notable monuments located in Washington, DC, and the surrounding area this coming semester.
 

Washington Semester students in front of the White House during Amazing Race competition

An Amazing Win

During my first week in DC, American University held what they called the “Amazing Race,” a competition in the form of a scavenger hunt that organized individuals into teams, who then toured throughout our nation’s capital in search of a number of unusual items and photo spots. In partaking in this competition, participants had the chance to win tickets to events being held at different embassies in DC. Some of our tasks included… getting a paper signed by an AU employee, capturing a photo in front of the White House, and even finding “a single piece of shrimp”. For each object or photograph that was collected, teams would be awarded a specified number of points.

After everyone returned to American University, we had a pizza party, the points were calculated, and the winners were announced. While my team unfortunately did not win tickets to one of the embassy events being offered, I think that I won something much more valuable that day. I found an amazing group of people that I now continue to explore DC with to this very day. I am forever thankful to have had the opportunity to partake in this competition. For if I had not, I may have never met the people that I now call great friends.
 

Deana in background of Subcommittee Meeting

Full Speed Ahead

Within a few days, the semester began with full force, and I soon started to attend my internship at the American Bar Association three days a week, as well as several interesting classes. On select Monday nights, I have my internship course, which I believe will help me to develop better professional skills to navigate life while in DC, as well as into the future. On Tuesdays, I attend a seminar in the Justice and Law concentration called “Public Law and Society”. The course focuses on how laws are created, interpreted, and implemented. Moreover, it analyzes how the law is impacted by and affects society. On select Thursday nights, I have a research project course, which provides me with a unique opportunity to conduct an intensive analysis of a Washington-based topic of interest to me. Finally, on Fridays, I have a seminar in the American Politics concentration called “U.S. Political Institutions,” in which we will learn more about American politics and examine several political institutions within the United States. Some topics that will be discussed in this class include campaigns and elections, interest groups, Congress, the presidency, mass media, and the Supreme Court. Both of my seminar classes utilize experiential learning, which includes site visits and guest speakers to provide a better context for learning. I am very eager to partake in these classes, as I know that they will undoubtedly expand my knowledge on American politics and government. Moreover, I believe that the central component of experiential learning will allow me to engage with the subject matter on a much deeper level.

For example, on Tuesday, September 10th, my “Public Law and Society” seminar class took a trip to Alexandria, Virginia. While there, we toured City Hall, met workers in the building, spoke with Mayor Justin Wilson, and then had free time to explore Alexandria ourselves. Through this site visit, I learned a great deal about the City Council, the role Mayor Justin Wilson takes on through his participation in the City Council, and a number of different issues that Alexandria has been facing over the past few years as a growing city just outside of Washington, DC. Many of the key concepts and elements that we heard about during the site visit also connect to what we have been learning about in class, and thus undoubtedly helped me to understand these issues better, increased my knowledge in the subject area from an academic standpoint, and provided me with first-hand knowledge of what a potential professional career as a mayor may encompass.

On Wednesday, September 11th, I was asked by my internship supervisor at the American Bar Association to attend a hearing being held by the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property regarding “Innovation in America: How Congress can make our patent system STRONGER”. This was my first time ever attending an event held at the Capitol building, and I was full of nerves at just the thought. As I sat down in the room, I quickly noticed that Thom Tillis, a republican senator from North Carolina who also serves as the Chairman of the subcommittee, was standing right in front of me. I could hardly contain my excitement. It is these opportunities to encounter the inner workings of politics and see history being made right before your eyes that make this experience of living and learning in DC so unique and special.
 

US Capitol with Reflecting Pool

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

And just like that, three weeks have come and gone. In some ways, I can hardly believe that I have been in Washington for three weeks already. Time truly has flown by. At the same time, it feels like I have already done so much during such a short span of time. I have been able to explore Washington, as well as some of Virginia, and take in the experience of standing right in front of a number of sites of so much significance. I am eager to continue my journey exploring DC (and of course sharing the highlights of that adventure with you through these blog posts) in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned!