Tom Braslavsky: We’re not in Kansas anymore…

Hi, my name is Tom. I’m a freshman, and I’m from Kansas.

Yeah, really.

If you must know, I’ve never met Dorothy and don’t live on a farm (though I do like to joke about riding a combine to school). I’m not a redneck, I don’t have a “country” accent and I have never been hunting. In fact, the area where I grew up is probably not unlike the homes of many other GW students from all around the country – middle to upper-middle class suburbia.

Back where I live, we have professional sports – the NFL’s Chiefs, MLB’s Royals and MLS’s Wizards – and about a half-hour away sits the University of Kansas, home of the 2008 NCAA basketball national champions. We are also well-known for our barbeque and jazz music. It’s not completely the middle of nowhere.

Having said that, it’s no cosmopolitan center. Ever since middle school, I dreamed of living somewhere else. I saw myself as a young adult, far away from the heart of America, walking down the sidewalk of an urban landscape. I yearned to get away from the monotony of suburbia, to see the world – not just on trips, but for extended periods of time. I even joined a Facebook group called “The Day after Graduation, I’m Outta Kansas!” And when Facebook gets involved, you know it’s serious.

These aspirations guided me on my college search. I picked schools in large coastal cities – energetic, bustling cities with lots going on. I looked forward to riding public transportation around town or walking from campus into the city. Eventually, my interest in politics and international affairs led me to D.C., a truly international place and home to the world’s most powerful institutions.

After three weeks at GW, I can say with confidence that I made the right choice. Not only have I had the chance to explore a city with no need to drive through blocks and blocks of cookie-cutter houses and lawns, but what an incredible city it is.

Perhaps the most amazing thing that I have experienced here so far – which could only happen in Washington, D.C. – is Monday’s CNN forum with five former secretaries of state. I was not one of the lucky few to get a ticket in advance, but I was one of the very lucky few to get a standby ticket (I was number 45 out of the 50 that were let into Lisner!). At the forum, I sat among foreign dignitaries, professors and other students, watching five of the most famous and prominent living American diplomats discuss the next president’s foreign policy challenges – not something I could have dreamed possible in Kansas.

Going to school in such an electrifying place and time, open to so many resources and opportunities, is amazing. As GW students, we live in a city where global decisions are made. I know I can feel it from Thurston, which is just three blocks from the White House.

For this Kansas boy, D.C. is a new world, even if it’s not as shockingly different as some might suspect. There’s the absence of the Midwestern charm and laid-back feeling one gets cruising through my hometown. Instead of that, D.C. – and by extension, GW – has power, history and bustle. As I walk to class each day, I spot the Organization of American States, the tip of the Washington Monument and the busy streets of a global hub, teeming with students, Secret Service agents and Federal and NGO employees. I take it all in with a satisfied smile.

I’m not in Kansas anymore.

The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.

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