Bradley Dlatt: Becoming a Washingtonian

The weather has turned warm, the cherry blossoms have bloomed, and GW students are becoming overwhelmed with papers and exams. This combination can only mean one thing: summer is nearly here. For some GW students, summer is a chance to stay in D.C., to take on that internship that couldn’t fit into the school year or pick up a few extra credit hours in a less stressful environment. For others, summer means leaving the political bubble of the District and returning home to hold a job, catch up with friends and relax after a busy nine months.

Those who return home for the summer will most likely endure the uncomfortable culture shock of living in a place where CNN is not always on. That many of our friends and neighbors will be ambivalent to or even ignorant of the political issues we encounter every day may not be something that is easy to comprehend. Whether we realize it or not, we have all become “Washingtonized.” And while many both inside and outside of D.C. may slander this town and its culture, the skills we each receive through our experience in Washington prepare us for the real world in ways the “traditional college experience” never could.

The challenges that come with living in a cutting-edge, fast-paced city have changed the way many of us think, learn and interact with others. Living in D.C., the standard of excellence set by the business and government communities around GW essentially forces our student body to be well-versed in the latest news and technology. Moreover, the typical GW student will acquire knowledge of American politics; the vast majority of Americans won’t. Although it seems almost unfathomable, many, many citizens of this country do not vote. The unfortunate truth is, Americans are largely politically ignorant and give little credence to politics outside of the yearly frustration of paying taxes. By being “Washingtonized,” GW students are privy to a community many people know little about and, as a result, we are thus able to build the connections that can lead to future success.

For the typical GW student, terms like “the Hill” or “the Mall” take on a distinctly different meaning than for others. Motorcades are a daily annoyance and seem as commonplace as students sitting in Kogan Plaza or collecting money on the porch of the Marvin Center. Memorials and monuments are known simply by their first names, and many students spent the occasional Saturday night stumbling around them during freshman year. These are the realities of our lives.

Although we may be robbed of the traditional college experience of cheap drinks, wearing pajamas to class and spacious, flowing lawns, each of us benefits in some way from being forced to mature just a little bit quicker. The healthy dose of the real world we receive at GW teaches us there is a world beyond the confines of the classroom and, with an increasingly competitive global job market, there is little room for mistakes. Whether we accept it or not, all of us have been changed by Washington. It is with this sense of self-awareness and the acceptance of our being a part of a very unique community that many of us venture out into the rest of the country to enjoy time away from the daily grind of D.C. and GW.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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