Washington DC: Seeing the Capital through Foreign Eyes Past Review

By (International Studies, West Virginia University) for

Amizade: Washington D.C.

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This was certainly not my most influential Amizade experience, but, as always, it was thought-provoking and worthwhile. Like I've noted, I give little thought to European affairs and culture, so it was a new experience for me to be immersed in that perspective and to see my own land from others' eyes. I tend to travel abroad and am usually the one analyzing a foreign country, rather than vice versa. I also think rarely about the Holocaust, though it is still very much part of our living history. I think it is important for us to continue to discuss and be conscious of such aspects of our history in order to better understand how to confront modern human rights abuses. At the same time, though, it is disheartening to hear the words "Never Forget" when there have clearly been genocides and a lack of action on the part of the international community to prevent them and other widespread human rights abuses. The German students feel a sense of responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust though they had no control over the events, and were generally kind and conscious people just a generation later. That gives me hope for future generations of currently war-torn countries. We are all products of our environments, but peace is an active process, not an ideal. Conferences like this are the kinds of actions that make peace possible, so I was happy to be a part of it.

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This conference was not an official course, but the discussions and activities in which we were invited to participate were stimulating and presented me with an interesting view on modern European culture to which I have had little exposure. I felt that because the Amizade students had only a limited time to get to know our hosts that perhaps it could have been used a little more wisely, but I also appreciated that they recognized the group's lassitude at times and did not force discussion but rather gave people enough time to relax and allow the experience to sink in. It helped that all of us were interested in talking about the day's activities independently, which is not always the case.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Again, this was not a traditional study abroad, but the conference was well-organized with a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Our American group was large enough that we felt well-represented, but not too large that the group grew to an unmanageable size. Unfortunately two of us had to leave before the end so we were not able to be present for some of the discussion in which the Amizade students were meant to take a more active role. I was disappointed by this, so perhaps next year we could coordinate that better in terms of finding out when people need to leave or making sure they understand they need to be able to attend certain dates.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The hostel was in a good location, comfortable, and perfectly acceptable for such a program.

* Food:

We had plenty of flexibility in food choices, though the allowance was just a little low considering the high cost of inner-city dining.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I have been to Washington DC numerous times, so the field trips themselves were nothing new; however, traveling around my own country with a group of foreigners gave new life to a familiar place. The discussions we had surrounding the Holocaust museum and World War II monuments in particular gave me new perspective on both places. I have a much stronger background in the history and culture of Latin America and am generally more interested in studying post-colonial countries, so learning more about modern European history and the views young Europeans have on Western culture was interesting and worthwhile. I also found that during our unstructured time the German students were interested in engaging in more academic conversation and were as interested in learning from us as we were from them. I felt that there was an equal exchange of information and view in this way, and was very comfortable with the group.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

We felt perfectly safe in the area of Washington DC in which we stayed, and we traveled with no trouble.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

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  • N/A

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I would advise any student to come with a smile on his or her face and to be ready for plenty of active discussion. There is not much room for quiet observation at this conference, so be ready to put your thoughts into words. This conference would be beneficial to any Amizade alumnus who is interested in continuing intercultural dialogue and who can accurately represent the mission and spirit of Amizade. I think this could be particularly beneficial for someone with little experience in European affairs.