So…the fall semester of my senior year is here, and with it comes the excitement of returning to classes, the thrill of seeing new and old Cornellians, stress about the challenges to come, and an increase in the overall usage of my Amazon Prime account. But…what makes this semester different from others? Well, I’m about 300 miles south of where I’d normally be about now, as I’m spending the semester in the Cornell in Washington program.
It’s come to my attention, based on puzzled looks that I’ve gotten when I say I’m doing a semester in D.C., that many people haven’t heard of this Cornell program. I find it semi-surprising, because it’s recently gotten some media attention (here and here). Let me give a brief overview of the program and how my experience has been, even though it hasn’t even been two weeks into the semester!
Here’s a quick run-down: Cornell owns a building in Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, where about 50 or so Cornellians live every semester while taking classes and participating in an internship. All courses are taught in classrooms in the building, and are mostly offered Thursdays and at nights, so scheduling isn’t a problem.
The reasoning behind the program stems from the fact that a semester in D.C.–one of the most intellectual and vibrant cities in the country–provides students with experiences that can’t be had at Cornell. Simply put, as quaint as Ithaca may be, the bottom line is that you’re not going to get the same opportunities there–be it access to internships, concerts, or cultural events, etc.–as you would in a large city.
So, how has my personal experience been thus far in the program? I’d say positive. There are opportunity costs, sure, but it’s been an interesting time. Working at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in the Office of Economic Policy, is a once in a lifetime experience. (I still pinch myself every time I walk into the building, as its majestic exterior–combined with the fact that it’s literally next to the White House–still keeps me in awe.)
Academically, it’s still very early in the semester, but I’m getting good vibes. I will be writing a substantial research paper for my 8 credit Public Policy class (I’m hoping to write about the link between economic policy and firm strategy–anyone have any thoughts?!), and my other elective hasn’t started yet.
Everyone in the program has been super friendly, as well. At Cornell, seeing 13,000 faces makes it hard to connect with people all the time due to proximity, but seeing the same people in classes and in the common room of the building has made it an intimate community.
My only dilemma is when I accidentally say that I’m studying “abroad”–probably not the appropriate term for a semester in the same country. Plus, studying abroad (in my mind) conjures up the image of me growing a beard and traveling with just a backpack across Eastern Europe, making important life revelations along the way.
Maybe I’m not doing just that…
If anyone has any entertainment or restaurant suggestions for D.C., feel free to send them along!