During the first few days of January, my First-Year Seminar and I went to Washington D.C. The trip was awesome. It was the first time a few of us had ever been on a plane, especially myself. I do not know about the others but it was definitely an experience for me. The feeling when the plane leaves the ground is amazing it is similar to the feeling you get in your stomach after dropping off the peak of a roller coaster. Once we landed at the Reagan National Airport around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 4 our trip officially began.
We had a little time to go to our rooms and unpack at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza. The rooms were extremely nice; there were two to a room and my friend Sydney Smith and I roomed together. The view from our room was so great, we could see straight down two streets and it was beautiful. After unpacking we went to the Air and Space museum which is where we saw many great achievements of the world. We were able to see Sputnik and the Mercury Seven shuttle. This was interesting because we had previously been studying about the Mercury Seven and Alan Shepard in the novel Light This Candle by Neal Thompson. We also got to see the original Wright Brother's first airplane. After all of this excitement we were allowed to have dinner because we had to eat before our next scheduled event.
The next thing we did after dinner was go on a night tour. All the monuments we saw were so beautiful at night I cannot say I have ever seen anything like it. We got to see and learn about the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Roosevelt Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the World War I and II Memorial, the Martian Luther King Memorial, the Washington Monument (which can be seen from ultimately anywhere in Washington D.C.), and many, many other national "treasures," for lack of a better word. It was a great experience because I have only ever seen Vermont, New York, and North Carolina. The night tour was one of my favorite aspects. Yes, it was slightly cold but it was definitely worth it. Because the night tour ended around 10:00 p.m., that was the end of our first day and I did not believe that any day after that would be as amazing, but I could not have been more wrong.
The second day we were in D.C. we went to the Holocaust Museum. I have always been fascinated by the Holocaust because it is just so unreal how people can treat each other in such a way. The way the museum is set up allows you to basically walk through a timeline. It starts with the way Hitler rose to power and ends in the liberation of all the Jews. Then it was off to lunch in Union Station which was basically a mall with a food court. We ate in the food court and then went to the Capital Building. This was another favorite of mine because I am very interested in law and politics and this building ultimately was embedded with reminders of where our country had been and where it is going.
On Friday, January 6 we took a tour of the White House. It was nice but was definitely not as big as it seems. However, we did only get to see the second and third floor which is about half of the building. We did not have anything else schedule until later that night, which is when we went to the Wizard and Knicks basketball game, so I decided to go exploring. I got to see six of the art galleries that are a part of the Smithsonian. It was overwhelming and I got to experience many difference cultures through art. I saw paintings and sculptures and three-dimensional multimedia pieces of artwork. Art is just so interesting there are so many things that can be expressed through one piece of artwork. I know I have said that most ofthe things we did on this trip were my favorite, but this was my all time favorite part nothing could beat it. The reason I feel this way is not only because I love art and do a lot of it in my spare time, but also, because the Smithsonian's presentation of all the work was ecstatic; there was not long explanation; there was just a title and I was allowed to interpret the artwork in my own way. It was peaceful, in a way the trip was chaotic because we tried to fit so much in, in such a little time but this part of the trip made me realize that sometimes when your world seems chaotic and you cannot process everything due to the rate it is coming at you, little things allow your brain to slow down and that is when everything else falls in place.
The second to last day we were in Washington D.C. we got to see a play at the Kennedy Center after we got a tour of the Center. The play was Billy Elliot and it was put together very well. The theatre we were in was extremely beautiful. Then on the last day we went to see the Arlington Cemetery, which was sad, but the experience was beneficial. This entire trip allowed me to see some of the country's culture and made me realize that even though regions are different in culture within these regions there are also sections where the appreciation and presentation of the culture vary. I am so privileged to have gone on this trip and if I did not get the opportunity I feel as if I would have lost out on an entire experience that changed my view on our culture as well as made me a well rounded person for having experienced it.
PHOTOS: First-Generation Students Travel to D.C.
About the Trip
Catawba College is continuing its effort to strengthen programs that support the education of its first-generation college students. This is thanks to a $100,000 grant funded by the Walmart Foundation. Catawba was one of 30 Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) member colleges and universities selected through a competitive application process to receive a 2010 CIC/Walmart College Success Award. The institution is now in the second year of grant period and is using its award to fund its NextGen Project. This project strives to build the cultural and social capital of first-generation students through increased training and development of faculty and staff who work with first generation students, as well as special outreach programs targeted to families of first-generation students.
One special offering afforded by the grant is a fully funded trip for first-generation students to travel to Washington, D.C. during the winter term following their first fall semester. Next Gen students who participated visited Washington area museums, historical sites, government offices and Catawba College alumni.
First-generation student Brittany Wescott '15 of Concord went on this year's trip to Washington and shares her experience through a blog and photographs here.