As our first week in Washington DC draws to an end I decide to take the opportunity to take a well earned rest at the pier in Old Town, Alexandria. As I reflect on the first seven days it is impossible to pick one single highlight. I will never forget leaving the airport and within one step outside being hit with a massive wall of heat that I have never experienced before. It was almost suffocating. I immediately began to think how I would ever survive. This thought was reinforced when myself and Jessica’s host mother Pat informed us it would only get warmer and more humid as the weeks progress…
It was then time to meet my host parents – Bob and Kate Hunter. Despite being in contact with them before I left Ireland, butterflies flew in my stomach. Bob and Kate welcomed me into their home and since my arrival their generosity, kindness, thoughtfulness and love has been unbelievable. I could not wish for a better host family.
The tradition of the host family barbeque continued on Sunday afternoon. It was a great event and allowed all WIPpers and host families to interact. I am told that Virginia has never had so many wipers before!! The BBQ provided a great opportunity to chat and get to know their other host families in Virginia. I left the BBQ with a great sense of community.
Monday morning came and with it Jessica and I learned that we aren’t the best people in the world at reading a map! Despite arriving at the correct metro stop it took us over 25 minutes to locate the Brick Layers Building. Anyone who knows the location of the building in relation to the metro station will know it should only take a two minute walk. But despite this added bit of sightseeing, we managed to make it on time…..barely!! Throughout the day we were honored with the presence of Leona Martinez, Barbara Warner and Patrick Burke who all provided tips regarding health, budgeting and safety during our time in DC. Following this E.J. Dionne and Mark Shields spoke about the Presidential election. As we returned from lunch before Mark and E.J. arrived I was changing from my flip flops to my dress shoes in the elevator. Just as the doors of the elevator shut a man hopped in. While in the middle of bending down to take out my dress shoes out of my handbag, the man introduced himself as Mark Shields. I have never jumped up and stood to attention as quick in my life! I’m sure I made a great lasting impression.
Tuesday morning I woke up to what sounded like rain falling against my window. But I thought surely it couldn’t be rain. It only rains in Ireland during the summer. But as I folded back the shutters and looked out my window I was greeted with a dark skyline that looked all too familiar. It was definitely a weird sensation to experience rain yet feel so warm. The tour of the Capitol was followed by a training session by Kevin Laundano and Jim Carroll of Accenture on project management. I found this particularly interesting as I think project management is a skill that can always be improved and who better to learn from than Kevin and Jim.
Wednesday morning involved a visit to the Newsuem. Being totally honest I was very skeptical about whether or not I would enjoy this when I saw it on the schedule. I really didn’t know what to expect. But I can safely say it was one of my favorite parts of the week’s activities. Their exhibitions on 9/11 amazed me and despite not having any direct connection with the event I couldn’t help but feel deeply saddened.
Wednesday was completed with a tour of the Library of Congress. We were all intrigued by many of the rare letters we got see firsthand, including one of the first drafts of the American Constitution.
Tiredness began to kick in on Thursday but when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! An introduction to the Mall was followed by a meeting with Dean Treanor – Dean of Georgetown University Law School. This was truly an incredible experience. Following lunch, Roselle Harde of Accenture developed our Negotiations skills seminar. I really enjoyed this as I feel this is an area that personally I need to improve. Many of us have set a SMART goal of improving our public speaking. For me this is definitely an area I struggle with and I don’t know why. Put me on a sports field in front of my team and I’ll give a speech without any difficulty. But dress me up in a business suit and place me in a formal setting and I am a totally different person who’s voice waivers and heart beats so fast I’m nearly sure it’s going to pop out of my chest. Because of the above I was really interesting inn Kevin and David Franks tips for speech writing. I definitely took away with me a few tips I intend to put into practice over the coming weeks. The evening was wrapped up by a media panel which was chaired by Jessica. One has to admire her bravery in being the first person out of the group to do so such a task. She did a splendid job of controlling the flow of the discussion and I can only hope when my turn comes around to do something similar that I can be as cool, calm and collective as Jessica was.
Friday arrived and this meant the arrival of the weekend! The development panel in Georgetown University School of Foreign Service was a discussion I thoroughly enjoyed. My very last exam in my degree was Applied Macro Economic Policy and it was great to draw on my knowledge from that module to contribute to the session.
A visit to the AFL-CIO sparked a lot of debate within the group and I’m sure the role of Trade Unions shall be discussed at many later dates among the group – be it in a formal or informal setting.
One main thought that has developed and strengthened during week is how privileged I feel. I am privileged for the opportunities to meet fantastic people; privileged to be part of Class of 2012 and privileged to stay with such a wonderful host family.
Next week involves the start of our internships, I for one cannot wait.