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Study in USA: Washington, D.C.

by Way Yu

Choosing where to study | Boston | Connecticut |San Francisco |Philadephia |Los Angeles |Texas : Austin |Washington D.C. |New York City

As the capitol of this country, Washington D.C. has all eyes upon it and it doesn't fail to impress. From its historic monuments and stately government buildings to the restaurants and shops along the busy streets, this is a city that breathes life and excitement.

Schools in the Area

Here's a well-known secret: D.C. is a great place to be as a student. Being in the nation's capitol certainly has its advantages: With eleven universities and colleges in the area, not only do you have many top institutions to choose from, but the international community fosters an unparalleled learning environment. Oh, and the town nightlife is legendary too.

Most of the admired institutions in D.C.are private and have religious affiliations. (Surprisingly, there are very few public universities in the area of note.) Georgetown University, the most well-known in the area, boasts of undergraduate and graduate programs that rival those of the New England Ivys. The emphasis on liberal arts education coupled with an international focus has always been Georgetown's mission, and it has worked well--the school is one of the best for students interested in world affairs. The reason is simple: High-ranking national and international officials and analysts are drawn to the school because of its worldwide reputation, and regularly visit the campus as guest lecturers. The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service is specifically dedicated to cultivating students entering a career in international affairs. Prospective MBA students may also wish to enroll in the McDonough School of Business, famed for its focus on international business.

Students not interested in politics will be happy to find that Georgetown's other departments, ranging from Theater to History, are also first-rate. Graduate programs equally strong are the Law Center, School of Medicine, and School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Other schools in the area include Howard University, a historically Black college dedicated to preparing leaders of colors in the international community; American University and George Washington University, both which emphasize public service and its students generally enter careers involving law, government and international service; and the womens-only Trinity College.

Within an hour's drive are other top-notch colleges. Though not within the DC borders, student have quick, easy access into the city. George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia is well-known for its sprawling suburban campus reminiscent of the Virginia countryside. Originally a part of the University of Virginia, it became an independent university in 1972. In Baltimore is Johns Hopkins University, famed for its medical school and hospital.

Students rarely complain about not having something to do. The city is full of restaurants, museums, shops, movie theaters, book stores and more...you name it, it's here. Adams-Morgan is known for its worldly feel, a remnant of when the African, Caribbean, and Latino communities made this neighborhood their home in the '60s. Now, the four blocks are filled with ethnic eateries and shops of every kind. Bohemian Dupont Circle is a haven for artists, poets and the like. The streets here are lined with art galleries and sidewalk cafes. Over on Capitol Hill are the elegant (if stuffy) restaurants and upscale boutiques frequented by the political crowd.

What would a town be without its nightlife? The city pulsates at night as people make their way to a black- tie gala or a disco club. Especially worth checking out is the M Street strip near Georgetown, which offers some of the best bar-hopping in the country. This legendary street is THE place for students to celebrate their 21st birthday. Be sure to stop by Third Edition, which Playboy picked as one the top 5 college bars of 1999. For those under 21, many nightclubs have "College Nights" for the 18-and-over crowds.

Living Here

When people talk about the Washington DC Metro area, they're referring not only to DC, but also to the regions in neighboring Virginia and Maryland, like Fairfax (VA) and Baltimore (MD), both about an hour's drive from DC proper.

Traffic was always bad but it's getting worse. Luckily, public transportation is inexpensive. You're better off taking the Metro subway, which is clean, easily accessible, and cheap. If you bring your own car, know that parking can be hazardous since ticketing and towing are strictly enforced. DC is also very walkable and easy to navigate thanks in part to straightforward street names. Many streets are named after numbers, letters of the alphabet, and states. Pretty soon you'll know exactly where the corner of K and 20th is.

Perhaps the greatest feature of living in DC is that your neighbors will come and go often. A large portion of the population is transient, settling in town for a few years and then leaving. New senators and Congress members move in every two years, while each new presidency brings in a different set of supporters and aides. Also throughout the year are college interns coming to do a few month shifts at a government office.

DC has the enviable position of being neither too north or too south. There is snow, but rarely very much. In fact, the city is so unaccustomed to snow that more than 2 inches of snow fall can warrant an official Day Off. There is heat, but never the blistering temperature felt in the South. Here, humidity is more of the problem. DC is at its best in the Spring, when the weather is mild and the cherry blossom trees bloom.

Enjoying the City

There are at least a hundred places to see in DC, most of which are concentrated around the National Mall. Not surprisingly, many of these are tied to American history. However, don't be dismayed with the prospect of having to learn about dead fuddy-duddies or viewing austere statues. It's a lot more awe- inspiring than one might think. Inside the marble and limestone rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial, where our third president's political and philosophical writings are etched into the walls, you'll be humbled. The Lincoln Memorial, with its huge statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting on his chair, echoes the quiet strength and dignity of this civil rights leader. The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial can be heart wrenching: engraved in to the marble wall are the thousands of names of the men and women who died in the Vietnam War.

A less somber view of the nation's past can be seen in any of the national museums or galleries. The Smithsonian Institute operates sixteen museums in the area, each worth a day's visit because of the extensive, varied collections. Along the National Mall are thirteen, including National Museum of American History, the National Portrait Gallery and even the National Zoo. The best thing is that all are free to enter!

To see the inner workings of the government, stop by Capitol Hill. Here, the Senate and Congress meet to discuss our nation's present conditions and plan for the future. If you contact your local congressman or senator, you can easily get a VIP pass or gallery ticket and sit in during a session of congress. And of course, there's the famed White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Take the tour--it's both educational and entertaining.

Theater lovers will be delighted by the Kennedy Center, which offers free performances every night. The city's major arts organizations, such as the Washington Opera, National Symphony Orchestra, and Washington Ballet, perform here regularly.

As for sports, there are plenty of teams to cheer on, including Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Mystics (WNBA), Washington Freedom (women's soccer) and Washington Capitols (NHL). Baseball fans will have to root for the nearby Baltimore Orioles. Golfers will happily note the high number of golf courses in the area since on the green is where many of the political decisions are made.

DC's more obscure attractions are located a bit farther out. The Potomac River offers biking and hiking trails. Conspiracy buffs will want to tour the Pentagon, home to the FBI, in Arlington, Virginia. Amusement parks with roller coaster rides, like Six Flags America and Busch Gardens, are outside DC city boundaries but well within driving distance. There are also elegant homes to tour, Civil War forts to discover, and historic churches to view. Additionally, an hour away in Maryland is Baltimore, a harbor city with its own set of must-see spots.

With its focus on history and politics, Washington D.C. is an international city worthy of its fame and your attention.

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