Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Student life: transitioning from Bologna to DC

Michael Aubry was a student at the Bologna Center last year and has just started his second year at SAIS DC. Here he tells us of his transition from Bologna to the U.S. capital, a shift that about one half of SAIS MA candidates make at the end of their first year of study.

Today marks the end of the third week of classes and the fourth week of my new life in the District of Columbia. We bolognesi were told how different our lives would be after our move across the Atlantic.

I can now vouch for that.

Reason: Washington is bigger. Time and space have been upended and this city reshaped as America’s Rome.

Michael Aubrey (L) with fellow Bologna Center graduates
Akhila Raman, Felix Amrhein & Brian Wenzler at SAIS DC
Urban agglomerations offer unique qualities and opportunities. This city moves fast. Transit tries to keep up – most of the time. The Washington Transit Authority may not be perfect, but it is practical in situations where cross-city transport is necessary. Many have elected to use DC’s quite successful Capital Bikeshare program to facilitate personal transportation. If you live near a bike station, Bikeshare is a helpful option. Tried and true walking, a mainstay of my Bologna life, is feasible but time-consuming.

Due to these considerations, social gatherings are less spontaneous. Advanced planning is a necessity, particularly since we are spread out across the various neighborhoods of Columbia Heights, Logan’s Circle, Shaw, NoMA and Dupont among a dozen others in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Unfortunately, more people means more crime. I never felt unsafe in Bologna, and I don’t feel unsafe here. But being at the wrong place at the wrong time can ruin anyone’s day. Even though the best preparation does not guarantee immunity, vigilance is key. With this in mind, the SAIS shuttle is an awesome service. I am wholeheartedly taking advantage of the free transport from SAIS to (basically) my front door.

Washington offers some fantastic opportunities, including a plethora of internship possibilities. Hundreds of lectures, both organized by and independent of SAIS, are available here. I do miss Italian food greatly, but I am enjoying the culinary variety DC offers.

As we are transitioning to DC, DC is transitioning itself. Areas that were once considered no-man’s lands have been, are being or will be renewed. Washington is a vibrant, young and intrepid city. District folks are extremely motivated and eager to succeed. It is exciting to see DC develop. Integration between the bolognesi and our DC counterparts is a two way street, but it continues abreast, albeit slowly yet organically. Time will tell, but I am optimistic.

Michael Aubrey (BC13/DC14)

No comments: