Friday, May 9, 2008

My last blog…. :(

Well—here we are—the end of a totally incredible semester. Honestly, I had no clue when I started this program that these fifteen weeks would go by this fast. Yes, there were times during the semester that I wished it would go by faster, but I truly am sad to leave. I know I won’t be able to stay away from this city for too long. This experience has really changed my life (totally cheesy, I know) and I can’t wait to move back here. There is no doubt I will be living in our nation’s capital again in the future.

My BFF from school, Kristine, came to visit me this weekend. We went shopping on Saturday—got a new Vera Bradley bag (super excited, it comes everywhere with me) and a new pair of jeans. Below are Kristine and me.

Sunday we went to the zoo, but I don’t know if we went at feeding time or washing time or something, because I swear there were no lions, tigers, pandas, apes, or gorillas. It was still fun tho! Check out this crazy large guinea pig relative:

Commencement was on Monday. I got a sweet tee-shirt and a certificate! (Everyone did… I am not special…) Following that my classmates, professor and I went out to dinner in Chinatown for our final class. Sad to say goodbye to everyone…

So for lessons of the semester, instead of just the week—this is the advice I have to pass on to students coming in the summer or in the fall.

1) Be open—to your roommates, your job, your boss, a business trip, the weird people asking you for change on the street, the culture, the fact that you WILL inevitably be stuffed up against a hundred people each day in the metro, the beautiful sites around DC. That is of course to say, be safe, but be open and take in everything you can.

2) Should you not want your belongings touched I suggest keeping them tucked away in your room. Not that this has necessarily been a problem, but you’ll notice that the apartment tends to grow smaller as time goes on and sometimes things end up in the wrong hands.

3) Eat breakfast every morning. It will make a difference when 10:30AM rolls around and you still have two hours till lunch. You don’t want to be starving for the first half of your day, it will distract you and slow you down.

4) If you’re still in the process of finding an internship, don’t be afraid to step out of the box. Most everyone here does something related to law, politics, or finance. I did architecture and urban design. No, there isn’t a program for that, but I explored something I am truly interested in and have found a path that I would like to follow for my career. Don’t be afraid to explore—don’t feel like you have to choose something policy related. There are zillions of firms in DC all offering something different. I would even suggest coming up with some places on your own and having your advisor contact them. That’s what I did!

5) Bring a wireless router. End of discussion.

6) Have fun. Learn everything you can. See everything you can. Enjoy your time here.

Good luck!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Two weeks left...

So I’ve made a list of all the things I still need to do while I’m in DC:

· My portfolio… yea… I’m a procrastinator
· Actually go see some of the sights around DC—like the thousands of museums I haven’t yet visited
· My final paper for class… again with the procrastination
· Get my hair cut

I think that’s all for now…

This past Monday was our final Presidential Lecture Series event—and I still have not had a Congressional Speakers Series meeting. I wonder if it will happen?

I always get very reflective toward the end of something—especially something like this. This is such a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think, however, my expectations for this semester were very misguided. Originally I was looking forward to the parties, the city life, the social scene—and I had completely overlooked the real reason why I was coming here: for a quality internship experience. Jealous of my friends heading abroad for the semester, sick of Case, sick of busting my butt at school and never getting too far—Washington was intended to be the semester I would never forget. But when I look back on this I’m mainly going to remember how much growth and positive change I experienced, how much I learned (about myself and the world I live within), and how I will never again have roommates—not how much ridiculous fun I’ve had. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not like I’m not having any fun. I’m in Washington DC—that alone makes this more fun than school in Cleveland. I’m really glad I have this experience behind me and I do not regret coming here one bit—it’s just not been at all what I was expecting.

Last weekend was nice. Friday we had a barbeque outside in the courtyard. We even met some of our neighbors (besides the man who lets his cats run loose through the hallways…)! On Saturday I lounged around all day then went out to dinner with a large group from work in Georgetown. I got to meet everybody’s families which was really cool (and I enjoyed lots of pizza!). Later on in the week some family friends came down to tour DC and visit colleges. It was so great to be with people from home—the familiarity of old friends is what I miss the most.

April in DC is very rainy.

Lessons of the week:

1) If the air conditioner is blowing out HOT air—there’s a good chance it’s broken. I suggest finding out when your building turns on the AC before you try to use it (in ours, it’s not till May 2—till then we suffer!).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Three Weeks Left

This week has blown by! Only one day left till the weekend! No big plans for the weekend—perhaps some work on the portfolio and perhaps stuff for class. Everything is starting to catch up on me!

I finally registered for classes for next semester. ASG has inspired me to learn more about architecture, and so I signed up for a city design and architecture course. Pretty cool!

I’m really starting to get super comfortable at my job (I know—it took me how long!?). I’m really starting to feel like I am gaining some kind of knowledge base here—a sense of who I am, where I fit in the office, and what my role is. I have enough confidence to make more of my own decisions and take on some more autonomy. Hopefully when I walk into my next internship over the summer I’ll begin with this same level of security and confidence. It’s got to get easier, right? I really can’t wait until I finish school and start work for real, though (in three years…hoorah for graduate school…). I’ve only had a taste of this kind of lifestyle—but I think it suits me.

Last week I went to see Newseum on its opening day with work. We went to study the architecture of the building and later on we had a Design Pin Up/Happy hour where we all hung up sketches and photos of the museum and discussed. It was really interesting. The museum was super cool—we only had our lunch break to spend there, so I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked, but I’ve suggested to Fred that we go on a field trip there with the BIT program. I've heard that university and college groups can go for free ;-) The World Trade Center exhibit was very moving—I can’t believe it’s been…almost seven years? It’s funny how no matter what, the world keeps turning. Life keeps barreling on, and eventually after a tragedy—no matter how severe—we return to "normalcy."

Lessons of the week:
1) See the cherry blossoms during their peak! Don’t be a fool like me and miss them.
2) Go see the National Mall at night—I swear it was one of the most beautiful, powerful things I have ever seen.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Week 11

The unthinkable has happened: I’ve found housing for next year in the on campus apartments I wanted to live in. And I’m with a friend. Who woulda thunk—something actually worked out for me. And for people who don’t understand the magnitude of this, I will have a single bedroom, a mostly private bathroom, a double bed, air conditioning, and QUIET. Because, yes, I know it’s crazy but I actually require quiet when I sleep and study.

In other news, as promised here are the Texas photos. The first is one of me and one of my coworkers at the boot store—please appreciate the background of this photo (dead animals and bones…). The second is another one of me and my coworkers at the conference-wide party on our last night (donning our awesome boots).

Only four weeks left here. Before I was counting how many weeks we’ve been here so far, and now I’m counting how many weeks remain—I wonder when I made that switch. I’m looking back on this semester so far and if I had to come up with one word to describe it the only thing I could think of would be surreal. I feel like one of these days I’m just going to wake up back at Alpha Phi and be like “Damn—that was a crazy dream I had last night” and head out to class. I wonder if I will stay in touch with the people I met here. One of my friends in Phase I of the apartments actually lives in the town right next door to mine so I’m sure we will see each other. But everyone else? Who knows.

Lessons of the week:

1) Motion City Soundtrack’s latest album is amazing. Everyone listen to it if you haven’t already. I was a little slow with getting it, so I know this is kind of after the fact. But still.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Keeping Austin Weird… Not that hard…

Yeeeeeeehah! I got back from my six day adventure to Texas last night. What a surreal six days… From bar hopping, to eating nothing but Tex-Mex (really…I’m talking very single meal), to buying used vintage boots from a taxidermist, to being in the same room as the founders of New Urbanism (the reason I have a job), to accidentally walking through a VERY large group of North American Union protestors… Words don’t really do the whole experience justice. I actually had a lot of fun—learned some things (like a lot of things), met new people, and bonded with some other girls in the office. I also got to experience some nice sunny warm weather—which I’m not sure if people in D.C. can also say.

Back to the grind today—PLS in two hours, then class. The deadline for our final paper seems to be catching up to us. I believe we are meeting after the lecture today to put together an outline for it. The paper discusses and analyzes the Family Self Sufficiency act created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I’m hoping to learn a bit about the affordable housing arena from this project.

The internship search for the summer is going slowly. I’ve applied to seven places, hoping to hear back soon. I get to register for classes and before that I need to figure out what to do about my senior project. I’m thinking something along the lines of the economy of new urbanist developments. There is a part of Brewster that can be really re-developed into something great, and I want to propose a plan for it. Perhaps a cost/benefit analysis? Not sure—need to think.

It was Greek Week at school this past week, and I’m sad I missed it. But Alpha Phi did great—and next year should be even better! Anyways, time for the PLS. Next update with photos coming shortly.

Lessons of the Week:
1) Be wary of social situations with your employer outside of work. There is an interesting blurry line of appropriateness.
2) If you ever go to Austin, please make a stop at Texas Custom Boots. Among the variety of stuffed bears, snakes, and deer heads you will find an interesting selection of vintage used boots at prices that are quite negotiable.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another day, another dollar! Only, not really...

Once again I’m having huge troubles remembering what I did prior to Friday, so I guess we’ll start there. My office was closed on Friday, so my mom got me a flight home for the weekend. It was so great to go home and celebrate Easter and my cousin’s 21st with my family. I got to reunite with a lot of friends from high school, go shopping, hang out with my dog, go to church… it was a crazy busy weekend, but I really enjoyed it.

Then came Monday—my first business trip! What an experience; I absolutely loved it. We flew down to Long Beach, MS on Monday morning. I met my bosses at the airport around 9:30, and then when we got to Gulfport we met up with another woman who is working with us on the project. When we got to Long Beach, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But what I found was a city destroyed by and never rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. What I found was a group of people, welcoming us with open arms, desperate to get their city back the way it was. And unfortunately, the Long Beach, MS these people know isn’t going to come back. Their houses, their apartments, their small businesses are not going to exist in the way they knew ever again. But what we can do is try and give them something close—something better maybe, with a prospect of a lively downtown, a beautiful beachfront, a centralized business district, and properly organized neighborhoods and street networks. And that is why planning fascinates me as a profession—because we have the capability to create and reinvent places for people to live, work, and play all at once. And without places, without community, without anywhere to go, we exist solely unto ourselves, floating, not prospering, and unhappy.

Our meeting was constructive. We talked with citizens, the city council, and the mayor. We answered questions and helped calm fears and I learned SmartCode! No joke—last night I was dreaming about transect zones. I’m not kidding. It was sick. The woman from outside ASG that we are working with was extremely helpful. I was sitting next to her during the meeting and she answered every single question I had (and I had a lot of questions). By the end of the meeting I actually felt like I could participate in the project—like I could make suggestions and contribute. That was a great feeling—for once I didn’t feel completely lost. Afterwards we went to a casino and had a nice dinner. It was the place open at ten p.m. in the whole city. Unfortunately, I practically fell asleep at dinner because I was so tired. But it was really nice to get to know my bosses better and to have an opportunity to talk about things besides work. I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait till I go to Texas next week for the CNU conference!

Lessons of the week:

1) Zoning is totally more complicated than you think it is.
2) People in MS have awesome accents.
3) No matter how far from your friends and your home you may be, when you go back it’s like nothing ever changed. And that is more comforting than anything.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What week is this?

This experience is starting blow my mind—my routine is beginning to melt away into insanity and to be honest, I kind of like it. I’m going to blame the weather, the transformation from winter to spring, the smell of rain. My insides are stirring—I’m just aching for something to happen. I’ve been spending very little time in my apartment. I can no longer accept just coming home from work and vegging till bed time. A complete social immersion has taken place since I’ve realized our time left here is growing shorter. But of course with friends comes drama—the high school “he said, she said” and who’s mad at who never really goes away, does it? I think it’s just that everything has just been more exaggerated—more happiness, more anger, more parties, more cigarettes, more shopping, more fun, more crushes, more fights, more excitement. More everything. My mind is on overload—I need more sleep.

The past week has been a roller coaster of many sorts. I keep going back and forth from complete and total contentedness to a depressed sort of nostalgia. I think a lot of it has to do with my aunt. It’s been nine months already since her passing—and it just dawned on me that Easter ‘07 was the last time I saw her well. With Easter approaching again, I’ve been feeling a sadness kind of overcoming everything I do. I miss her.

So—home tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. The break will be nice. Monday, I leave for a business trip with work. We’re going to Mississippi for a workshop of some sorts. I’m not really sure of the details. I hope I don’t get stuck there… I’m going to be missing the PLS and class but I’m not too worried about it. I think it’s really cool that I’m even going on this trip, and I hope I’m going to learn some things while I’m down there. Speaking of learning—my class’s midterm was last week and I want my grade!

I’m getting so adjusted to being here finally that now I never want to leave. The transition back to school is probably going to be harder than the transition to Washington. It’s a different kind of a busy here—it’s more structured and far less chaotic than college. Here, at 5 o’clock I know I’m done. At school that’s when my work is just getting started. Maybe I’ll be able take this schedule and transfer back to my life at school. Look out—you may see a new, improved, and more organized Ashley Livingston next semester.

Sorry all, that this post is lacking the “on Monday I did this and Tuesday I did that” stuff. I’m honestly having a hard time remembering anything I’ve done this past week. Allow this entry to be a description of the emotional activity of a TWC student instead of the physical. In the end, I think that’s more important anyway.

Lessons of the week:

1) Don’t be afraid to stay up late and do something fun on a week night once in a while. You’ll be a little tired for work, but hey that’s why God invented Starbucks.

2) If it’s okay with your supervisor, listen to your iPod while you work. I’ve been listening to a lot of fast paced, fun music today and I’m really pumped up. Plus, it’s helping the day go by really quickly, and I’m focusing well on my work.