American University

48 Hours in Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument

{The Washington Monument…at midnight}

While venturing to Washington, D.C. last week for work, I learned some lessons. First, anyone who spends considerable time traveling these days deserves a medal. I experienced a four-hour delay getting down to D.C., which resulted in an airline change (mind you, the flight is only one hour from New York City gate-to-gate). On the return leg, I endured a two-hour delay (where we sat parked on the runway awaiting further instructions from the destination airport regarding our departure). After these tribulations, I have no burning desire to head anywhere—unless Amtrak takes me there. But on a positive note, the trip made me realize how much I miss living in D.C. and all that the city has to offer.

Georgetown Waterfront

{The view from Georgetown Waterfront Park}

Now that I am home, I thought I would share some of the highlights from my trip. While I was able to make it to American University for a walk down memory lane, Georgetown for some shopping, and Dolcezza for two scoops of their delicious gelato, I was unable to stop in at Crumbs & Whiskers (perhaps I’ll have to book another trip to D.C….with Amtrak!).

The weather during my 48-hour stay was ideal. It felt almost summer-like, which was a welcome relief from the rainy conditions I experienced when I departed New York. Thanks to the warm weather, everything was in full bloom in D.C., which made for great photo ops.

Washington DC 1

Georgetown 2

Washington DC 4

Despite the travel snags, my time in the District was much needed, and I feel like I came home to New York with a renewed perspective.

Here’s a quick recap:

Hotel Room Views

{The view from my hotel room}

Daniel Webster

{Statue of Daniel Webster—Dupont Circle}

American University 2

{Welcome to The American University!}

American University 1

{My old study buddy at AU—right outside my dorm}

American University 3

{McKinley Building—one of my favorites at AU}

Washington DC 3

{Even the doors get in on the political action in D.C. LOL!}

Dean & Deluca

{Capitol Cookie at Dean & DeLuca}

Dolcezza - Georgetown

{Dolcezza—home of the best gelato in Georgetown}

Lunch - Georgetown

{Final meal in D.C. at &pizza}

Wandering in Washington, D.C.

American University, Washington, D.C.

Whenever I go back to D.C I feel very nostalgic. I remember being a young student, living on my own for the first time and departing as a college graduate who had had my own apartment, made some great friends and learned a lot about myself. I am so grateful for those years in D.C.!

My first stop is always The American University campus and visiting all of my favorite spots.

American University, Washington, D.C.

American University, Washington, D.C.

School of Public Affairs - American University

American University, Washington, D.C.

American University - Washington, D.C.

American University - Washington, D.C.

I lived at McDowell Hall my first semester and spent time reading and studying on the deck behind the dorm. It was the perfect place to get some sun and take in the beautiful D.C. weather.

McDowell Hall - American University

McDowell Hall - American University

McDowell Hall - American University

Walking around the Tenleytown area and stopping at my first apartment on Wisconsin Ave brings back good memories.

Wisconsin Ave - Washington, D.C.

No trip to D.C. would be complete without a meal at Z-Burger

ZBurger - Tenleytown

And Chef Geoff’s!

Chef Geoff's - Washington, D.C.

What’s a shop-a-holic to do on a beautiful day in D.C.? Head to Georgetown, of course!

Georgetown

Then have a leisurely lunch at Martin’s Tavern. Order the Fish & Chips…you won’t regret it! This Georgetown staple has been around since the Great Depression and has seen the likes of presidents from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush.

Martin's Tavern - Georgetown

Follow it up with the best gelato in town! Head to Dolcezza and sample some of their indulgent flavors. I’m partial to the Valrohna dark chocolate. If you really want to splurge, order the Dulce de Leche latte and people-watch over coffee.

Dolcezza - Georgetown

Dolcezza - Georgetown

Dolcezza - Georgetown

Saving the best for last — catching up with my former roommate and friend, Steph, so we can tour AU and reminisce together!

American University Roomies

Life Lessons From My D.C. Days

American University - 2009 Graduation

I am excited to be visiting Washington, D.C. and to be back at my alma mater, American University today. It has been three years since I have been on campus, and six years this month since I graduated. Sometimes I’m struck by how much time has gone by since taking the stage that May day in 2009 and accepting my diploma, and other times it has felt like just yesterday I was packing up my first apartment and closing the chapter on my college years. Either way time has passed and a lot has happened in my life. I remember entering college as an equestrian, concerned with how I would juggle my schoolwork and my riding. Then two years later, having to adapt to leaving Long Island and making new friends as I transferred to American. And finally, transitioning into the real world as a college graduate and landing my first job.

Fast-forward six years and I am not the lawyer I thought I would be, or the girl with the masters degree teaching political science classes. It has taken me six years to realize who I am and who I am still becoming. Some lessons have come to me through setbacks with my health and in losing a good friend, while others have been a more natural progression. I am grateful for what time has taught me…things I could never have learned in the classroom. Today, as I reflect on those four wonderful years, and where I stand at the six-year mark, I thought I would share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far on my journey.

Be kinder than necessary…for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. As someone left with an invisible illness after thyroid cancer (that would be you, hypothyroidism!), I know firsthand how hard some days can be for me. I endure a consistent state of exhaustion, and while my day must go on, it’s the little things that people do or say that I remember most. The sweet text from a colleague inquiring as to whether I would like Starbucks, the phone call from a friend that I’ve lost touch with, or just an acquaintance asking how I am feeling. Taking a few seconds each day to check in with the people around you can make a difference in someone’s day.

This too shall pass. Nothing is really permanent and change can be lurking just around the corner. So on those days where you answer one email and ten come to its funeral (almost everyday, for me), you find yourself running between meetings instead of outside, and breakfast and dinner meals are one-in-the-same, take a deep breath and remind yourself that soon the craziness will end and it will be a distant memory.

Say what you mean…and mean what you say. How often have you wanted to say something to a friend or co-worker, but let the moment pass? This happens to me often where I feel I should’ve offered someone a “congratulations,” or let them know how much I appreciate all they do. Don’t put off telling someone how you feel, and when you do, make sure it is sincere.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is too short to worry about petty things that won’t matter in five years, and the things that are out of your control. Do the best you can every day, believe in yourself and don’t worry if you make a mistake. You will learn as you go on that setbacks are not the end of the world. They will help you realize that it either wasn’t the right time or a better opportunity will present itself…if you let it.

Illegitimi non carborundum. My good friend who passed away used to remind me of this saying all the time. It’s a mock-Latin phrase which loosely translates to mean “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I always took it as worry about yourself, stand in your truth and don’t let negative influences interfere. Whenever a situation stresses me out, I always think of her and smile, as I repeat this phrase in my head. I swear, it gives you inner strength!

To all of the 2015 graduates, congratulations on your milestone and best of luck in your future endeavors. Don’t forget to enjoy your graduation day and keep in touch with the people that made your four-year journey rewarding!

Confessions of a “Recent” College Graduate

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Last week was the five-year anniversary of my graduation from college. A lot has happened in five years – I moved back to Long Island, traveled to Japan, Poland, Finland and Portugal, got my first real job working in higher education, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, found yoga, moved on to a position at a large university, lost a good friend, and began to learn the importance of finding inner peace and living in the moment.

This time of year always makes me reflect on where I was five years ago and what my future might look like. I think about all the things I wish I knew when I was still in school and about to graduate, and things that nobody could have told me because I needed to learn those lessons on my own.

I took a year off after high school and worked. At the time, I was unsure which direction I wanted to go. I planned to be a veterinarian since I was a child and was an avid equestrian, spending most of my time at the stable with my horse. After my “gap year,” I attended Dowling College, a small private liberal arts school near home. I enjoyed commuting, as it allowed me to go to school during the day, work and continue riding. My first semester was spent taking business courses, since I thought this would be the most versatile degree. After a handful of marketing and management courses, I knew in my heart that this was not the degree track for me. During my second semester I took a class entitled “Modern Political Thought,” my first political science class. I was hooked! I spent the next year and a half as a political science major, taking as many classes as I could.

After two years at Dowling, I transferred to The American University in Washington, D.C. It was an adjustment at first – living in a city, making new friends, and being at a larger school, but I was ready for a change and wouldn’t trade a day of it. My roommate my first semester is still a good friend today and has been a constant presence in my life, despite living in Ghana.

At American, I continued with my major in Political Science and added a concentration in Justice, Law, and Society. Intending to go to law school, I never gave much thought to what I would do with the degree if I did not pursue my graduate education.

I graduated on May 9, 2009 with my degree in hand (Former Congressman Barney Frank was the commencement speaker), but I was ready to take a break from school. I had skipped my high school graduation years earlier, but found it necessary to attend this milestone. I remember walking across the stage to accept my degree, and it was like crossing the finish line at a marathon – four years of hard work, countless papers written, hours of studying and prepping for exams were all over. Now the hard work truly begins – although I did not know how true that statement was then.

Once I moved out of my D.C. apartment and was back on Long Island, the excitement from graduation wore off. The next challenge was finding not just a job, but a career. I had decided to take at least one year off before pursuing law school, but one year quickly became two, then three.

My first real job was in fundraising at a local law school, where I got a firsthand look at the life of a law student. The more time I was out of school and working, the more I began thinking of what I wanted my work-life balance to be. I was okay with another three years of grueling school work, and in some ways the idea of law school still intrigues me, but the reality is that being a lawyer is not the kind of lifestyle I could see myself having long term.

Four years after graduating from college, and three years after embarking on a career in higher education, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I took a respite from making any further major life decisions regarding my own pursuit of a graduate degree. For six months, I researched everything I possibly could about surgery and treatment options, saw countless doctors, and prepared myself emotionally and physically for life as a cancer survivor. It was the first time in my life that I was not panicked about future decisions and did not dwell on past mistakes. I simply wanted my health back.

After recovering from surgery with a renewed outlook, I accepted a position at a university. It felt like the first step towards regaining control of my life. I have now been in my ‘new’ job for nine months.

What have I learned since graduating?
Well, to put it simply, a lot. These last five years have taught me that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my life will not be either. I try not to worry so much anymore about what will happen next year, or the year after that, because I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future. I live each day thinking about the good I can do that day, not what I forgot to do yesterday or have yet to tackle. The most important thing I have learned about life is that without your health, you have nothing.

What advice would I give a college student?
-Major in what you love, but have a back-up plan
-Find a mentor – I am so grateful to the professors I met along the way who helped me find my path
-Don’t bury yourself in student loans – you have to pay them back, and as Suze Orman warns, they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy
-As hard as you think you have worked in college, get ready for even more hard work
-Your degree does not guarantee you a living, you have to create that yourself

What advice did my former roommate, friend, and fellow American University graduate, Stephanie offer?
– Be prepared to learn anything; ninety percent of the time, your job/career will have nothing to do with what you studied.
– Spend time learning to be a confident person. Not loud, but confident or seemingly so. It goes a long way.

Most importantly, enjoy your college years. You are not there just to earn a degree, but to learn a few life lessons along the way!

Congratulations to all the 2014 graduates, and best of luck in your future endeavors!

Saturday’s Find

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During one of the rare Saturdays that turned out to be relatively uneventful, I had the luxury of catching up on some reading. Naturally, needing to feel inspired and like an under-achiever at the same time, I picked up my American University Alumni Magazine. There, I came across a piece featuring a New York City alumna who worked for Kate Spade Saturday, a division of the luxury brand, which capitalized on its storefront locations and revolutionary idea of showcasing their products using touch screens and window displays. The article ended with a prompt to “design your bag at Saturday.com,” which moments later I did.

After entering the site and adding my email address to the mailing list, I found my first reward in my in-box – a 15% off coupon. Before being able to browse the site sufficiently, I was quickly summoned by the tab reading ‘Design a Weekender Bag.’ As someone who can never have enough bags, I knew this was right up my fashionable alley. The bag, which comes in two sizes, The Custom Small Weekender Bag and The Custom Weekender Bag, can be personalized in your favorite colors and patterns. For the monogramed look, which is a great option when using a bag for travel, you can also add your initials for a truly one-of-a-kind custom creation.

You can guess what will be arriving on my doorstep in the near future!

Happy shopping!