On the ride from the shuttle to the hotel, it was clear we weren’t in Crete, Neb., or even Lincoln or Omaha. As buildings were being identified as home to World Health Organization and U.S. Institute for Peace, the importance of Washington D.C. began to truly set in.

Though I had never been to Washington D.C. before, I knew many international organizations, foreign nations and obviously the U.S. Federal Government had a presence in the city. However, it wasn’t until I began seeing this presence firsthand that I truly understood where I was.

Following the ride to the hotel, our group walked to find a nearby restaurant for dinner and again I was struck by the strong international presence. During the fifteen minute walk, we passed the Egyptian, Portuguese and Colombian Embassies, but there were even more whose flag I couldn’t identify.

The presence of these buildings and organizations do more than make for interesting architecture and a good geography test. On the streets of Washington D.C., decisions are made that shape not only the current situation in the US and abroad but can also be felt around the globe.  

This trip has helped to put in perspective much of my college classroom learning. As a political science major, the Constitution, political process and international non-profits have frequently been topics of classroom discussion. Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect between the students and the real life implications of what is discussed.

This trip has given us the opportunity to hear from individuals who make the system work. We witnessed a Supreme Court oral argument, an event which has the power to shape American law into the indefinite future. We were able to speak with someone whose job is to inform the world of news coming out of our nation’s capital, CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. We were able to speak with someone whose job involves sharing the findings of congressional investigations, Press Secretary for the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Taylor Foy (’09). Listening to a handful of experiences from these three again helped make the world we learn about in textbooks seem more human.

Though it is often too easy to think of textbook chapters and the news as faceless and disconnected, experiences such as this one help to put it back into perspective. It serves as a reminder that behind the boring pages, the obscure flags and every piece of news are real people who make it all work.

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