A Semester in DC

A journal capturing a Best Semester experience

The end of the semester already?!

December 5, 2010 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

It is hard for me to believe the semester is almost over already! I have one more week in D.C. and next Saturday (Dec. 11), I head back to Kansas. My semester has been absolutely wonderful and I am thankful I had the opportunity to spend a semester off campus. I am not looking forward to saying good-bye to the city that I have grown to love or my new found friends.

As I look back on the semester, a couple of things come to mind as my favorite things this semester. I will take a bit of time to reflect on them here:

1. Blues Festival– One of the first weekends we were here, there was a free blues festival outdoors in a park in D.C. It turns out that it is actually a pretty well known festival, and in the blues world, very high quality music. The music was AMAZING, the setting was beautiful, and it was at the beginning of the semester when I was just getting to know some of the people I am now friends with. None of us were really sure what we were getting into when we went, but it turned out wonderfully, and I am so glad I went!

2. Classes with experts– The whole semester, we had the opportunity to meet with experts in energy and energy policy. We spent 10 weeks looking extensively at energy policy in the U.S. through 3 different lenses– environment, economics, and security. We heard from experts who work at leading think tanks and senior staffers in Congressional offices and committees that deal directly with crafting energy policy. There were many times I left meetings in a bit of daze because the experts were so smart!

3. Family visit– I will admit it, I have missed my family! I haven’t necessarily been especially homesick, but I have missed having the chance to be around my family. In early November, they were able to come and visit me and that was a wonderful and special time. I was a tour guide of sorts, and I was actually able to see some of the touristy things I had not yet had a chance to see.

4. Visiting the White House!!!– Yesterday, my roommates and I had were able to go to the White House to a Christmas Open House. It is hard to get in to see the White House, but one of my roommates got an invitation to bring 3 guests to this event. It was hardly exclusively, but it was necessary to have an invitation to get in, so it felt pretty exciting! Although we were not able to see the whole thing (or anyone famous), we were allowed to take our cameras, normally not allowed, so we have pictures to document the experience!

Finding our value

December 5, 2010 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

A couple of days ago, I made a mistake that I had somehow avoided making the whole semester. I forgot my employee (or intern in my case) badge that lets me bypass the line for the metal detectors and enter the building without having to wait in line. I realized my oversight as I was sitting on the bus and immediately I became a little bit panicky. You see, a week ago, new metal detectors were installed that have made the line to get into the building RIDICULOUSLY long! I mean, like over a block long. Needless to say, it could have been a very long wait for me at the front door. Luckily, I got there before a line had formed and I was through security within 5 minutes.

My discomfort over forgetting my badge did not stop there, however. I realized throughout the course of the day that I hated not having my badge when walking through the building. When I passed other employees in the hallway, I thought “no one knows that I work here too. They probably wonder why I am here, going down this hallway. But they should know, I am not one of the people that has to come here, I work here!”. Similarly, when I passed people who came to do business in the building, I thought “they don’t realize I work here! I’m not like them, wandering apprehensively through the hallways, unsure of where to turn. I wish they realized that I am not just one of them!”. Now even as I sit here writing this, it feels pretty silly, but that is exactly what I was thinking.

As I think back on that experience, I realize that when I am in my internship building, I attach a lot of my value as an intern to the fact that others can know that I work there. (This is certainly not true in my specific office, where everyone knows me.) It gives me a sense of importance, and to be honest, superiority over those who have to come to the building for business or personal reasons. I am actually quite unhelpful when it comes to directing people which office to go to if they come to mine mistakenly, but when I wear my badge, I somehow feel more in control.

I think that we all attach our value at our jobs, in our personal lives, and at school to various things or beliefs. One thing this semester has challenged me to do is evaluate what I place my value in at my workplace, especially in a secular environment. I believe that as Christians we not only have the privilege, but also the responsibility, to attach our value to our faith in Christ. I have struggled with what it looks like to find my value as an intern not through an outward object like a badge, which clearly displays that I belong in the building, but through and in my personal belief in Christ. I have by no means come to a conclusion, but I am thankful for the opportunity to engage this question in the context of a Christian community with people who are struggling with similar issues.

Routine vs Adventure

October 23, 2010 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

I should start this post with a confession: I am a creature of habit. I feel most comfortable when I have a routine that I can follow. I have known this about myself for a long time, but have never really given it much thought. These last couple of weeks have forced me to reconsider this however.

I am finally into a routine with my internship. I no longer have to worry about the little things—the bus will be late sometimes and that is ok, there will be a lull in the work and I can adjust to a new project. Having a routine is wonderful because it makes everything so much easier.

As I have gotten to know my coworkers better, they have told me of the wonderful advantages of working for the government. To understand what the office is like, it is important to know that it is truly a 9-5 job. Employees never have to come in early to get a jump start on work and they never have to stay late. While they are at work, everyone works hard and it is definitely very important to complete all work, but it is not a job that requires a lot of extra effort. My coworkers have praised the virtue of having such a job, and I must admit I started to buy into it.

Now I want to clearly articulate that there may be a season of life when such a job is a blessing and what will be the best thing for you. For example, several of my coworkers are parents, and I would imagine that it is really nice to be able to just go home after work and not bring any work home. That being said, I have recently been convicted by hearing the stories of several people who have lived adventurous lives.

At ASP we had the wonderful opportunity to hear from professionals here in DC who are mentoring ASP students. The night was dubbed “Share Your Mentor Night”, and it was a great chance to get together as a group and hear from Christian adults who are living and working in the DC area. I was struck by a common theme I picked up from all the mentors– the importance of being adventurous. I don’t know if anyone actually said that, but it was certainly evidenced in the way they have chosen to live their lives. I was amazed by all the places these people have travelled and all the things they have done! It felt like a huge wakeup call for me from God—it is not ok for me to settle into complacency as I search for a job in the next few years. I don’t know exactly what that will look like or where I may end up working, but I do know that I must force myself to break out of routine and habit and take chances.

The most important lesson I have learned from my internship is that I while I may be tempted to settle into schedules and habits, God has called His followers to live adventurous lives that are anything but routine.

A City of Power

October 19, 2010 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

My apologies for not posting last week. We were finishing up a big project, and I was working like crazy to complete it!

One of the aspects of Washington that has been hard for me to comprehend is that it is a city full of so much political power. For one of my classes, my classmates and I had the opportunity to meet with staffers in the both the Dirksen Senate Building and the Cannon House Office Building. For whatever reason, I had never really considered where exactly the Senators and Representatives had office space, but I have come to learn that office space is available in these buildings. I had the opportunity to wonder the hallways for a bit of time (which the public is free to do if you ever come visit) and it was very surreal for me to pass by the offices of Senator after Senator and consider all of the important decisions they are faced with everyday. At one point, I got to the hallway where Vice-President Biden’s office space is located, and I must admit I was just in awe of the power concentrated in one building.

Because I am in such close proximity to people of immense power, the lure of power can be strong at times. However, I am also forced to consider what power should look like in a Christian. On one hand, I am wary of political power because Jesus did not come seeking political power or to rule as a king. I wonder if, by following Jesus’ example, Christians should also not seek political power, but instead live the life of service that Jesus modeled for us. Nevertheless, it would seem that we should desire Christian leaders (from both political parties) who are guided by Biblical principles and are concerned with the issues Jesus confronted. I would argue that leaders who are not intoxicated by their own power and are instead able to use their power for the good of others are the kind of leaders we need in politics.

This internal dilemma is something I am working through, and probably will continue to do so for some time.

Riding the bus

October 3, 2010 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

It was the first day of my internship and I had to go to the Human Resources office to get my security badge. I was nervously excited for my first meeting with my internship supervisor and more than anything, I wanted to make a really good first impression because I had only emailed her. The night before, I had looked up directions to get the building and I decided that to cut down on walking, I would take the bus. I realized that I would have to switch buses, but I felt that I would be able to handle this and left enough time in my schedule in case something weird happened. Apparently I should have left more time.

Everything had gone as planned on the first leg of my commute to work, and I had even gotten on the second bus I was to take just fine. After riding on the second bus for a short amount of time, I became aware of the overwhelming scent of urine in the bus. I initially wrote the odor off as being on one of the many people on the bus. Because there were so many people on the bus, I was forced to stand for the trip, and at one point, many people were trying to get off the bus at one stop. Now I hate feeling like I am in the way and because I had little experience riding the bus, I was worried I was violating some sort of unwritten bus code by standing where I was. Because of this, I was trying to press myself up against the seat against which I was leaning (no one was sitting there) as much as I could. To make matters worse, the man in the seat next to me was speaking urgently to me, telling me to move. I was about a half second away from plopping down in the seat in an attempt to allow for maximum amount of room for people getting out of the bus when the man said “DON’T sit!!! A man peed in the seat!!!” I would love to be able to see the look on my face when I realized that the seat was soaked, and I mean soaked, with urine. The urine I had smelled all made sense now. I could not believe it—I was overwhelmingly thankful that I had not sat down on the seat but I was mortified that I had leaned up against the seat, exposing a small part of my skirt to the urine soaked seat! I realized that I did not have time to go back and change my skirt, but I was also aware that I smelled slightly of urine on my first day! Talk about mortifying!

Since that humiliating first day, I have ridden the bus to work every day (although because I am going to the main building, it is a different bus). Thankfully, the bus has been clean and odor free (for the most part) on every occasion. As I evaluate my commute, I am so thankful I ride the bus because it gives me such a wonderful chance to observe the city and all the people out and about. I see the businessmen hurrying to work, the schoolchildren walking to school, and the homeless people waking up from a night spent on a park bench. It has been an eye-opening insight into the many sides of the city.

Hello from DC!

September 26, 2010 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

Greetings from our Nation’s Capital! My name is Amanda Faber and I am a junior spending the semester in Washington D.C. I am here through the American Studies Program, which is part of a larger organization that offers eleven semester and one summer off-campus study programs, Best Semester. Best Semester was created by the Council for Christian College & Universities, which Tabor is a part of. There are around 30 other students from around the country here this semester.

While I am here, I am taking a few classes from the professor on staff here, Peter Baker, as well as participating in an internship for roughly 25 hours a week. My internship is at the DC Superior Court in the Mental Health Division. It is the job of the office to make sure case jackets are ready for hearings before the judge and they work closely with the judges. I am still learning all of the procedures but I have really enjoyed it thus far.

I plan to update this blog at least once a week, if not more. I want to write about my internship and classes some, but also about living in the city and some of the unique aspects of it. For example, there is “the Hill”, a temporary home to many of the most powerful people in the country and world, and there are the neighborhoods where families have lived for generations, seeing the city through it’s good times and bad. Hopefully this blog will give you an insight into the city that is always on the nightly news.

Hello world!

September 20, 2010 by · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

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