SkillsTravel

After living in Washington, D.C. for the past five years, I am a convert. A convert to public transportation, that is. Until I moved to this city, my gold ’95 Honda Accord (please, don’t laugh) was the preferred method of getting from point A to point B in my suburban town. I was pretty unfamiliar with how city commuting worked. I imagined confusing maps with too many colors, a lot of random numbers, accidentally going the wrong direction, and always being a few cents too short. I admit it took me a period of trial and error to get D.C.’s transportation system down pat, but once I did, I never looked back. In this article I want to tell all city-visitors and those city slickers who are still skeptical about all the great reasons to make public transportation your main method of getting around. Here are my tips on how to use public transportation like a true pro.

1. Download the app. It will absolutely become your best friend. Most metropolitan areas with public transportation systems have an accompanying app for smartphones that are equipped with maps, schedules, and a real time schedule that allow you to see exactly when a bus or metro will arrive. This means no more looking at scribbled-on posters or fading signs, just look at your handy personal guide via your phone anytime, anywhere. This is the app I use for Washington, D.C. – it’s great!

2. Buy a rechargeable card. Getting a permanent card you can reload with money is useful if you are going to be using public transportation frequently. Not only does this mean you can have a nice plastic card, as opposed to a flimsy paper card or coins, but it allows you to get right on your bus/metro quickly without stopping to add money.

3. Minimize train transfers to save money and time. Transferring can sometimes lead to extra waiting time and fees, so I do my best to avoid it completely. I like to do this by walking a few extra blocks to the line that takes me directly to my destination. Not to mention getting a few more steps in the day is always beneficial for your health!

4. Follow the unspoken courtesy rules. Sometimes these rules are written (“Save these seats for disabled and elderly passengers.”), but sometimes they are not. For example, be that kind person to give up your seat to a pregnant woman or someone with lots of groceries. Try to help someone with his or her bags and make sure to keep the seat next to you empty so someone else can sit down. Public transportation karma is real, people.

5. Keep your wallet in order. Or your pockets, or your purse, or wherever you store your card/ticket/coins for your journey. Putting these items in the same place every time you commute will help eliminate headaches and minimize impatient groans from passengers behind you as you board and depart.

6. Always travel with water & a granola bar. We don’t live in a perfect world, so sadly public transportation is sometimes unpredictable. Since you can’t predict when a delay may happen or do anything about it when it does, the least you can do is be prepared. I like to always have a drink and small snack on hand at all times because that way, I may be late and annoyed, but at least not thirsty or hungry!

I hope these tips bring you some good ideas and clarity on how to utilize public transportation and enjoy its services. Happy traveling!

Image: Flickr

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Ana Cvetković is a recent graduate of the George Washington University where she studied Journalism and Mass Communications. Having been surrounded by journalism while growing up, it was only natural that Ana would pursue it in her studies and career. Originally from Belgrade in Serbia, Ana’s stateside home is now the east coast. Ana is also the founder of the beloved food blog, Better Than Ramen, where she blogs about her visits to restaurants around the world. Furthermore, Ana has gotten into cooking recently, and she documents the food she cooks and enjoys.

A little fun fact about Ana: she is profiled in our book, Youth’s Highest Honor. Ana shares her motivations for earning the Congressional Award and what she did to earn her Gold Medal from Congress.

Read on to learn more about what qualities Ana thinks makes a strong intern, what putting a blog post together looks like, and how she defines seizing her youth.

Name: Ana Cvetković
Education: Journalism and Mass Communications at the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs
Follow: Better Than Ramen / @betterthanramen / FacebookLinkedIn

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Ana Cvetković: Seizing Your Youth is about taking advantage of opportunities that are given to you. It’s about saying yes to those opportunities and giving them a shot to figure out whether or not they are right for you. When you are young, people are more willing to help you out, so you should take advantage of that opportunity. Seizing Your Youth is also about making opportunities for yourself. I started my food blog, Better Than Ramen, because I knew I could write about food well without doing it for someone else’s blog or organization.

CJ: You studied journalism and communications in college. What led you to those academic passions and why did you choose to study them in a formal setting?

AC: I’ve always been surrounded by journalism. Growing up in Belgrade, I would see my grandmother read Politika, Serbia’s newspaper of record, every day. When I moved to America, I fell in love with American Girl magazine. I remember the first issue I read was February 2000 and it had these ideas for throwing a slumber party and I thought they were so much fun. The magazine tapped into my creative side. As I grew older, I began subscribing to magazines. Whenever an issue would come to my mailbox, I tried my hardest to make it last me the whole month. So it was my love of reading magazines that made me consider a career in journalism. While I still love writing, my coursework at George Washington University and internships with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Smithsonian have made me fall in love with video production.

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CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?

AC: While it’s neither a cause nor an issue, I believe that everyone should travel the world. Many people have shallow worldviews because they don’t know what else is out there so they think their way of life is the best. I was born in Belgrade, Serbia and moved to the US when I was very young. I grew up speaking Serbian and spending my summers in Belgrade. Besides having two passports, I feel like I have a dual identity. When I’m in the U.S., I notice how my Serbian values and traditions differentiate me from my peers. When I’m in Serbia, I feel American because I don’t quite fit in there either. I have a unique perspective because of my dual identity and travels. I’m not saying that the solution to all of the world’s problems can be solved through travel, but connecting with people of different nationalities, races, and cultures can remind us that we are all human.

CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2013. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

AC: My high school had a strong service-learning program. Many of my friends got involved with the Congressional Award and they said it would look good to colleges and help them get scholarships. My high school’s service learning coordinator, Mary Rodgers, helped me get started and served as my mentor throughout my journey. My biggest takeaway from participating in the Congressional Award experience is that I can achieve my biggest goals with the help of organization, patience and persistence. It made me more disciplined.

CJ: You write your own food blog called “Better Than Ramen.” What prompted you to create that website and what has been the greatest part about blogging so far?

AC: I think all great ventures begin out of boredom. A few months before I launched the blog, and at the end of my freshman year at GWU, I was having lunch over the summer with two friends who were just heading off to college. One of them was going to school in Boston, another in Philadelphia and I was already attending school in Washington. We were at a Middle Eastern restaurant and we were all taking pictures of our food – this was way before the days of Instagram. I thought it would be cool to document our dining adventures in these three great cities, so I set up the blog, but months passed and we never did anything with it. A few months later, I went out to brunch with a bunch of friends on New Year’s Day while I was home for winter break. The next day I felt bored, as most college students probably do when they are home for a break. Inspired by the brunch, I decided to revisit my blog idea. I wrote my first post and the rest is history.

I had started several blogs in the past, but they never lasted long because they didn’t have a theme. I knew I could keep up a food blog because I have to eat, so whether it’s a meal at a restaurant or something I whipped up at home, I would always have something to write about.

The greatest part of blogging is having people tell me that they love reading my blog (or even that they’ve heard of it!). Part of the reason I gave up on past blogs was because I felt like no one was reading them. BTR is like an online diary for me because I have so many memories associated with the meals I’ve had. However, the blog is still written as a guide with practical information, so it’s thrilling when I hear that people have gone to a restaurant that I’ve suggested. It’s rewarding and empowering knowing that I’ve influenced someone.

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CJ: You are passionate about writing and sharing information about food with your BTR audience. What is the process of creating a post and how much time is required?

AC: The process is pretty quick at the restaurant. When the meals come to the table, my friends or boyfriend or whomever I’m dining with know to not touch their meals until I’ve snapped a picture (thanks for putting up with me!). I’ll usually ask my friends for a bite or two of their dishes, or for them to describe their meals. Then I take notes of my impressions or their thoughts on the Notes app on my phone. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible when I’m eating out with a group of friends, but they’re gracious and are used to my picture taking at this point.

When I go to write a post, it could take anywhere from an hour to a few days, depending on how excited I was about the meal. I typically take photos with my phone, which isn’t great in low lighting situations, so I spend time touching up the photos so that the lighting quality doesn’t distract from the post. Then I write my review, do some research on the restaurant, and insert the photos. After that, I create social media posts for the new article to make sure it gets to as many readers as possible.

CJ: You spent your senior year at GW interning for the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at Smithsonian Institution. What are your top three tips for being a strong intern?

AC: 1) Have a specialty. At the Smithsonian, I produced, filmed, and edited videos for the Seriously Amazing marketing campaign. I was the office expert when it came to using our cameras and video editing software because I’ve used them in class and my past internships. My colleagues had tons of experience in other areas of public affairs that I didn’t know much about, but I was an important part of the team because I had expertise in an area that others didn’t know as well.

2) Always ask for more work. Show that you’re eager by taking on extra assignments. An internship is really what you make it, so if you’re okay with just doing the bare minimum, you won’t impress anyone and you won’t learn all that you can. Do as much as you can to learn what you enjoy doing.

3) Learn from your co-workers. Asking your co-workers about what they do and how they got there flatters them and gives you insight into career options in your field. This is especially useful if you don’t know exactly what you want to do. Your colleagues could also put you in touch with other people they know at places you may want to work.

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CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on work and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

AC: My Mondays are atypical right now because I just graduated and am looking for a job, so I’ll describe my typical Monday during my last semester at GWU. I only had one class on Mondays, so I was one of the lucky few who didn’t have to wake up to an alarm that day. I’d sleep until I was well rested, make myself breakfast, then go to my American Architecture lecture. I was out at 2 p.m. so I was free to do as I pleased if I’d taken care of my schoolwork.

I’ve really taken advantage of living in DC by thoroughly exploring the city. I minored in art history, so one of my favorite spots to spend time in is the National Gallery. It’s less touristy than the Smithsonians, so you can easily occupy one of the comfy couches they have in each gallery and read, study, or sketch for a few quiet hours while taking in masterpieces by Rubens or Fragonard.

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

AC: I’m always looking for new ways to improve Better Than Ramen. Now that I’ve graduated from college and am on the job hunt, I have a little more time to dedicate to growing the site. I’m looking into forming partnerships with brands and local businesses to create exciting new content. I’m also hoping to introduce videos to the site because I have the skillset to do so and because multimedia storytelling would add another dimension to my writing.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

AC: If I’m drained and stressed out, I unwind with a cup of tea and Netflix. House Hunters International is my guilty pleasure because I was born in Belgrade, Serbia and have traveled a lot so I love seeing how people live around the world. If I’m dealing with a stressful situation I need to talk it out, so I’ll call my family or my boyfriend to work through the problem.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

AC: When senior year of high school comes around, don’t take AP Physics. You don’t need to take the most difficult class your school offers, especially because physics has absolutely nothing to do with your college major! In high school we are taught to take everything so seriously and that everything will look good or bad to colleges, which will then look good or bad to employers. Stay focused, but don’t take everything so seriously!

Ana Qs

Images by Ana Cvetković

Book PostsTravel

There’s no shortage of activities and sites to see in Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital is an energetic hub of history and progress. Whether you’re attending school, interning on The Hill, or landmark hopping, D.C. is an exciting place to be. The last time we were in D.C., we were earning our Congressional Award Gold Medals. Before and after the ceremony, however, we took advantage of being in close proximity to iconic memorials and landmarks.

You likely won’t be able to fit in all that the city has to offer in one trip, so we narrowed down our list into the top 10 must-see places, both popular and off the beaten path.

1.  The White House

2. The Lincoln Memorial

3. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

4. National Gallery of Art

5. Smithsonian Museums

6. The Roof of the Kennedy Center

7. Arlington National Cemetery

8. Visit the Library of Congress

9. Hike or bike along the Potomac River

10. Explore Dumbarton Oaks

What are your favorite things to do in Washington, D.C.?

Image: Vadim Sherbakov

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When Genna Reed discovered her love for biology after whale watching in Cape Cod as a kid, she pursued that passion in high school, college, and graduate school. It wasn’t until Genna took an environmental policy class that she realized she wanted to shift gears from science to policy and advocate for environmental change. Genna started working toward her Environmental Policy master’s degree the fall after graduating from college.

What we love about Genna’s story is that when she recognized what made her excited, she followed those instincts. When a class re-awakened her interest in environmental policy, she turned that passion into further learning and ultimately, a career. Genna now works as a researcher at Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization and consumer rights group that focuses on corporate and government accountability relating to food, water, and fishing. She spends her time researching and writing materials to support Food & Water Watch’s campaigns, specifically their GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling campaign.

Genna provides insight into how she spends her days, what it’s like being a researcher and advocate for the environment, and what the important things to know are when it comes to genetically engineered food. We’re inspired by how determined, passionate, and knowledgeable Genna is, and she really captures the ‘Seizing Your Youth’ spirit.

Name: Genna Reed
Education: B.A. in Biology and Psychology and M.A. in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University
Follow: @gennaclare / foodandwaterwatch.org

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Genna Reed: Youth is an advantageous time in a person’s life because individuals are most open to exciting opportunities and big changes, while also being resilient enough to manage these changes with ease. This flexibility begins to fade with age. It is absolutely essential that young folks take advantage of their freedom and explore new passions and interests whenever they can. Unless you happen to be Benjamin Button, you’re not getting any younger, so take advantage of it!

CJ: You majored in Biology and Psychology from Lehigh University. How did you decide what to major in?

GR: I have been very passionate about biology ever since going on my first whale watch in Cape Cod as a kid and becoming an instant die-hard humpback whale advocate. I was always more interested in my science and math courses during high school and carried that with me into college where my course load was predominantly biology and calculus courses. I was on the pre-med path until my senior year when I took an environmental policy course that re-awakened my interest in advocating for environmental change.

CJ: You also received your master’s degree in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

GR: I realized at the end of my senior year of college that I wanted to shift gears from science to policy. I had worked at an environmental chemistry lab at the Meadowlands in New Jersey for two summers extracting very high levels of pesticides and other contaminants out of soil and water samples. I realized just how badly humans had polluted the environment and how essential it is that our society work to clean it up. Although I enjoyed working in a lab, I wanted to help work on concrete changes at the policy level. It just so happened that Lehigh had started up an Environmental Policy master’s program that seemed like a great fit for me. I began the master’s program the fall after graduating from undergrad at Lehigh.

CJ: You worked as an intern at the Wildlands Conservancy where you led environmental education programs and handled live animals including turtles, lizards, snakes, and owls. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

GR: I really loved working at the Wildlands Conservancy because I got to share my excitement about the natural world and environmental conservation with kids. I learned how incredibly important it is to expose children to environmental experiences at a young age and to teach them how they fit into the biological cycles and what they can do to help protect the environment. It’s really fun to channel kids’ energy and enthusiasm into becoming mini environmental stewards!

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CJ: You were a National Network for Environmental Management Studies (NNEMS) Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What was this experience like and what did you do as a Fellow?

GR: While I was completing my master’s thesis on wetland regulation and preservation, I was lucky enough to get a temporary fellowship position in Philadelphia with the EPA’s wetland division. I was able to apply things I was learning about wetland biological assessments into the policy world and to see firsthand how regulations are enacted. I spent my time with the EPA comparing and contrasting different ways to assess the health of streams and wetlands in order to find the best way to determine how these bodies of water can be protected from pollution and degradation.

CJ: You now work as a researcher for Food & Water Watch where your focus is on new technology issues within the food system. What does your role as researcher entail?

GR: I spend most of my time researching and writing materials (reports, issue briefs, fact sheets, op-eds, letters to the editor, blogs and testimony) that support our campaigns, specifically our GMO labeling campaign. I also work on federal comments on issues relevant to genetically engineered crops and animals and present our research at certain science and policy forums, stakeholder meetings and public hearings.

CJ: What are the three most important skills you need as a researcher?

GR:
1. Patience. It’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for.
2. Versatility. We have to be able to write about food policy to a range of different audiences.
3. Positive Attitude. Working at an organization that attempts to protect our food and water, we are up against very strong corporate interests, which makes it difficult to win our campaigns. We have to remain positive and keep on keeping on.

CJ: You research genetically engineered foods and the impacts that the technology has on farmers, consumers, and the environment. For people who are starting to learn more about genetically engineered foods, what are the most important things to know and keep in mind?

GR: The first thing I always tell people that are just learning about genetically modified foods, or GMOs, is that the way that this technology is currently used is first and foremost a moneymaking scheme for biotech companies that own seeds as well as the herbicides that are used with them. Herbicides are poisons, and their use has increased since GMOs were introduced. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the safety of GMOs and the herbicides that are used with them, and we have been the guinea pigs for this experiment since these crops and associated chemicals have been used for the past 20 years and foods made from these crops have been sold without labels the entire time. We should all be outraged at the lack of accountability and transparency from our regulatory agencies that have been keeping us in the dark about what’s in our food for far too long.

CJ: Food & Water Watch is an advocacy group with food, water, and environmental policy campaigns. Why do these issues matter to you and what can young people who are interested in these causes do to make a difference?

GR: There is not a single person in the world that is not affected by food, water and environmental issues. I have always believed that we have to take responsibility for the way in which we’ve treated our natural resources as commodities since humans began colonizing this planet. It’s high time that we begin thinking about the environment as having its own intrinsic value. Interested young people should get involved at the local level in their communities by getting educated on issues and joining with other concerned individuals to demand change.

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CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

GR: Monday mornings are spent drinking earl grey tea and going through my emails from the weekend and my to-do list that I’ve written on Friday afternoon. I start the day off finishing quick research tasks and then move on to longer-term projects as the day wears on. I try to do my writing either first thing in the morning or right after lunch, when my mind is the clearest.

Throughout the day, I usually have a couple of calls with our organizers on the ground to discuss campaign details and how we can work together to advance our cause or with representatives from other organizations who work with us in coalitions in order to build power to affect change. Hopefully by the end of the day, I have checked more things off the list than I have added.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a researcher do now to set him or herself up for success?

GR: Having an inquisitive mind is a great way to begin preparing to be a researcher. Research is really just the process of finding an answer to a question or a set of questions. Another good skill to start honing is the ability to distinguish between good sources and questionable sources. It is essential that good research be backed up by solid fact and discerning between what is credible and what is not is imperative in this line of work.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

GR: E.O Wilson’s Biophilia was incredibly important in shaping and affirming my own opinions about the importance of protecting the environment and the role of humans in preservation. Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac was also very influential for me.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

GR: I usually go for runs to clear my head. After that, I spend time cuddling with my two cats, Jack and Willow, for comfort (if they’re in the mood, of course).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

GR: As a researcher with a dual monitor computer set-up, sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with inputs. Growing up in the age of multi-tasking and short attention spans, I sometimes struggle with devoting my full attention to individual projects as I’m working on them. I’m attempting to be more mindful of this and to fully immerse myself in one task at a time rather than spreading myself thin on a bunch of tasks.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

GR: I probably would tell 20-year-old me to spend a little bit less time studying and more time exploring the state parks and natural beauty around Lehigh and farther out into Pennsylvania.

Genna Reed Qs

Images: Genna Reed

Travel

According to common legend, bliss is defined in the dictionary as “perfect happiness,” but I am convinced there would simply be a picture of Eastern Market. That is all the definition you need. Last Saturday, I treated myself to a visit to this delightful place in Washington D.C. after a hellish few weeks of midterms. There is nothing quite as restorative as perusing through this massive market full of treats and treasures.

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Directly off the blue line metro at the appropriately named “Eastern Market” stop, the lovely Capitol Hill neighborhood welcomed commuters with an interesting rendition of Pharrell’s song “Happy” – always a promising sign. Making my way less than two blocks to the heart of the market, I grinned at the sight of friendly crowds and vendors in their full splendor. Where should I go first? Eastern Market, opened in 1871 as a way to urbanize Washington and provide residents with goods, is made up of three main areas – the indoor South Hall Market, the Weekend Farmers’ Line, and Weekend Outdoor Market.

I was a bit snackish (and a bit broke), so I started the visit by winding through the Weekend Farmers Line, an open-air venue outside the main building called South Hall where local farmers sell their freshest produce. Walking through you can count on grabbing free, tasty samples of perfectly crisp Pink Lady apples, tangy homemade mustards, artisanal cheeses, fresh fruits, and more. Each vendor is so proud to tell you about their produce and answer any questions you may have, which I find much more pleasant than searching for produce in the refrigerated aisles of a supermarket.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Eventually, I made my way inside the impressive South Hall Market. Picture a scaled down version of Grand Central Station full of baked goods, produce, flowers, and other neat trinkets. That’s what it looks like to me at least! Eager shoppers peer over strangers’ shoulders and into every display case making sure they’ve covered all the bases before they head home to cook their garden-fresh meal. Wisely or mistakenly, I choose not to buy a glorious, fragrant slice of sweet potato pie from one of the vendors in the name of disciplining my gnarly sweet tooth. You be the judge.

Finally, I crossed the pedestrian street to the Weekend Outdoor Market to scout out some one-of-a-kind furniture pieces for my new apartment. This market is more “flea” style, complete with antique furniture, clothing, jewelry, artwork, and other crafts. Admittedly, it is not the cheapest flea market in the District, but you can be sure the quality of goods is relatively high. From vintage maps, giant pig statues, pearl necklaces, wooden cutting boards to thrifted leather jackets, there is something to entertain everyone. I spied an organically shaped pine coffee table that was perfect for my living room, so I was quite happy.

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Before I knew it, it was late afternoon and I had to get back to my reality of obligations. Walking back to the metro I was already planning my next visit, and rest assured I headed home smiling from the buzzing energy of the little world that is Eastern Market. DMV-ers and visitors, put this destination on your itinerary. You won’t regret it!

Image: Flickr

CultureTravel

What do Scandal, House of Cards, and Bones all have in common? Aside from them making for an absolutely ideal television binge, they all take place in your next daytrip destination: Washington, D.C. This powerful city has been my home for the past four years and I’ve learned that it has much more to offer than architecturally impressive government buildings. Washington, D.C. is teeming with art galleries, farmers markets, and funky neighborhoods waiting to be explored.  Welcome to the Nation’s Capital!

Morning

Good Morning! If you’re like me, you wake up ready to eat, so head over to Ted’s Bulletin in southeast D.C. for breakfast. Known for their homemade pop tarts, this timeless diner-style restaurant serves breakfast all day. I recommended The Big Mark Breakfast comprised of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast, and a pop tart… because why not treat yourself?

After your delicious breakfast, walk just a few blocks and explore Eastern Market, D.C.’s original food and art market. There’s no better way to begin a day in the city than pleasing all your senses by tasting fresh food samples, appreciating stunning artwork and antique trinkets, and smelling the fragrant homemade candles and incense. The market has such a magnetic energy about it that can put even the grumpiest person in a bright mood.

Afternoon

By this time hunger is likely creeping up again which means it is time to grab lunch at Founding Farmers. Beyond satisfying its hungry customers, this friendly hotspot works to support regional farmers by serving sustainably-farmed and locally-grown food. Try their Farmers Slaw Reuben or Creamy Vegetable Bacon Bucatini, both dishes are like nothing I’ve ever tasted and simply delicious.

This afternoon, be a proud tourist by a visiting a few of D.C.’s most famous sites. Because you have just one day in the city, I would pick just two or three you are most interested in. My favorite spots in the city are The White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and The National Museum of the American Indian. Take your time at each of your destinations, relishing in its immense history and appreciating its impressive construction. After all, you’re in the heart of America.

Evening

After a busy day in Washington, D.C., begin to wind down with dinner at one of the city’s beloved restaurants. For those looking for a place with a story, try Ben’s Chili Bowl or its neighboring upscale restaurant, Ben’s Next Door in the U Street Corridor. Only differing in their atmospheres, Bens’ celebrates the historically African American presence in D.C., as it’s survived through 1960s race riots and gentrification. The energetic restaurants serve D.C. signatures, like half-smoke chili dogs, and are especially lively on the weekends.

For those looking to try new cuisine, go to Das, and Ethiopian restaurant in the Georgetown neighborhood. Romantically lit with candles on each table, Das serves traditional Ethiopian cuisine consisting of the fluffiest injera (a sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture) and a variety of spicy meats and vegetables. I usually get their combination plate, which has injeria with flavor-packed chicken, beef, greens, potatoes, chickpeas, and egg. Don’t forget to order their chocolate cake; something about it is inexplicably magical.

If you still have some energy left, head over to the Dupont Circle neighborhood to people watch at its fountain or browse the series of quaint boutiques and stores. The picturesque area is usually quite relaxing with street performers or live-music at nighttime. Be sure to stop by Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café. Open nearly all hours of the day, this part bookstore, part café is frequented by passionate writers and mysterious-looking intellectuals. If we are being honest, I’ve only ever been here for dessert, but let me tell you, their Rustic Apple Tarts are the only way to end a day in Washington, D.C.

Time-Permitting

If you have time, honor our troops in Arlington National Cemetery, shop in Georgetown, or catch a free performance at The Kennedy Center.

*Hey day-trippers, check out itineraries for Philadelphia and Savannah!

Image: Aysia Woods

Culture

With the U.S. patent office preparing to strip the Washington Redskins of their trademark, the team that has received much backlash might lose its ability to solely own the Redskins logo.

For years, American sports teams have come under fire for their mascots or team names that follow culturally insensitive caricatures of the Native American race. Stanford, Dartmouth, and Marquette are just a few schools who changed their trademarks in response to complaints from the Native American community. However, teams like the Washington Redskins still perpetuate these Native American stereotypes by fighting for their trademarks and claiming that they are honoring the culture through their use of an infamous racial slur.

Whatever intentions the Redskins hoped to make, it does not discount the fact that their actions preserve older viewpoints that were used to justify the oppression of tribes in the Old West. For example, in old Western films Native Americans were either portrayed as noble savages that existed as sidekicks to the John Wayne-esque hero of the film, or as bloodthirsty savages who tore their way through western American civilization, leaving carnage and despair in their wake. So these people were only ever viewed as those worthy of assimilation into white-society or as beasts to be sent for slaughter. These two portrayals are not only constrictive of the Native American culture, they are also still used constantly in American sports.

And, to an extent, American society has tried to make up for these indiscretions through film and media. Some Westerns such as The Searchers attempted to make the idea of miscegenation between Native Americans and Caucasians more palatable for society and hoped to show discrimination against tribes as a thing of the past. Also, in the 1970’s, the Keep America Beautiful campaign utilized The Crying Indian as a way to show Americans the downside of littering. But with all things aside, both forms of media exploited the bloodthirsty and noble savage institutions. Why can’t media portray Native Americans like they do Caucasians, as limitless beings?

One of the few accurate portrayals of Native Americans in film is in Smoke Signals. The film follows young Victor and his friend Thomas, two Coeur D’Alene Indians, as he comes to terms with his father’s death. But what is underneath the surface of the film is the idea of reconciliation with the past; the idea that sons can mend what fathers have broken.

And I believe that idea is the solution to all of this uproar with American sports teams like the Redskins. By using a person or race as a mascot, you are reducing them to the status of an animal- considering that is what most mascots are. We have done away with most logos that marginalize African Americans, so what is different about the Native Americans? And as the Washington Redskins prepare for the appeals court in order to protect their patent on their mascot, I hope people keep in mind the fact that this racial slur is a commonality of the past. As the present and future of society, it is vital to be culturally sensitive and to fix what social issues past civilizations threw to the wayside.

Image: Business Insider

 

CultureEducationSkillsTravel

The past couple of days have been a whirlwind in our nation’s capital. As I shared last week, I was honored to receive the Congressional Award Gold Medal yesterday. From the dinner to the actual Medal Ceremony, it has been awesome getting to see more of D.C., as well as meeting the other amazing medal recipients. If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you’ve seen a behind-the-scenes look at what I experienced. I thought I’d share some more details about the pictures here in a diary format. Let’s begin!

Tuesday, June 17

Penn Station

 7:00am – Rise and shine! The train for D.C. left bright and early, and the journey officially kicks off with a delicious breakfast sandwich, apple juice, and a full itinerary for the next couple of days.

Train view

8:00am – The view from the train is perfect for zoning out and seeing America zip by. Love views like this when I want to focus on absolutely nothing.

Working on the Train

 9:00am – Enough zoning out. It’s time to get some work done! With a full to-do list and more posts to write, the train is the best time to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s like being at the airport – there are many ways to stay productive.

National Geographic Society

 2:00pm – No time to waste now that I’m here in D.C.! Made a super cool stop at National Geographic HQ for an awesome upcoming Professional Spotlight. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 18

Constituent Coffee Russell Senate Office Bldg

8:00am – Another early D.C. morning! I trek to the Capitol to meet for a Constituent Coffee with Washington’s Senator Patty Murray. It was a pleasure meeting her and other Washingtonians.

Gold Dinner 2014

 8:00pm – The first official Congressional Award event: the Gold Medal Dinner. I took Catherine, who has earned her Silver Medal, and we met really inspiring youth from around the country. We also heard from some pretty incredible speakers, including Kevin Liles, the Honorable Ron Kind, and Chris Jordan.

Lauren holding CA medalist book

 9:00pm – Here I am holding The Congressional Award Medalist book with other medalists’ stories and speaker information. The energy of the room was contagious!

Thursday, June 19

Carpet from Ceremony at Capitol Cannon Caucus House

 9:00am – The time has come for the Congressional Award Gold Medal Ceremony! This carpet design caught my eye, and I couldn’t not snap a quick picture before going through security. I felt so official just standing on this carpet.

Offices in Cannon House

 11:45am – Walking through the halls of the Cannon Caucus House. Everything is so…impressive.

Catherine and Lauren by reflection pool

 12:05pm – Catherine and I standing in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Can you spot the Washington Monument? Can’t wait to be here again next year when she earns her Gold Medal!

Lincoln

 3:30pm – I have the afternoon off! I walk to the Lincoln Memorial, and as usual, am in awe of its impressive size and beauty.

This week has been amazing, to say the least. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me, and I hope you enjoyed the sneak peeks!

CultureEducationSkills

Love politics, public service, and Washington D.C.? This internship might be perfect for you!

Apply to intern at the White House Internship Program this Summer 2014. Interning at the White House will give you an incredible opportunity to have a hands-on approach to politics, public service, and building your leadership skills. You’ll have to send in essay questions, your one page resume, and letters of recommendation by January 5, 2014. Get started now!

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