By Jon Lueth
I hope this doesn’t come across as too repetitive, but if you read my last blog post you know that Washington D.C. is crawling with Drake alums, and members of the Drake network. There’s a wide array of positions, places, and so on in D.C. that the Drake network has successfully been able to tap into and a seemingly endless amount of help to be given to current Drake students who aspire to work in one of the many career fields the network taps in to. All of this is amazing, but it is actually only the beginning of the wonderful world of D.C. and the life that a Drake Bulldog can have there. Again, those connections are crucial and no one is denying their importance. However, they are just a piece of the puzzle that makes D.C. so accessible to Drake Students, or at least to this Drake student. For starters, the city is incredibly easy to learn. As many of you
may know, we spent the first day in D.C. working on this very task, and I can honestly say that after only a few days I got the hang of the city. The nice thing about D.C. is that the entire city is on a grid and thus if you know your cardinal directions you can figure out pretty much exactly where you are, and where you want to go. Further, that grid is broken up into four quadrants, which again all you have to know is if you want to be in the NW, NE, SE, SW quadrant and you can figure out exactly where you want to go. While on the topic of the navigability of the city, the metro is a wonderful system that is vital life in D.C. Again,
it only takes a few short days, and several rides on the metro, for you to learn the system. The reason the metro is so vital to being able to move throughout the city is simply that the metro can get you pretty much anywhere and everywhere in the city, or it can at least get you within a mile of your location.
But I digress, all of this is information is necessary. Learning these systems is incredibly useful and does a lot to make you feel like you are a part of the city. Less than halfway through the trip I found myself indoctrinated into much of the D.C. culture so much so that I began to get frustrated at “new tourist” (the ones who showed up in final few days before the inauguration). The best example of this is the culture of the escalator. There is a simple rule in D.C., if you’re riding the escalator to the top you stand to the right so that people can walk up the left side. A few days into navigating D.C., and a lot of dirty looks later, you get the hang of this. It becomes so engrained into you so quickly that you immediately begin judging the people who don’t adhere to the “rule”. But as I said before this is only a piece of the puzzle.
Again, I apologize that thus far this blog might have been repetitive, but finally I can move into new territory. Finally, the big reason that D.C. is essentially a (this) Bulldog’s second home is that it simply builds upon everything that Drake has prepared us for, at least in the political science department. In the department we are not only taught, but actively participate in political discourse and dialogue with people from a variety of beliefs and backgrounds. This concept is at the heart of the D.C. culture and arguably one of, if not the most important skills to have. Knowing how to productively talk with other people in general, but specifically how to talk with other people who have very different beliefs from you, or who have beliefs similar to yours but with a few fundamental differences, is key to finding success both at Drake, and in D.C. Part of the reason this is so crucial is simply the
fact that you are going to be working with these people in some way throughout your career and it is impossible to survive if you dislike everyone and refuse to work with them, you find yourself isolated and struggling to exercise a network.
On that note, networking is key. Both Drake, and D.C. put an emphasis on teaching you the importance of networks. The smallest connection can turn out to be a major asset for you personally or in your career. Having a network at Drake is essential if you want to get involved on campus, understand the best, and worst courses to take, or even have an “in” for political campaign, or any other variety of job options in the area. This translates perfectly into the D.C. culture, as your network may be able to get you into any myriad of events being hosted in the city (such as when Alec Wilcox and myself were able to purchase tickets to the Freedom Ball on Inauguration night) or perhaps they can help move your resume along quicker than it normally would.
Next, Drake prepares its students for the world of politics by encouraging them to actively participate in the political process while still a student. One of the most common narrative themes that we heard from variety of our Drake Alums, was the idea that Iowa political experience goes a long way in D.C. Many of us already have campaign experience which proves our dedication to a cause/candidate/set of ideas, and is an excellent way to show off our work ethic. This, according to our alums, rakes in high marks from employers. Beyond that though, coming from Iowa, Drake political students are able to bring forward a different perspective on issues than a lot of other people in the D.C. area. We are uniquely equipped to be able to speak on issues pertinent to both cities (with the easy accessibility to Chicago, the Quad Cities, the Twin Cities, Kansas City, St. Louis) and rural areas. This different world view is (allegedly) highly regarded as it provides a new way of thinking about a variety of issues and topics that come up while in the work force.
In the end, D.C. really does feel like a second home for me as a Drake student. All of the skills I’ve acquired over my time at Drake seamlessly translate to life in D.C. Beyond simply translating to the lifestyle, many of those skills from Drake, provide a valued addition of thought to the traditional Washingtonian way of thinking. All of this combined with the aforementioned network that rest in D.C. makes it clear, that should I or any other Bulldog, elect (no pun intended) to move to D.C. it would take virtually no time at all before we were feeling at home in our second city.