Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Washington D.C. 2009 – the greatest adventure of my life!
Every year, the US Department of State is the sponsor for the FLEX Civic Education Workshop which takes place in Washington D.C. It is a one week training where over 100 FLEX students participate. Once they come to D.C., they learn about US history, the political system, volunteering and leadership. The students have the possibility to visit many sites, as well.
It was an essay competition first, where over 700 FLEX exchange students applied.
So, I got this great possibility to participate in a one week workshop in Washington D.C.
The day of arrival was March 15, when the students came to the capital of the United States. Everybody was excited to see again some of their fellows and to meet new people from other countries, as well. I was happy, too, to see some students from my country. We got together and talked about how our American experience is going. It was nice to hear that all of them achieved a lot of things here.
The next day, actually the first one when we began to discover the US capital, started with a visit to the Newseum. The Newseum is a place where you can learn about the press and media from United States, from it’s beginnings until present. Actually, it is a huge museum. Our excursion began with a 4D movie. This was something new for me, because I’ve seen only 3D movies so far. It was amazing seeing kind of real action and also feeling it, because there were real effects as wind or spraying with water. After the movie we went to a seminar where we discussed about the role of television in US daily life. We talked about the importance of a good video shot in a presidential campaign, and its influence in promoting a candidate. The next thing which we’ve done was watching a video which explained what the news is. “The hate, the sacrifice, the war, the freedom, the life is the news.” I really liked to play the role of a journalist in the Newseum, where I with two exchange students from Moldova did a short interview/report. It was fun staying in front of the camera, with a microphone in the hand, being on Capitol Hill’s background!
Later in the evening, we participated at a seminar: “The Roots of Democracy in US,” were we could learn about the beginnings of democracy in United States. The speaker Adam Fogel, explained how a real democracy looks like and he said that “it should come from the people.”
On Wednesday, we got the possibility to visit the Capitol Hill. It was one of the most important and interesting experience from workshop. Each student had its own schedule for that day and we had to meet our state’s senator and representative. At the beginning of the day, the schedule looked a little weird for us because we had to do all the visits by ourselves. But because we are FLEXible, we could do it!!! So, at 9 AM we were in front of the place where just a few months ago, millions of people were listening to Obama’s speech during his inauguration ceremony. Until 12 PM I visited different museums and galleries that belong to Capitol Hill. After these visits, I had my first official meeting with the senator of the State of Maine – Mrs. Olympia J. Snowe. I had a discussion with her about how do I see the state of Maine, and we talked about some little issues. She was pleased to hear from me that the state she represents has prettiest nature.
The next point from my schedule was assisting at some conferences of the House of Representatives and Senate. It was interesting to see how an official meeting is organized. After that I had another appointment – with the Representative of the State of Maine – Mr. Michael Michaud. We talked about how important are the exchange programs for USA. The Capitol Hill day was a special one, of course, because not everybody has a possibility to meet with a senator in person. It was a pleasure to talk to them.
During the week we have been to the US State Department where we’ve met the assistant secretary Mr. Richard A. Boucher and Mr. Daniel Fried. They talked about the relationships of USA with the European and Asian countries. We could ask questions, but it was very hard to get to the microphone to address it, because there were a lot of students who were excited to ask questions regarding their own countries. We had also the great pleasure to meet Alina Romanowski, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges. She spoke about the importance of the exchange programs for developing the world. We were excited to ask her how is to work with Mrs. Hillary Clinton, of course!
Other important things that we have done in Washington D.C. was visiting many historical sites as Abraham Lincoln Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, the Vietnamese and World War 2 memorials, the African American Civic War Memorial and others. Seeing the White House was just amazing! The Supreme Court impressed me. At each site, our coordinators talked to us about their history.
We visited a lot of museums, the Botanic Garden and a lot of other places about which I am not going to write “kilometers” in order do not become boring for the readers!
I can say that I had a wonderful week in Washington D.C. It was the perfect time to see the cherries beginning to blossom. It says that the Cherry Blossoming from D.C. is one of the most beautiful natural events from USA. I got to see some of them.
I was surprised to see in Washington not too many people. The streets are not crowded and you can easily walk or drive. I liked seeing all the people dressed-up, with a dress-coat and tie. Everybody is so official there and this made me feel comfortable.
We had great speakers and coordinators during the week. They did a great job learning us about leadership, about volunteering and the Civic Education, in general. I learned a lot of things about US, I have met many people with different points of view about some things, but who have also the same directions in their lives – to become a leader in their society and make a difference thru doing projects that will help the former Soviet Union countries to develop better and solve their problems.
I want to thank the US State Department for giving me this great opportunity to experience the American life and learn about its society. Also, thanks to American Councils, to FLEX program staff, to coordinators, to host schools, and of course, to our wonderful host families who opened their houses and hearts for us. Thank you!
Washington D.C. adventure will remain for a long time in my memory. The children I have met there were just amazing and I have learned from all of them many skills, many things about their countries and their lives. We had a blast and we are still missing each others! Washington D.C. 2009 – the greatest adventure of my life!
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