Washington D.C.: Our Nation’s Capital and Our Classroom

By Seth Harper

Global Gateway Washington D.C.

As an incoming sophomore in the class of 2024, virtual learning is all I’ve known with the exception of one class. Lots of staring at a computer screen, lots of awkward silences. All students now shudder at the mention of Zoom breakout rooms. It was a difficult year. But we made do. And we made it through.

We now find ourselves only a few weeks away from the start of another semester, which will provide its own new and unique challenges. But before that, 13 of us have a special way to end the summer: an academic excursion to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. I can’t think of a better way to learn about and discuss the effects of race and discrimination on our modern political climate. 

The trip didn’t start out as smoothly as we had planned. 8 of us were supposed to leave from the Dane County Regional Airport at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, August 10. We would then meet up with the other 4 of us (one was going to be traveling separately) in Chicago and then fly from there to D.C. We should have arrived a little after noon and began our class.

It didn’t go that way.

I woke up Tuesday morning at 4:45 so that I would be able to get ready and get to the airport by 5:45. After I got ready I looked at my phone and found out that our flight had been cancelled; it was now set to depart that day at 5:45 p.m. My first thought was, “oh no, I hope this doesn’t delay the class too much.” My second thought was, “this isn’t so bad, I can get a few more hours of sleep now.” That was just the beginning of the troubles that befell us on our way to our destination. After several more delays, miscommunication about the right to our hotel that night, and almost missing our flight the next morning, this trip almost never got off the ground (see what I did there). But eventually we made it. 

Wednesday morning, the 11th, was our first in-class seminar. To get there we have to walk 25 minutes in the humid D.C. climate, but it is always worth it because at the tail end we walk right past the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Capitol Building. Once we arrived inside the building, we found that we had an entire room prepared for us in order to best facilitate our academic pursuit. The air conditioning I think is what we appreciate the most, but our space also includes a sink, dishwasher, and full-size fridge.

Our first class began with us all introducing ourselves and Professor Canon giving some preliminary announcements and expectations for the class. Once we began discussing the actual topics for that day’s seminar, we realized that perhaps discussion in the class wouldn’t be as easy as we thought it would be. Talking about what an author says and explaining a stated outside opinion is one thing; giving your own opinion and being critical of an article is another thing entirely. It was nice when Professor Canon addressed this elephant in the room and said that it was not only okay for us to share our own opinions, but encouraged. Eventually we got more comfortable not only with the material but with each other. Over the first week, it is obvious that some strong friendships are growing.