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Waltonian’s own studies in D.C.

Tourist: traveler for pleasure; traveler for personal advantage; someone who travels in order to take advantage of a particular service or benefit that is not available at home.

I suppose school is a personal advantage, maybe to some it is a pleasure, but I never considered myself a tourist in a city I have spent the past three-and-a-half months in. When I first came to Washington, D.C., to study journalism in the Best Semester program, I considered all of the touristy things to do in the city: the monuments, the Smithsonian, the famous restaurants and of course Bush’s current home. I wasn’t all that interested in the places and things I already had the opportunity to visit and see on numerous class trips to the capital. I was more focused on becoming a local as quickly as possible.

I wanted to find places that I would be willing to spend a lot of time in, like local coffee shops. I wanted to know where I was going on the bus and not have to rely on their Web site and trip planner every time I wanted to go somewhere. I didn’t want to walk around with a camera and take pictures of all the things that others have captured on film – I barely wanted to see them. However, curiosity and the overwhelming presence of the Capitol building in my daily backdrop often peaked my interest.

Then it hit me. Philadelphians who have never admired our famous murals or who know absolutely nothing about our history annoy me. People live in a city like Philadelphia, our first nation’s capital, and never do anything but what they’re used to. If this upsets me about locals where I’m from, including myself at times, why did I want so desperately to become one of those oblivious residents in our nation’s current capital?

I don’t want to leave this city and sit on a bus in Philadelphia wondering why I never took advantage of what D.C. has to offer. I recently set out to do more in the city, go to the museums and monuments and still find more lounges or coffee houses that only the locals know about. It’s a beautiful city where I find myself saying, “I want to come back and be a tourist some day.”

I want to be someone who is in D.C. for pleasure, taking advantage of what is not available at home. But why is it that some of the best experiences we leave to the tourists? For the next month I will be a resident of Washington D.C., and I want to use and abuse the place for all it’s worth. It feels good to have someone ask you for directions and not respond with a blank stare. I love being able to get on a bus and know how to get back on a different one if necessary. But do these things make me a local?

Honestly, I still use SEPTA’s Web site for directions. Unless they’re asking me how to get to my house, lost drivers in Philadelphia get the same blank stare backed up with a little more thought. Though I don’t gladly wear the badge of a tourist, I will proudly appreciate what home, wherever it may be, has to offer.

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