Toto, we’re not in Boston anymore

by Olivia DiNucci / Columnist • October 4, 2012

The Los Angeles program may attract hundreds of Emerson students each year because of the city’s reputation as the world’s hub for film and television, but a group of Emerson students discover their own “Hollywood” for politics and international relations in Washington, D.C.. This semester, 19 Emerson students are enrolled in the Washington Center — a program combining evening courses, a civic engagement project, and a full-time internship. This year in particular, amid the presidential election, the world’s eyes are on Washington D.C. more than ever. The Emerson interns are working across the spectrum — National Geographic, the State Department, and the multi-party movement No Labels to name a few. Whether or not you have been to D.C. or plan on visiting, the comparisons between here and Boston may give you reason to come visit or stay home:

Fashion — If you don’t have a blazer, you don’t belong: No more getting away with rolling out of bed and going straight to the dining hall or class in what you wore the night before. Back-to-school shopping consists of buying “real people” clothes. The Washington interns face the reality of tossing the hoodies, welcoming the blazers, and investing in close-toed heels instead of flip flops. There is no excuse to not dress to impress. Even if you are on a budget, work what you’ve got. No one is paying attention to the fact you are wearing the same sports jacket every day or rotating one of the three dress shirts you own underneath. The difference between business casual and business professional is simple: Wear business professional to work and wear business casual to the grocery store.

Sports: Die-hard Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins fans mostly have strong ties to Boston or New England. In D.C., most residents are not from the area originally, and therefore are not all going to paint their bodies in 10 degree weather to cheer on the Redskins. Instead, they represent cities or countries with their own teams. But what are folks down here rooting for the most? Their political parties. In D.C., there is no place with an atmosphere like Lansdowne Street in Boston to watch a game. Instead, there are plenty of places that attract large crowds to watch political debates and elections.

Happy Hour: It exists in D.C. and is illegal in Boston. Without going on much further — considering that may be all you need to know — D.C. does not have the dozens of colleges that the Greater Boston area has. It does have a variety of nationally accredited universities, but it is mostly a town with young professionals dying to be a part of the system, who will work either for free or very low salaries. This whole demographic still views afterwork hours as a time to relax and possibly network. Young people are able to fill their stomachs without emptying their wallets. Sure, nothing beats a $2.50 pitcher at Jose McIntyres, but in D.C., the options are endless.

Networking: D.C. is no place for introverts, at least if you plan on getting a job. The elevator pitch every Emerson student is required to give during freshman year is something worth perfecting. Whether the self-promoting pitch is given in an elevator, on the train, at a conference, or at a seminar, it may be worth the initial state of awkwardness. One recent alumnus who spoke to the Emerson students in Washington landed an internship with John McCain’s office after talking with someone at a book signing in Harvard Square. Her persistence paid off. Not only did she get the internship, but after three months, she was hired as his press secretary. This is not necessarily a unique circumstance, and this definitely does not happen just in D.C. Invest in some business cards (even if they are homemade) and start talking to strangers!

At times it seems as if one is comparing apples and oranges when deciding whether to study off campus in L.A. or D.C., but both offer a wide variety of things to do, places to see, and people to know. Make the comparison for yourself — and come visit!