CHRISTAL BUNCH / THE EAGLE
You are finally here. You made it to one the best cities in the U.S., the seat of power where change-makers meet and policy battles unfold. This city will be your home for the next nine months, so make the most of your time here before it’s gone.
The Scene is here to provide you with tips and tricks to help you blend in with the locals (even in a city where everyone is from somewhere else).
Get a SmarTrip. Immediately.
Ditch those farecards (the ultimate sign of a tourist) and march to CVS, the campus bookstore or one of the dozens of SmarTrip vending machines to be installed in the coming months to pick one up.
This $5 card will pay for itself with the discounts on Metro fare, won’t get demagnetized like paper cards and usually does not have to be removed from your wallet as it glides over the reader.
Also, when you plan to familiarize yourself with the bus system (which you should definitely do), it is much easier to use your SmarTrip than to pay with change on a moving bus (it is dangerous, trust me - my twisted ankle is proof). Once you get a SmarTrip, make sure to register it online in case you lose it (it happens to everyone) so that all your hard-earned fare money is not lost forever.
Esca-lefting (verb): to stand on the left side of the escalator reserved for people in a hurry to pass; the ultimate sin (in my opinion) for a Metro-rider. Common courtesy on the Metro is to stand on the right and walk (usually run if in a hurry) down the left. If you esca-left, be prepared for glares and barks of “Move!”
Do tourist things like a local
As a new D.C. resident, you are obligated to get your picture taken in front of your home state at the WWII memorial, a picture next to the Washington Monument that makes you look like you are pushing it over and go up and down the Mall into every Smithsonian museum. But having tourists photo-bomb every picture or press their noses up against the glass case of the Hope Diamond can certainly be annoying, so be smart about going to these sights.
Going to the monuments at night means no sunburn, a cool evening breeze and a spectacular (and very romantic) view of the monuments. Weekday afternoons at the Smithsonian museums are often less crowded than the weekend and not as bombarded by local school field trips.
Explore (because there is more to D.C. than the monuments)
From Little Ethiopia to the Spanish Steps in Kalorama, this city is filled with gems that you cannot see in the typical panorama pictures of the D.C. skyline. Use your weekends to walk around and a get a feel for your new home.
One of the best ways to explore? Volunteering either at a community garden, tutoring at a public elementary school or serving D.C.’s homeless at a soup kitchen. Through volunteering you can learn about the critical issues in D.C., including the AIDs crisis, the suffering public school system and “food deserts” with their connection to the severe income disparity between D.C. residents. The more you learn about your city, the more you can use your ambition to help.