Charanya in Washington

Charanya is a junior President’s Scholar with a triple major in political science, French and finance. She is interning this summer in Washington, D.C., at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan research institute.The recipient of the Jack C. and Annette K. Vaughn Foreign Service and International Affairs Internship through SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, Charanya is working in the center’s International Security Studies Division, helping compile research for her supervisor’s new book, which focuses on the re-integration of rogue and pariah states, such as Libya, South Africa after apartheid, Russia and China. She’ll also help with an upcoming book launch.

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Work, fun and politics in D.C.

CIMG0411-sm.jpgAs I write this I’m sitting in the eerily quiet “intern workroom” on the third floor of the Woodrow Wilson Center. It’s really just a computer lab for interns to type, research, highlight and occasionally pause to sip coffee.

Because the Wilson Center is a research institute, the pace here is slower and steadier than that of a Congressional office, where deadlines are looming and deals are brokered. At the same time, the Center hosts over 500 events a year, so when I arrive at work every morning, there’s always a new glossy set of brochures and spread of breakfast (brioches, fruit, coffee, orange juice) laid out ever so neatly and a steady hum of voices and applause on nearly every one of the Center’s eight floors.

In fact, the department in which I work – the Division of International Security Studies – has a book launch and lunch event next week. My work, however, is primarily to research states considered to be “rogue” or “pariah” – the usual suspects, Iran and North Korea, along with Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, and others – for a book about re-integrating outlier countries into the international community.

The Wilson Center is actually owned and operated by the Smithsonian, which is just across the street (our next-door neighbor is the Environmental Protection Agency). I’ve yet to explore any of the surrounding landmarks, but so far I know this: I love D.C. I love the fact that its license plates say “Taxation without Representation” (of all the slogans D.C. could have placed on its cars!), I love the user-friendly Metro (although I’ve taken it in the wrong direction more times than I’d care to admit), I love the limousines with tinted windows suggesting that someone famous and political is sitting inside, and I love the general 90-miles-an-hour pace of this city.

The amount of things to do is almost overwhelming, so I’ve made a list, complete with Metro stops. Sadly, the visit I was most excited about – seeing an oral argument at the Supreme Court – isn’t to be, as the Court is out of session until September. I’ve already ventured in the vicinity of First Street, home to the Court as well as the Capitol and the six buildings used by Senate and House committees, to attend a Wilson Center event about national security concerns in the 2008 election featuring my internship supervisor along with top pollsters (one of whom I recognized, aurally at least, from NPR!)

Speaking of the election, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were here yesterday, Obama to give an address at a conference, Clinton to “meet with Capitol Hill supporters to strategize her next move.” Although I was a rally-attending, sticker-sporting Hillary supporter, I’m happy and relieved to see the nomination resolved and the party coalescing around Obama.

I’m off to lunch now – probably a delicious and subsidized sandwich courtesy of the Center cafeteria, to be eaten outside at a table on the vast Woodrow Wilson Plaza, which, incidentally, has promised free lunchtime jazz for a week now but has yet to deliver – and then on to more research and D.C.-exploring. Stay tuned!

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