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Now that we are roughly halfway through our program, I am so grateful for the amazing experiences I have had in D.C. (although there is still a long list of things I want to do before we leave!). The activities that have been organized for us are ones that I probably would have never thought of or had access to if I were spending the summer in the city for myself — for example, we were able to tour NPR’s headquarters this week. Joe Palca, the NPR science correspondent, showed us around and also sat down with us to talk about his career and perspectives on science journalism. Having these weekly speakers has acquainted me with various science policy issues and pushed me to think deeply and driven me to explore areas outside of what I would consider my comfort zone.

On the other hand, having these thought-provoking conversations so frequently have been mentally draining at times. Especially on days where it’s been a busy day at work and then I have to make the 1 hour commute straight from work to a speaker, I find it harder to absorb the information and be an engaged listener. Sometimes I’m distracted by what I’ll be cooking for dinner or what I had been doing at work that day. What I have found to be very helpful is to take time for myself to reflect alone, whether that is waking up earlier in the mornings before work or going to the gym. It has made me feel less overwhelmed with all the information that is coming at me and allows me time to process. Forming my own thoughts and conclusions is something I always try to do before going into our weekly Thursday reflections.

While I enjoy and am excited to participate in serious conversations ranging from climate change policy to bioethics, my favorite time of the day is usually dinnertime. My suitemates and I decompress as we get out our ingredients for dinner, talking through a roadblock at work or sharing something fun that happened that day. Now that we have lived together for several weeks, I honestly cannot remember the first day when I walked in barely knowing anything about them. I’m very thankful that our personalities mesh so well together, and they really make me feel at home in a city I’ve never really spent time in before. We still have a few weeks together left, but I already know I’ll miss our weekly Trader Joe’s runs, weekend restaurant explorations, and nightly conversations about anything and everything.