24 March 2016

Thoughts from a bus (actually a plane): Goodbye and Thank-you

The iridescent gaze of the afternoon DC sunlight gleefully dances off the plane’s wing, illuminating the cabin in a golden azure haze. There’s just something about travelling, that state between destinations where you’re almost suspended in time, poised to reflect on your journey as you watch the green swathes of Ohio and Colorado sweep by, the ultimate state of reflection. 

The hardest thing about leaving DC was definitely the people. All during the afternoon before our flight we’d made our rounds, a swan-song of sorts, to multiple apartments where US and Sydney kids alike played to their everyday cadence, whether that be recuperating after a Guetta rave the previous night or hastily remitting the last few pairs of socks or souvenirs into already overstuff luggage. This collective milieu of students has been my surrogate family for the past nine weeks. From the first night when they bombarded us with American enthusiasm over our funny accents, stories of the Aussie outback and consolations that we were below the legal drinking age, we’ve dined far and wide across DC and Virginia, ticked off all major attractions along the Mall one-by-one and had way too many post 2AM deep-and-meaningfuls in each other’s rooms. Together, we’ve challenged preconceived notions of American fast food, split an inordinate number of Uber and Lyft rides between us and shared morsels of culinary decadence stretching the limits of our cramped apartment kitchens.

Leaving the East-West Center we’ve left 4 packets of Tim-Tams which were voraciously devoured in the first two days, gained memories of round table lunchtime discussions about the origins of cupcakes to the ethics of taking airplane headphones and forged long-lasting friendships that will inevitably transcend the geographical borders that bound us. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive, optimistic and engaging workplace for my first internship and it’s these experiences, from the shared dislike of liquorice jellybeans to going out as a group to FedEx 20 huge parcels that will stay with me beyond the skills and knowledge I’ve attained here.

For me, the US capital had always seemed like an interstitial city, where people come in and go out, five days a week, every week for business. But the friends I’ve made here, the people I’ve met and the experiences we’ve shared are living proof of the opposite. I can still remember walking one afternoon down the Washington Mall where people were riding bikes, having picnics or playing frisbee and soccer in the balmy 190 Celsius sun. It was then there I began to understand what DC was. A city known for its national significance and political underpinnings but also one inhabited by locals undefined by the politics of Capitol Hill coalescing into one of the friendliest, most diverse communities I’ve met in the US. For me, DC will always be the city where I watched my first ice-hockey game, experienced snow for the first time and really got to the heart of the American psyche.
It’s for these reasons that while I’ve shed a few tears as we soar high above the clouds back towards Sydney, I look back at the entire trip with a decided fondness and gratitude. Thanks to all of you that have stayed with my blog and if you do ever get the opportunity to take part in the IPP, definitely do, it’s totally worth it.

Finally you get to see my face!

Edward Chang
Current student at the University of Sydney and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Washington DC

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