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Events, alumni networking, courses, and internships for Penn students on campus and in D.C.

Living in DC

Wonder what it's like to live in D.C. for a semester? From the dorms to the food to the millions of touristy things to do, College junior Sarah Engell shares her favorite things about living in the city with Penn in Washington.

1. Living at UCDC
    The University of California building provides comfortable, convenient housing. Located in a safe area with friendly neighborhoods nearby, multiple grocery stores and pharmacies are only a short walk away. Key metro stops, yummy restaurants, and the National Mall are also just a few blocks in either direction, meaning that fun events are often walkable or just a short cab ride. In addition, living and learning in the same building made the elevator ride commute to class easy and stress-free after a long day of work. UCDC also hosted a great speaker series, allowing students to listen and interact with distinguished men and women from a variety of fields, most notably Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

my side of the room in the UCDC apartment

the White House is just a quick run or walk away

Notorious RBG at the UCDC Speaker Series

2. Daily Commute
    I temporarily (kind of, not really) joined the adult world, complete with a 9-5 internship and a daily commute. I interned for Senator Elizabeth Warren and therefore traveled each day to the Capitol, specifically the Senate Hart Building. As commutes go, mine was not a bad one. A quick walk to Farragut North metro stop, a bustling shuffle onto the Red Line, a 10 minute metro ride to Union Station (with no delays), and then a 5 or so minute walk to Hart. Rainy days and aggressive metro riders aside, the travel was never bad and always passed quickly with fun music or podcasts.

bustling Union Station

the Capitol – not a bad place to work

3. Touristy Outings
    DC is FILLED with wonderful touristy sites to see and things to do. I feel content with the number of museums, galleries, and monuments I saw - below are pictures from my favorite spots.

the Supreme Court


Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

an afternoon at the Smithsonian Castle

Penn in Washington's after-hours tour of the West Wing

a balmy day in the National Botanical Gardens

4. Best Restaurants
    Delicious restaurants of all cuisines are not hard to find. Though I did enjoy cooking my own meals with the fully stocked UCDC kitchen, venturing out and trying new places is always fun.

amazing grilled cheese from BIG CHEESE food truck

delicious brunch at Mission

farm-to-table, family style restaurant

out of this world BBQ

5. City Vibes
    Living and learning in DC has been an incredible adventure. A few observations:

  • There seems to be a lot less people. Perhaps because of where I lived and worked or maybe because so many people commute into the city, DC just seems a lot less crowded and, at times, even empty. As someone who enjoys open spaces, I have no complaints about the lack of crammed sidewalks. Overall, DC is a great place to live, learn, and discover new things.
  • The city really does feel young and exciting. On almost every available green space, a kickball, frisbee, or softball game is underway. On the weekends, there are always fun events to attend, such as “A Taste of DC”, or free concerts at the Kennedy Center. For people of all ages, and especially young people, the city is lively and filled with fun (and often free!) things to do and places to go.

Senator Warren versus Senator Markey’s Offices Softball Game

A Taste of DC – a foodie’s paradise

    Before this semester, my only experience in our nation’s capital was a few, short touristy visits with my family. Now, after living in the district for about three months, I can attest to its historic beauty, youthful vibes, and many other fun offerings. Though I’m excited to go back to Penn, I’m sad to leave an amazing internship and a great city.