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Switching Hills: Mount Saint James versus Capitol Hill

The city is your campus – we’ve all heard the phrase. I beg to differ. A city is a city. Not a campus. It’s Louder. Larger. And definitely not my campus. Although amid the city of Worcester, Mass, Holy Cross is nothing like Washington DC. DC is a city full of metro stops, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and busy crosswalks where around every corner is something, or someone, new. 

Two and half years ago, I began my college career at Holy Cross. And since then, it’s been everything that I’ve dreamed of. I made new friends, developed new connections, and most importantly, became confident in who I am, which are all good things, of course. But what I failed to notice is that I grew comfortable at my small liberal arts college where around every corner, I saw a familiar face. 

When I saw the opportunity to participate in the Washington Semester Away Program, I seized it without thinking twice. Anxious and yet relieved that the application process was over, I waited impatiently for a response. Finally, a few weeks later, the email landed in my inbox. The answer was everything I was hoping for. Spring 2022, I would be living in a new city. 

January 25, 2022. I drove 289 miles down to Washington, DC, the furthest I’ve been from my home. After hours upon hours of traffic-filled highways, I arrived. 

But when I began my internship, it was nothing I expected. The college I grew to know, and love seemed like it was forever ago. My first few days in the ‘real world’ (as my parents would say…) were not anything I thought they would be. I couldn’t cater to my schedule to begin at 11, end at 3, and not have classes on Friday. My schedule is set for the next few months: Monday through Friday, 9-5:30. Quite a rude awakening. 

If you asked me four weeks ago how I saw my time in DC going, it wouldn’t be this. I pictured a bustling, beautiful city full of late-night nights on the town and mimosas at brunch. Reality check. Its blazers, uncomfortable loafers, and the same old sandwich I make half asleep at 6 am. 

If you ask me now how I see my time going in DC, it would go something like this. I’ve been granted the opportunity to view my life post-grad in a city I’ve grown to love. And although the days all seem to blend into one in corporate America, I see something new each day. There’s no room to grow complacent. So even though my time here is short, I plan to embrace every aspect of being a professional intern (and a tourist). Trips to the National Mall (which, mind you, isn’t a mall…), wandering around the city, sitting behind a cubicle, making new connections, and finally growing into the person I’ve always wanted to be is what this experience is all about. 

Switching Hills is exactly what I needed. Change, although daunting, is good. The campus I’ve grown accustomed to will still be there when I return next fall. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to my final year of college. It’ll be the last year I get to roll out of bed at 9:50 and get to class just on time for 10 am attendance.

But, this semester is a wake-up call that I didn’t know I needed. And for the first time in two and half years, I am making new friends and have grown even more confident in who I am, even if my crop tops and jeans have turned into pantsuits and patent leather loafers. So even though the city is not anything like Mount Saint James, it is my new home, full of opportunities to explore and friends to make along the way.

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Missy Caiola

Holy Cross '23

Missy Caiola is a junior Political Science Major and a Division I Athlete on the Women's Tennis team at Holy Cross! She also plans to minor in Rhetoric and Composition. When not playing tennis or studying Political Science, she enjoys relaxing with family and friends, shopping, going to the beach, and reading!