Our Capital Semester students have been in the District for about a month and it’s safe to say they are not in Kansas anymore. They had a whirlwind start their first week in Washington when they moved into their Capitol Hill apartments, attended orientation, toured George Mason University (where they are attending classes), went ice-skating in the National Sculpture Garden, toured the Capitol Building and attended their first class.
As if the first week was not exciting enough, the students’ second week in Washington, D.C. was very special as it was the week of the State of the Union (SOTU) address. It was the first time these students experienced the frenzy around the speech in the Nation’s Capital. It was especially exciting for two Capital Semester students, Justin Sanders, who attended the State of the Union address, and Mayara Garay Kostianovsky, who watched her first state of the union address as an international student from Paraguay.
For Justin Sanders, it was an honor to attend the State of the Union (SOTU) address. Sanders, an army veteran from South Carolina, was granted the opportunity to attend the address through his internship with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina. It was Sanders’ first day in the office as an intern and he was recognized for his service to our country and given a ticket to attend the event. Sanders said he was completely humbled by the Senator’s generosity and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend the prestigious event. During the speech, he sat in Gallery 7, between a radio DJ from Augusta, Georgia and an attorney for a congressman’s family. “It was a very surreal moment for me,” said Sanders.
Sanders, one of the youngest in attendance at the address, enjoyed speaking with the attorney next to him. “I seek after knowledge and he had great advice. He built me up,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he would never forget the experience and was honored to get the opportunity to attend. “It is amazing. It is a story that I will be able to tell to [many]. It was an honor. If you believe in yourself, you can one day be rubbing shoulders with the people who make policy and make this society move forward in the direction that hopefully best serves everybody.”
For Mayara Garay Kostianovsky, the State of the Union was a brand new experience. Garay Kostianovsky, an international student from Paraguay, had never watched the State of the Union address until she watched the speech with her fellow Capital Semester students at a watch party, hosted by TFAS. “I thought it would be a very different experience because I would be watching something I have never watched before and with people who always watch it. I would be able to get their points of view. That is new for me,” said Garay Kostianovsky. Her favorite part of the watch party was playing “SOTU Bingo” with her fellow Capital Semester students and watching their reactions to the speech.
While the SOTU address was a highlight for both Sanders and Garay Kostianovsky of their TFAS experience thus far, they are both excited to see what the next months of the program have in store for them and what opportunities lie ahead. “Because of TFAS, many doors have opened up for me and I am indebted greatly to them. I look forward to learning as much as I can, getting to see museums and making contacts,” said Sanders.
In the next four months, Capital Semester students have a robust calendar packed with prestigious briefings, opportunities to network with TFAS alumni and other professionals, guest lectures, exclusive tours of D.C. landmarks, upper level courses at George Mason University and much more.
AS ONE CAPITAL SEMESTER PROGRAM ENDS, ANOTHER BEGINS