What It’s Like Living in Washington, DC as a Recent Graduate

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Can I confess something?

When I think of the people who live in our nation’s capital, I picture old “geezers” wearing white powdered wigs and saying things like, “for life, liberty, and the pursuit of the nearest ale house!”

Pretty crazy, right?

I mean, I understand that this is not the case. But when I try to replace the images of pale men wearing frilled britches with casual T-shirt sporting recent graduates, I can’t seem to wrap my head around it.

So, I decided to talk with a couple of real-life twentysomethings who are currently inhabiting the nation’s capital. They share what it’s like living in Washington, DC as a recent graduate and their advice for pursuing life, liberty, and ale!

Recent Graduate: Marisa Tricas

College, Major, and Graduation Date: University of Redlands, Environmental Science Major, 2011

Grad School: Johns Hopkins University, MS Environmental Science

Current Gig: Manager at an Environmental Association

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Pros

Contrary to popular belief, the city is not filled only with older people. There is actually a really fun night life. The majority of people working in DC are in their 20s and 30s. There is always something to do after work or on the weekends, whether it’s the popular brunch specials or going to grab a craft beer at a local bar.

There are also really fun intramural sports teams that you can join. (And don’t forget that DC is home to the Washington Redskins, Wizards, and Nationals).

There are also so many wonderful career opportunities available in the nation’s capital.

“Whether you want to pursue a career on Capitol Hill or in the environmental sector, the opportunities are limitless! DC is often said to be recession-proof. If you are dedicated and driven, you can make your dream job a reality.”

Cons

Living in this city is expensive. Rent for a one-bedroom averages around $2,000+ in the District [the area is divided into DC and a few neighboring cities/states that a lot of people commute from]. There are cheaper areas in Maryland and Virginia and luckily DC has one of the best public transportation systems in the country to help with that commute.

There’s also the matter of the weather. Though the winters might not be as cold as the Midwest or upstate Northeastern winters, they are still cold! There was a day during the previous winter that hit 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrr. That can be a difficult transition if you’re from the West Coast.

What students and recent graduates should know about living in DC

About 19 million tourists visit DC each year to see the White House and other government buildings. But the city is more than just home to Obama and the nation’s current politics. There is just so much history held in this one place and it can and should be enjoyed by tourists and residents alike.

“There is a museum or historical landmark on every corner, tons of shops, and always something to do related to your interests.”

Want to hear more about Marisa’s journey to Washington, DC post college? You can read our interview with her here.

Recent Graduate: Evan Weber

College and Graduation Date: Wesleyan University, Double Major: Economics and Environmental Studies, May 2013

Current Gig: Executive Director, U.S. Climate Plan [After graduating from Wesleyan University, Evan moved to DC to start a climate policy project with a former professor and classmate. Originally, they only had funding for the summer, but the project evolved over time and eventually they ended up forming the non-profit (the U.S. Climate Plan) which Evan now runs. Though it’s been a rocky road with funding being pretty tenuous at times, Evan worked hard to continue his work by picking up side jobs, and he continues to make a difference with his work.]

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Pros

For a city on the East Coast, it’s a lot more laid-back than you might think. There are definitely parts of the city that still feel a bit more “stiff,” but for the most part the city is young, vibrant, and relatively easygoing.

The Metro (subway) system is easy to navigate and the buses are pretty reliable. It’s also one of the best cities for biking in the country. Biking is usually the fastest way to get around (even faster than driving most times).

There’s an abundance of parks, including the largest park in any major US city and because DC is at the crossroads of the Northeast and the South, there is a very rich mix and blend of different cultures.

Cons

Though DC fairs pretty well when compared to other cities, some of the main issues with urban life remain: gentrification, rent inflation, lack of access to clean bodies of water, etc. Still, the nation’s capital is working to improve upon these things with decent zoning laws, rent control policies, and groups working to clean up the rivers.

Also, it’s not cheap. Living by yourself is probably not possible because of the cost, but if you can get in a house with roommates, you should be able to afford the housing. A lot of people in their 20s live in large row-houses. These are abundant on the market and can actually be pretty cheap.

What students and recent graduates should know about living in DC

You really don’t need a car. Instead, buy a bike and take public transportation when biking isn’t going to work. This will not only save you a lot of money, but it’ll be a lot more efficient.

Even though most drinks are expensive, you can find places where they’re not too costly. These may not be the main bars in the “hottest” locations, but they tend to have a bit more character.

The only time you’ll pay a cover is when you’re going to see a show. The local music scene is great and it’s worth paying to see the live music.

Don’t forget that there are also a TON of free activities you can do like going to museums, galleries, the National Zoo, and monuments.

This is the perfect place for any recent graduates who are looking to find a bunch of smart, energetic, politically minded people. A lot of what goes on in this city revolves around the Capital and the Federal government, but DC is still a place filled with real people and there’s a lot more going on than just politics.

Homework time! Sound like Washington, DC is the place for you? Click that smiley face on your Explore feed and start checking out internship and job opportunities available there. If you like the general area but aren’t sure that DC is the place for you, check out what a recent graduate had to say about living in nearby Alexandria to see if it’s a better fit for you.

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