A Summer of Cities — Alicia Pettis

To my fellow Dukes whom I have missed a ton, we’re almost back! Even after having a very eventful summer I am definitely ready to be with you all at the greatest University in America, JMU.

My summer began after finishing my Chemistry exam on the last slot for finals.  Racing through my dorm I packed and cleaned with my parents, leaving my freshmen year behind.  I then left the U.S. two days later, arriving in Florence, Italy with 21 other honors students for our study-abroad experience.

Looking back on my three weeks in Florence, I would say it was everything I hoped for and more.   There are too many amazing memories to write about so I will just name a few out of the main categories: food, art, literature, politics, and seminar class.

Italian food is absolutely delicious, mainly because they use only fresh ingredients.  We ate pasta, pizza, paninis, gelato (a lot of it!) and more.  While we were there, Florence was having a gelato festival, in which we definitely partook!

The art was definitely my favorite part of the trip.  The amount of famous artwork in Florence is astounding.  We saw Donatello’s “Mary
Magdalene,” the Baptistry doors, Brunelleschi’s dome, Michelangelo’s “David”, Botticelli’s “Primavera” and “Birth of Venus” and so much more.

I am an enthusiast for politics, but had not yet been exposed to Renaissance politics.  I discovered the incredible impact that one family had on investing in and basically starting the Renaissance.  The Medici (med’-eh-chee) family was probably mentioned at least 100 times a day, due to their involvement in just about every part of life in Florence.

And finally I must mention studying and classes, since this was a “study” abroad
program.  The seminar class was entitled “Art & Politics in Renaissance Florence.” We had class every day of the week for at least 3 hours and ventured out to multiple sites all over the city to get hands-on experience in what we were
discussing in class.  The best part about the class was that I learned not only from lectures given by our expert professors, but also from my fellow classmates who were extremely enlightened.  I guess studying the Renaissance can do that
to you!

We even were able to explore other cities in Italy.  The entire class went on a day-trip to Sienna, which is a medieval city just 2 hours away.  And on our long weekend we travelled either to Rome, Venice, or the Amalfi Coast.

Our final exam was long and grueling but we made it through and spent the last
night in Florence reminiscing on the eye-opening experience we had encountered here in this beautiful Renaissance city. The next day, we all went our separate ways; some heading home, others heading to further destinations in Europe.

I met up with my family in Paris, France for a 5-day frenzy of trying to see as much as possible in the city of lights.  Highlights of Paris included: the Louvre, which I spent 8 hours walking around wide-eyed, the grand Eiffel tower, the Musee d’Orsay in which my sister and I encountered impressionist paintings and flirty French boys, delicious & long 5 course meals, and inspiring modern art at the Pompidou center.

We headed out of Paris on a train to the countryside to stay with family friends in Brain-sur-Allonnes in the Loire valley.  This is where I got a more
intimate taste of French culture.  We met with many French people with whom we dined and conversed for hours on tons of topics.  We went to a grand market in town, which had stand after stand of intricate pastries, meats and cheeses.  We also visited the famous Chateau d’Usee, which inspired the Sleeping Beauty fairytale.

After an amazing month in Europe I headed home to the U.S. where I immediately began my internship in the House of Representatives working for my Congressman, Representative Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11th).  Work on Capitol
Hill is long days and debates, grueling decisions and the opportunity to serve
the American people. As an intern I mainly did office work, in which I organized hard-mail and email, answered phones, wrote memos, gave Capitol tours
and ran errands.

The “great event” of my internship was definitely the two weeks of debate on raising the debt ceiling.  The amount of phone calls, emails, hard-mail
and any other medium of response we received from our constituents was
astounding.  My office was very happy with the feedback we got from our constituents, in which we, of course, answered and read every single comment.  (The office prides itself on being very receptive in Constituent Services). The work in the office included phone system overloads, an extremely over-worked and slow email server, and energetic debates over the many details and consequences of the decisions.  I consider myself lucky to have seen a part of a debate of such magnitude and power from the inside of Congress.

I enjoyed very much working for a Congressman and staff who take their jobs of representing their constituents very seriously.  Unlike other offices, I interacted with the Congressman on a daily basis, accompanying him to constituent events, hearings, floor debates and working with him in the office. One of my favorite part of the internship was being involved in the Congressman’s rationale process for voting on or co-sponsoring a bill and not once did I hear talk of parties; it was about the issues.

When I was not working I got to catch up with my best friends from home and my family.  I celebrated my 19th birthday, went to baseball games, saw the final Harry Potter on opening night at midnight, spent a weekend at the lake, caught up on my reading list, and spent time with people I care deeply about.

This summer has definitely been very eventful and probably my best summer yet.

I am now packing and getting ready for JMU.  I am also working on the SGA
Minor Elections for the incoming freshmen. I can’t wait to meet our new Class Councilors, Senators and Representatives from the Class of 2015.  This
year my fellow Sophomore Class Councilors and I will be able to put on a
dazzling Ring Premiere and hope to serve our class in the best way possible. Here’s to an awesome year at JMU.

— Alicia Pettis

@JMUClassOf2014 Class Council Secretary, @alicia_marie725

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