Stand On The Right…Walk (Run) On The Left

Stand On The Right…Walk (Run) On The Left

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Fortunately, I received some good advice from some folks familiar with Washington D.C. My friend who did the same program I’m doing (The Washington Center) gave me a plethora of great information and then, right before I was departing for my stay, she texted me and told me she almost forgot to tell me the most important thing: “Stand on the right, and walk on the left. If you don’t, you’ll get shoved.” What? Are you kidding me? This is that critical? What she was referring to was the escaltors in the DC metros. She was the first to tell me…followed by about a dozen others. This highlights the lifestyle of DC, which is fast-paced and aggressive. Of course, I took her advice.

So, I’m two and half weeks into my experience here in the District of Columbia and I must say that it is a totally different experience than I have ever had before for various reasons. Within this short amount of time, I have learned more than I ever have…baptism by fire is certainly the right phrase to insert here. At my internship site, I am asked to do weekly reports that we send out to our clients on energy from a policy/budget, technology and industrial aspect. Without much further explanation, I took to it or, I should say, more fittingly, I flailed my way through it. That hasn’t even been the most challenging thing yet.

Next, I was asked to anaylze Big Data Analytics for another client of ours. Don’t ask how I began to work my way through this, but I did. Apart from sounding really ”cool” telling people you’re doing Big Data Analytics, there is a lot of practicality to it. Basically, I read a breadth of information on unstructured data and how software programs are able to make sense of this by structuring it. From my understanding this seems quite practical in terms of marketing and even our current healthcare system…if fully implemented.

The days are certainly long, yet very eventful and very busy. My firm allows us to attend conferences and congressional hearings. A lot of what we do deals with national defense and security so, naturally, the conferences and hearings we attend deal exclusively with this. It’s an amazing learning experience and I didn’t know I could learn so much within such a short amount of time. In one of the congressional hearings I attended I sat about 40 feet away from Michelle Bachmann (whether or not this was desirable I won’t say here…but it was certainly surreal to be vis-a-vis with a former presidential candidate). This hearing was held by the Intelligence Committee and the topic was “World Wide Threats.” Among the topics they highlighted, they touched primarily on cyber threats and Iranian threats. It was twice reiterated that we will be “facing an immanent and catastrophic cyber attack.” Even writing this sends chills down my spine. Likewise, on the topic of Iran, I can’t help but feel slightly insecure considering how close I am to the potential target. It’s safe to say that the current administration is not resting much with this threat weighing quite heavily on their minds.

When I’m not swamped with my duties and obligations with class, work or programming, I like to do some exploring. One day, my friend and I went on a jog … our destination: The White House. It was my first time standing in front of this amazing place richly filled with history and wonderment (yes, I know, it’s quite pathetic that I have never been to D.C. until now. Of course, like any other middle school, mine went on a field trip but I wasn’t able to go…that’s a different story, however). I couldn’t help but stare like any other tourist and be held in awe, not quite being able to grasp exactly what I was seeing.

(I repeatedly had my friend reassure me I wouldn’t get shot for taking this. I didn’t, evidently)

I’m still feeling my way around this city, especially that cumbersome metro system. But, in all honesty, there isn’t a whole lot to adjust to. Like anything else, you just get used to it, go with it and flow it. With a dash of confidence and a little aggression when need be it’s truly an amazing experience. The only danger, apart from getting trampled on while riding the escalators, is falling in love with this city and never returning to the place whence you came from.

Meet the Organization: Alpha Phi Omega

Meet the Organization: Alpha Phi Omega

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Alpha Phi Omega (APO) is a national co-ed service fraternity. The term fraternity can be a little confusing at first because “fraternity” is associated with only males. This is not only co-ed, so both males and females can join, but it’s a service organization, not a social organization like other fraternities (or sororities for that matter). It is based around three main principles: leadership, friendship and service. This values shine through everything APO does – from countless service projects each week and social activities to members holding leadership positions not only within the organization, but within others as well. There are more than 350 chapters of APO in the United States, 250 chapters in the Philippines and one chapter in Australia … this fraternity is taking the whole world by storm!

Here at Mount, APO is one of the largest organizations on campus with more than 100 members. We have weekly chapter meetings (Tuesday nights at 8:15 in the Mount Union Theatre) as well as weekly executive board meetings (Monday nights at 6:45 in the Hoover-Price Campus Center), but this is not the only time contributed by members of the organization. The meetings themselves usually only last about an hour, and each member must complete 20 hours of service and attend two socials each semester.

Service projects at Mount Union vary greatly. One week you can volunteer at a soup kitchen; play with puppies at the Humane Society; work on your bingo skills at a nursing home; and walk in an awareness walk for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Autism or one of many other walks in the area. Twenty hours might seem like a lot of work, but when you look at it in terms of what is offered each week, you can potentially get all 20 hours in within a month or two, but members have the whole semester! On top of that, there are different levels of service in APO: national, community, campus and fraternity. National and community are probably what you think of most when you think “service project,” but members of APO receive service hours for other things as well. For example, writing an article for the Ant Hill, which is our monthly newsletter, counts as one half hour of service to the fraternity.

Don’t think that APO is all work and no play, though! We have a social chair who puts together at least one to two socials every week. The socials are ALWAYS fun and vary greatly, so if you aren’t interested in attending one, you’ll be sure to find one that meets your interests. We often go see movies at the movie theatre near campus, go out to eat at Applebees and take trips to seasonal attractions such as a hay ride in the fall or Christmas light viewing in the winter. We usually have one or two larger socials every semester as well. Last semester we drove three hours to go to Kalahari in Sandusky for a whole day! We got a group discounted price and got to live it up in the balmy 75 degree waterpark for a day when it was the dead of winter outside.

Another aspect of APO is conferences. Since it is a national (international!) organization, there are events that bring chapters together to interact with one another. Every year there is a sectional conference that is fairly small (about eight or nine chapters are in each section). Every other year there is a regional conference, which is a bit larger, and consists of about five sections. The year’s that are opposite of regional conferences, there are national conferences. National conferences encompass every single chapter in the United States and usually a few chapters from the Philippines.

Last year, Mount Union hosted the section conference for our section! It involved more than 200 brothers from around Northeast Ohio coming to campus to participate in workshops, social events and service projects. We did a lot of work to entice other chapters to attend our conference that we knew was going to be the bomb.com; the picture shown is one of our tactics! It was so stressful to plan, but the rewards definitely outweighed costs! Coming up in a few weeks, APO will be traveling to Louisville, Kentucky for a regional conference. We have a whopping 30 brothers attending and we will be down at the University of Kentucky for a weekend to serve and socialize with brothers from our region. In December of 2012, the national conference is being held in Anaheim, California! This is a LONG trek for brothers from our chapter and will require a lot of fundraising on our part to be able to attend, but it is sure that at least a fairly sizable handful of brothers will be in attendance in sunny California!

There is SO much more I could tell you about APO because it is such a large organization with such intricate parts, but for now, I’ll leave it at that. If you’d like to find out more, come to one of our chapter meetings! We always welcome visitors and we have pledge classes go through every semester, so there’s always going to be an opportunity to take part in this great organization!