US Capitol Building in Washington DC

Putting on My Slacks in DC

Back to All Stories
Marina Blatt, with UW News Lab 05/09/2024
Group of 8 UW students in front of the US Capitol Building.
Marina Blatt (front row, far right) and other participants in a Career Exploration trip to Washington, DC gather in front of the US Capitol. All photos courtesy of Marina Blatt. 

Marina Blatt, a journalism and public interest communications (JPIC) major in the UW Department of Communication, wrote the following first-person account after returning from a Career Exploration trip to Washington, DC. 

It was past midnight and I was hunched over my computer, frantically scouring Amazon with the keywords "business professional" and "professional slacks for women," hoping I would find the missing wardrobe piece for my professional awakening. After reading review after review, I finally found it. With a click of a button, the slacks that would transport me into my professional career were on their way to my door.

Marina Blatt standing outside the Capitol Building in Washington DC.
Blatt strikes a pose — in her new slacks — outside the US Capitol. 

I ordered the slacks in preparation for a Career Exploration trip to Washington, DC in April, offered by the UW Department of Communication. Three-day Career Exploration trips — in DC, New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle — provide opportunities for communication students to network and learn from successful alumni. After meeting with alumni, students schedule a follow-up interview (from Seattle) with the person they connected with most and complete a small write-up about the conversation. 

From the moment I read about the Career Exploration program, and its trips curated for Department of Communication students, I was intent on getting into the department’s Journalism and Public Interest Communication (JPIC) major. My interest in writing grew into infatuation as I learned how journalists serve the public by uplifting community voices. This new sense of purpose allowed me to explore different avenues of journalism including print, photography, and radio.

When the application for the Career Exploration Trip in DC rolled around this year, I was ready. After a competitive application process, I was selected to participate among seven other communication students. Thanks to the Christopher Rauch Meyer Endowed Fund and other donor support, all but $250 of each student’s trip expenses – including our flights, hotel, and food – were covered. With the department’s alumni relations manager Megan Schoening and senior academic advisor Troy Bonnes planning and facilitating the trip, I knew we were in great hands. 

My experience in DC was full of "news": new friends, new connections, a new sense of confidence, and a new excitement for my future.

Our trip to DC involved a plane ride, two train rides, and multiple buses. Following a very short night's sleep at our hotel, we threw on our slacks, stepped onto a busy sidewalk of passersby dressed in their best, chugged some coffee, and snagged a bus to our first location.

Over the next two days, we met with UW alumni inside of techy buildings, luxury offices, the House of Representatives and local breweries. After our initial timid awe of the alumni professionals, we quickly gained confidence in asking them questions about their career paths.

Students at a restaurant table with UW alum Brian Pagels.
The group met with alumni about their careers, including Brian Pagels (above), senior associate and chief strategy officer at Structure 3C. 

Having met people who transitioned between careers, now working as the director of advocacy for government professionals, the director of public affairs for the Maryland Department of Transportation, the president of a marketing company and more, we learned there is no one way to follow your passion.

A few tips were echoed by many of the eight alumni we met. They advised us to get a job that would pay for our graduate school. Having intended to go straight to graduate school after getting my bachelor’s degree, this has made me rethink that decision. The alumni also encouraged us to network with coworkers, because these connections could help us in the future. They reminded us to maintain our connections with our college professors or advisors, do research before conducting interviews, find mentors, get a job that offers opportunities to explore various career paths, fake it till you make it, teach ourselves marketable skills, and so much more.

A selfie with Marina Blatt and other students with the Lincoln Memorial in the background.
Blatt takes a selfie with Megan Schoening, Department of Communication alumni relations manager (left) and other students, as Abraham Lincoln looks on. 

We went nonstop all week. Each day ended with a late bedtime and a short four hours of sleep. Then, dressed in our slacks (yes! those slacks!), we loaded up on caffeine and bagels to do it all over again. Despite being sleep-deprived, we bussed to each meeting bursting with excitement.

Our coffee-fueled adventures were combined with a lot of great food, a few blisters, an intense Wizards basketball game, and many photos in front of gorgeous landmarks. After walking around the National Mall, which I was bummed to find out was not a shopping facility, we visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and admired the giant dinosaur bones and shimmering crystals. Yet, my favorite moment from the trip was when I first gazed up at the beauty of the domed United States Capitol building. Standing before its inspiring grandeur, a sense of power washed over me, knowing my future is open to so many different possibilities.

My experience in DC was full of “news: new friends, new connections, a new sense of confidence, and a new excitement for my future. I realized the point of the JPIC major is that there is no one mold, no one path to take to find your niche in the world of public communication.

Five students with the backs on the ground and their legs propped against the base of the Washington Monument.
"We were testing whether the Washington Monument really does make you dizzy at the angle," Blatt explains. "Hint: it does."  

As I'm sitting in my apartment in Seattle, reflecting on the adrenaline-filled journey that was DC, I’m already planning to apply to another Communication program, the State Government Communication Program in Olympia, Washington. There, I can test my hand at covering state government news. I hope my interest in current events will transport me into the next step in my academic career-driven journey. Thanks to my time in DC, I’m feeling more open to new opportunities however they come to me.

The Career Exploration trip was an opportunity I am eternally grateful to have had. For that once-in-a-lifetime experience, I finally got slacks – the missing wardrobe piece to my professional awakening. Now I just have to find more reasons to wear them. 

More Stories

headshot of Trey Causey

Working Toward Responsible AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an essential tool at Indeed, a global job-matching and hiring platform. Trey Causey (2009) works to ensure that the company's AI promotes equity and fairness. 

UW quad with cherry trees blooming

Four Students Shine as 2024 Dean's Medalists

Meet the four new graduates honored as College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Medalists for 2024. 

Markus Teuton playing guitar on stage

Celebrating Contemporary Indigenous Music

Markus Teuton, a musician and citizen of Cherokee Nation, explores contemporary Indigenous music through his academic work and as host of “Indigenous Jazz,” a radio show.

Explore Stories Across Arts & Sciences Departments