I recently visited my daughter, a senior musical theatre student, at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington DC. CUA offers a bucolic campus in the Brookland neighborhood of DC’s northeast quadrant. CUA has an enrollment of about 3,000 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate students. It is the largest green campus in DC, with 176 acres of land, beautiful old buildings and a metro station bordering campus (Brookland/CUA stop), making it easy for students to explore all the city has to offer. The Basilica of the the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, an incredibly gorgeous church, towers above the campus in all of its Byzantine and Romanesque Revival glory. It is truly breathtaking. My daughter studies at the Rome School of Music, Art, and Drama, a definitively liberal school within the more conservative university. The campus is adjacent to Monroe Street, which has, in the past few years, flourished with luxury apartment buildings, eateries (including two full service restaurants, Busboys and Poets and Brookland Pint, as well the quick options of Chipotle, &Pizza, Starbucks, BGR and Potbelly), and an”Arts Walk” where artisans and local farmers set up shop and sell their goods every Saturday morning. Catholic University is one of many colleges and universities located in Washington DC, and during this visit I decided to tour two others - George Washington University (GWU) and Georgetown University.
Our first stop was GWU, in the heart of Foggy Bottom, a vibrant neighborhood bustling with students and residents. Restaurant and cultural centers abound - the famed John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, just a few blocks away, offers world class theatre, opera, dance and music. Its Millennium stage hosts free shows nightly at 6pm featuring local performing artists. GWU is easily accessible to the entire city, as it also has its own metro stop (Foggy Bottom - GWU). The ubiquitous city bikes and scooters offers more options to get around - students can get to museums and federal agencies within minutes. GWU is truly an urban campus, with very little green spaces, but it feels cohesive. With over 11,000 undergraduate and 15,000 graduate students, the area feels collegiate yet city-sophisticated. A walk past the student center adorned with hundreds of fliers were a testament to the cultural, athletic, and club activity that define GW’s students. Popular majors at GW include international relations, political science and government, business, nursing, biology and medical sciences, among others. GW’s school of Medicine and Health Sciences is top-notch and the GWU Hospital sits in the center of campus. After touring the campus, my daughter and I sat in the student center to re-charge - our phones and ourselves The Panera inside the center was busy on a Sunday afternoon, with students coming and going, grabbing a quick bite, and sitting in the lounge working on their computers, while what seemed like a rehearsal was taking place in the theatre in the rear, as more students entered and exited its doors. Although the Georgetown neighborhood is not far, our map app told us it was a 40 minute walk to the campus of Georgetown University, so we opted to take an uber for our tour there.
We drove through the quaint, cobblestone streets of Georgetown, where we noticed streetcar tracks. The streetcar system was built in 1862 in Washington DC, and once covered over 200 miles throughout the city. Originally a horse and buggy system, it changed in 1889 to keep up with the times and was one of very few in the world that had an underground power source to run the cars. The streetcars were retired in 1962, but six blocks in Georgetown were restored as an historic landmark, as only DC and London have examples of remaining underground conduit streetcar systems. Georgetown University itself is nestled on the outskirts of the neighborhood, on a hill above the Potamic River. It feels wholly separate from the rest of the city, and is blocks from the bustling center of the Georgetown neighborhood proper. Its iconic entrance boasts Healy Hall, a National Historic Landmark. Although the school is the oldest Catholic institution of higher education in the US, the students are diverse and the majority are not Catholic. We walked the campus, which has a mix of traditional and newer buildings, several green sprawling lawns, multiple athletic fields (it’s Division 1) and a renowned medical center - MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. It had a quieter feel than GW, although students were everywhere. We entered the Bunn Intercultural Center to use the restrooms and as we walked through noticed several classrooms occupied with students. It was a Sunday evening so we were not sure if they were official class lectures or student clubs, but each group appeared serious and studious. Not surprising, as the students at Georgetown are some of the brightest in the nation - with a 12% acceptance rate it isn’t an easy college to get into. Georgetown has a population of approximately 19,000 students, with 7,500 undergraduates and over 11,000 graduate students. As it began to darken, my daughter and I left the campus and walked the quiet, residential streets of the neighborhood. The streets, lined with historic, meticulously kept townhouses, were largely dark and empty until we reached our destination. We arrived at M Street in about 20 minutes, where restaurants, shopping and a good crowd of people - mostly young - lit up the area. We found a small, busy tapas restaurant and were transported to Spain for a couple of hours. We returned to the CUA area via uber, as Georgetown is not easily Metro accessible - the closest metro stop is Dupont Circle, which is a bit of a walk.
Washington, DC is a great college town, as there are so many universities in the city proper, and close by in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area. In addition to the three schools discussed in this article, there is American University, Howard University, The University of DC, Galladaut University (one of about ten universities dedicated to the deaf and hard of hearing in the US), the University of Maryland, George Mason University, and more. I’ll be continuing my college tours blogs as I investigate more of the city, and other areas all over the US!