The DC Culture

No matter if you are coming from Maryland, California, or even another country, D.C. can stir up a bit of culture shock in your life. Growing up in New Jersey, I didn’t expect Washington, D.C., to be much different than what I was already used to, but the DMV still managed to take me by surprise.

Here’s the lowdown on things that added to my cultural adjustment and all you need to know about them:


In New Jersey, bagels and pizza are a main staple in our diet. When I arrived in D.C., I really missed those New Jersey pizza and bagels with pork roll. However, I soon realized that my new crew of friends on campus missed the food from their hometowns as well. Whether it was deep dish Chicago pizza, brown bread in a can from Boston, or the perfect Maryland crab cake, all of my fellow Cardinals missed some comfort from home. We bonded over missing our hometown favorites, but it didn’t take long for us to realize Washington has its own foods to embrace. Hop on the metro and discover the best that Chinatown has to offer or check out the food kiosks in Union Market in NoMa for incredible options. Before fall break, you’ll already have discovered your new favorite coffee shop or place to grab a bite.


When my move-in day arrived, I had everything I needed to make a good impression on the first day of classes, but I hadn’t thought about life outside of campus. You’re going to want to download a few apps on your phone to make it a little bit easier when getting around your new city.

For transportation around the city, you will definitely want to download Uber and Lyft, Zipcar if you’re thinking of renting a car for a weekend trip, and definitely the Washington Metro app. Having a metro stop right on campus makes utilizing the metro SO SIMPLE. The app allows you to keep track of train arrivals, shows any delays that may have come up, and allows access to a map so you can figure out which metro stop is the closest to your destination.

Lastly, you’ll want to keep up with the news. History is happening all around us, all the time in the Washington, so you’ll want to be in the loop. My personal favorite is the Washington Post, though some of my friends follow other news outlets like NPR or theSkimm. Whatever your preferred method for getting the news, you’ll always want to be in-the-know.


After you pinch yourself a couple of times and you realize that you really do live in Brookland, you’ll start to notice some of the things that people talk about are not at all the way you reference them. Give yourself a week or so and you’ll be up on the D.C. lingo, but in the meantime, I’ll help you out with a few.

Some of your fellow CUA classmates might say they’re heading to the Mall and while Washington is a very fashion-forward city, the Mall refers to where the Capitol, White House, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial are located. My sister was in for a surprise when we went down to the Mall to visit the monuments. For most college students, visiting the monuments is at the top of their bucket list, and nothing beats Lincoln at night!

If you haven’t lived in a city before you might be a little surprised to know that there are neighborhoods within the city. CUA is located in the neighborhood of Brookland. While you may say that you live in Washington, D.C., more specifically you live in the neighborhood of Brookland. And when heading back to campus on the Metro, you’ll be hopping off the metro at Brookland-CUA. And speaking of the metro–a pro-tip for when riding the escalators to catch the metro, you’ll want to stand on the right to make room for those that choose to walk up the left side!

Maybe you’ll sign up for a club sport or want to cheer on your friends at a basketball game then you’ll find yourself heading to the Raymond A. DuFour Athletic Center. To make life easier though most students just call it the Duf (pronounced ‘doof’). It’s the large building on the edge of campus where all the athletic fields and indoor pool are found.

If you’re heading to grab some lunch with friends on campus, you’re going to be heading to the Edward J. Pryzbyla Center, but every student calls it the Pryz. The Pryz is open for students to hang out at or to study, and it’s where you go to eat at almost all hours of the day. You’ll notice during the school year that it’s where clubs advertise their upcoming events and where you’ll find the Center for Academic Success, Center for Cultural Engagement, the Dean of Students, and a handful of other helpful offices.

The last word that is crucial to knowing while you’re living in D.C. is DMV. If you’re like me, then you probably thought that the DMV stands for the Department of Motor Vehicles. In D.C. though, the DMV stands for the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. It’s a term that locals use, and before you know it, you’ll be tossing around the term DMV soon enough!


Something to always remember as your new home is in the Nation’s capital is that you’re always going to turn the corner to find a government building and some museums. I still remember how in-awe I was when I realized the J. Edgar Hoover building, where the FBI is located, is downtown in plain sight! For some reason, I thought D.C. would be less casual with such high-profile agencies and offices found here, but somehow, Washington’s low-key attitude is something you eventually get used to. One thing is for sure–I’ll never get used to how amazing it is to peep the Washington Monument as I’m metro-ing across the city, or the excitement of seeing a Presidential motorcade cutting through the traffic, or even how beautiful the Basilica is towering over campus.

–Sam C.

Sam is a junior from Hillsborough, New Jersey. She is an International Economics and Finance Honors major with an Italian Studies minor. On the weekends you can find Sam crocheting at the Lincoln Memorial, and you’ll catch her giving tours throughout the week at Father O’Connell Hall on campus.

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