Government and Politics Trip to New York and Washington

Friday, 02 November 2018

“Bonkers!” This was the reply we got from Jon Sopel, the BBC’s North America editor, when we asked him what life was like in Trump’s America. We were in the BBC studios in downtown DC on our last day in Washington, and it was one of the highlights of the trip. We were there to have a talk about “Life in Trump’s America” that Mr Spurgeon was able to organise. John Sopel is the news correspondent for Washington DC and as American politics with Trump is always busy, he can be seen on the news very regularly. The talk was really interesting and he was kind enough to take us all into the studio and answer our questions on his job, politics and what he thought would happen in the upcoming (now over) mid-term elections to the Senate and House of Representatives. We also learned that Mr Trump doesn’t read anything but has to be briefed orally all the time by his advisers and that he claimed to have predicted the outcome of the Brexit vote the day before it happened when in fact it was the day after(!)

The trip had started five days earlier when we flew from Heathrow to JFK airport outside New York. After 8 hours on the plane, several brushes with the stern security personnel at passport control and a coach ride through the typically congested New York streets, we arrived at our hotel. As always with school, we were kept busy and we went out on a walking exploration of New York passing through Times Square and down to Grand Central Station where we tested the “talking arches”. Our New York experience continued the next day which was packed with activities. We started with the 9/11 memorial and museum, where we relived the horrendous days of September 2001 and then went on to the Staten Island ferry to view the Statue of Liberty. This latter activity was a slightly restricted (!) by the almost monsoon quantity of rain that was falling but some of us managed to get some good photos and some even went out on deck! Following that we were free to go off and get our own lunch and have some free time. This was spent a number of different ways but of course the majority of us spent time shopping, shopping and more shopping. Our day was completed with a visit to Planet Hollywood and then an elevator ride to the “Top of the Rock” where we had a great view of grey cloud as there was zero visibility(!).

The weather was considerably better when we arrived in Washington the next day after a 5ish hour coach journey that luckily had WiFi. First stop the White House, which was, as everyone says, much smaller than it seems to be on TV – but impressive none the less. Then on to the Hard Rock Café for food and to celebrate one of the Year 12’s birthdays and home to bed. The first full day in Washington started with a tour of the many, many national memorials in the city including the Washington monument, the WWII memorial, the Dr Martin Luther King memorial, the Korean War memorial, the Vietnam war memorial and of course the Lincoln memorial. We got to stand on the very steps Martin Luther King did when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech (and, of course, where Forrest Gump stood too). We then went across the bridge to the Arlington national military cemetery to see JFK’s eternal flame which was very fitting as we were there so close to Remembrance Day. Tuesday arrived, a day full of politics. Arriving at Capitol Hill, we had a tour round Congress with Paul Newman! (not the movie star but a British tour guide who had to be very careful what he said to the ‘Make America Great Again’ groups that are more frequently visiting the capital). We even managed to see a small part of the Senate working that day! We then walked across Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court, another highlight for the group, where we had a talk on the how the court works. That evening, we also travelled to Georgetown, a popular place just outside the main city, where we spent some (shopping) time and had dinner, which included another birthday from one of the Year 13’s.

We had such a great time on the trip and managed to fit in so much for the time that we were there. We wanted to say a really big thank you to the school and especially the teachers on the trip, Mrs Freed, Miss Catterall, Mrs Yates and Mr Spurgeon, for making our trip so enjoyable and helping us learn so much more about our subject.

Eva Terziyski and friends

PS. Sorry the single use plastic debate doesn’t seem to have reached America … we had to use more plastic in one week on the trip than we have probably saved in a year here at school!