Editor’s note: Cassi Niedziela graduated in May as the valedictorian of the Glen Rose High School Class of 2017. She is attending New York University majoring in global public health and sociology, with a minor in social and public policy. She is writing for the Glen Rose Reporter about her experiences in New York.

New York University has a very extensive global network with campuses all over the world, so I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the month of January at NYU’s campus in Washington, D.C. to take a class called U.S. Politics and Policy in 2018 and Beyond. The objectives of the class were to understand the 2016 presidential campaign and election, its results, and the causes of the new landscape of U.S. electoral politics, as well as understand how the election has impacted foreign and domestic policy. The class met every weekday, and it included lectures, guest speakers, and several trips to various places in Washington.

The topics discussed in the class included identity politics, health care, polling and polarization, media, the social safety net, foreign policy, what’s next for both Democrats and Republicans, and much more.

The speakers were all extremely accomplished individuals and included a columnist for the Washington Post, the Ambassador of Belgium to the U.S., the Chief Congressional Correspondent for CBS News, the democratic strategist and chief strategist for the

2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, a political strategy director for the Republican National Committee, multiple members of the House of Representatives, and multiple professors from various universities.

My favorite part of the class was the trips to the Capitol building and the Supreme Court.

After the tour of the Capitol building, we went to both chambers of Congress and saw the House of Representatives and Senate in session! The House voted 415-2 in support of the Iranian people’s right to protest their brutal regime, and while overlooking the chamber, we spotted Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Joe Kennedy! (If you know me, you know how much I admire the Kennedy family.)

We also spoke about polarization and bipartisanship in Congress with Representatives Hakeem Jeffries from New York, Martha Roby from Alabama, and Scott Peters from California during the trip. I later went back to Capitol Hill before leaving for New York in order to meet with the Legislative Director for Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York and talk about various career paths in government, as well as how I can get more involved with politics while in college.

I also went to the Supreme Court while it was in session one morning. I saw Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as the Notorious RBG, and made eye contact with Neil Gorsuch, the newest justice to be appointed to the Supreme Court by the Trump administration. The court was hearing the oral arguments for two different cases, but my favorite part was seeing the dynamics between the justices. All of the justices were very sassy when asking questions, and I greatly appreciated their senses of humor.

We additionally went to the live taping of NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, in which Michael Wolff, the author of the highly controversial book Fire and Fury, was interviewed. It was very interesting to see the bipartisan atmosphere of the show because so much of today’s media is extremely polarized.

I think that polarization is one of the greatest problems facing our government because it makes passing legislation or achieving almost anything nearly impossible.

The Republicans’ only major accomplishments in 2017 were the new tax policy and appointing several judges to different federal courts. Regardless of your own beliefs, that’s not a lot to show for the first year of a presidency.

The government shutdown is another example of bad politics in which neither side was willing to compromise. You can blame whoever you want, but both sides are at fault for being unwilling to make bipartisan agreements. Nothing is going to get done in Washington if members of Congress do not figure out how to work together.

Overall, I really learned a lot about politics and public policy this month, and I have a newfound appreciation for the government of the United States, despite its obvious dysfunction under the current administration.

One day I hope to return to Washington, D.C. to work, but for now, I am very content to be living in New York City!