Washington DC

Washington is divided into four quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast. North Capitol Street, which runs directly north from the Capitol, divides the Northwest from the Northeast. East Capitol Street, which runs directly East from the Capitol, divides the Northeast from the Southeast, and South Capitol Street divides the Southeast from the Southwest. The Mall, a broad, grassy park lined with Smithsonian Institution museums and federal office buildings, divides the Northwest from the Southwest.

In each quadrant the streets that run north/south are numbered, and the east/west streets correspond to letters of the alphabet. As a general rule, avenues, which are named after states, run diagonally. Avenues usually intersect each other at circles or squares (for example, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire avenues intersect at Dupont Circle).

It is important to know in which quadrant buildings are located; for example, there may be a 507 F Street in each quadrant. Most of your business and other activities will probably occur in the Northwest (abbreviated NW), the largest of the quadrants. The highest crime rates are in certain areas of the other three quadrants (areas in which your internships, academic work and sightseeing will not usually take you).

Washington, DC Map


Like many large cities, Washington has a high crime rate. Nevertheless, many areas of the city are safe, and there are ways in which you can avoid becoming a crime victim.

  • Always know where you are going. Purchase a pocket map of the city that includes a map of the Metro system and keep it with you. You are less likely to have trouble if you do not get lost and wander into a dangerous area. Avoid empty streets. If you need to go someplace and do not know the neighborhood, ask someone at the Washington Center.
  • Travel in pairs or groups. You are much less likely to be accosted or harassed if you are part of a group. Discourage other students from traveling alone, especially at night.
  • Do not carry large amounts of money or wear expensive jewelry. Always carry enough cash so that you can take a cab in an emergency. Also carry your cell phone or coins if you need to make an emergency call.
  • Let roommates and friends know where you are going. If you decide to stay somewhere other than your room for a night, let your roommate know where you can be reached.
  • Lock your doors. Do not prop the door open, even if you are just going down the hall to the laundry room. Carry your key with you at all times.

If you are a victim of a crime or an attempted crime, try to attract attention to the criminal, scream at people to call the police, and try to remember details about the criminal and the crime. All Metro buses and Metro stations have direct links to the police. If you need help, stop a bus and ask the driver to call the police for you. Notify the Washington Center staff as soon as possible.

Like most large cities in the United States, Washington has a large number of homeless people. Most of these people are not dangerous, but some are mentally ill. If asked for money, keep walking briskly and stay focused on your destination.

More Information

There is a wealth of information on the Internet about Washington and the surrounding areas. Here are just a few web sites you may want to see:




The District
White House

The Washington Post