Living and working for two months in a city that is a huge tourist destination is a unique experience. In some ways I feel like a curious visitor who knows nothing about Washington, and in others I feel like a jaded D.C. local. Looking back, the first few weeks of my internship experience feel entirely different than my life here does with just a week left. Once I got settled into a routine time started to move pretty quickly, and I feel like just when I start to figure a place out that is when it is time to leave. As I am about to begin the homestretch of my 2 month Washington immersion, I thought I would share some thoughts, and possible tips and tricks from my time here.
- Band aid tough strips are the real deal, and always bring another pair of shoes when wearing heels to work. A lot of people wear “commuter shoes,” to work, and I have never been more thankful for my birks.
- Think about packing early and think about things that aren’t just fitting as many pairs of pants in your suitcase as possible. If you’re like me, and have to fly to the city you will be living in, buy things like pots and pans right away. The money I spent buying things to cook in was so much less than eating out every meal for a couple weeks because I didn’t want to buy them. (Your body will thank you too.)
- Making connections and “networking” is about more than just handing your business card to as many people as possible. Worry more about getting to know people.
- Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Get to know the people you intern with. Ask people to go with you to a museum or concert. Visit different neighborhoods and parts of the city. The memories you make are just as valuable as what you put on your resume.
- But don’t be afraid to take time for yourself- stay in some nights, go to the gym, incorporate activities from your regular life into your summer internship experience. I have dealt with my share of homesickness and feeling overwhelmed by the persistent hard-work atmosphere that exists in D.C., and have felt that remembering that this trip isn’t just a vacation has been immensely helpful in striking a balance.
- Your first, or any other, internship doesn’t have to be your dream job and it almost definitely won’t be. This is something I have always struggled with, because I have a hard time spending time on activities I do not feel entirely invested in. If there is an industry or type of job you are really interested in- find a way to experience it. You won’t know that you might not want to work at a non-profit until you work at a non-profit.
- Always carry cash and change. You never know when you might get to a cash only food stand, or get stuck in a metro station because your card was 50 cents short and the machines only take exact change.
- Buy and send postcards. It can get expensive buying souvenirs everywhere, but gift shops almost always have postcards.
- If there is something going on in the city you are in that is a one time event, or specific to a season or time, go to it. This summer I watched the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup outside the Arena in Chinatown and went to the parade on my lunch break, attended the Congressional Baseball game, wrote a letter at the To Future Women exhibit, watched Fourth of July fireworks in front of the Washington Monument, and saw the Burning Man Exhibit at the Renwick Gallery.