Congratulations! You are an intern in Washington, DC! Welcome to our nation’s capital, a truly incredible, inspiring, and beautiful place to spend a summer.
There is a lot to learn between the interning, taking that summer class, trying to meet Obama, and seeing DC. Having been a summer intern in DC two times in a row, here is my top 10 list:
10. Write down your intern duties and if possible, add the work you do at your internship to your portfolio. Some of you might see this as a no-brainer. For those of you who wouldn’t even think of doing this, you will really want to remember exactly what you did at your internship when you are working on your resume and going on job interviews. You will also be kicking yourself if you don’t have any concrete work to show your potential employers.
9. Find a mentor. You might be very lucky to have a supervisor who has a great insight into DC in addition to a great perspective on the career path you would like to take. If not, I recommend going on informational interviews. Don’t know what those are? Not a problem – check this out. Not only will this give you a better clue into whether or not you would like to continue on the path you’re on, but this is also a great way to make even more connections.
8. Volunteer. So many different organizations have their headquarters here and if you are already volunteering back home, it is amazing to get the national perspective. If you are looking for ways to get involved, you can find opportunities at Greater DC Cares!
7. Don’t be THAT intern. DC gets an influx of interns during the summer, and unfortunately, that means that there have been more than a few who have managed to earn a bad reputation. Stay humble and be respectful. Fair warning – this is a small town and word spreads quickly.
6. Get out of your intern housing as often as humanly possible. You only have about 10 weeks to enjoy this city so make the most of it! Don’t spend your time catching up on TV shows that you missed while you were slaving away studying for finals. You can find time for that later. And if cost is your issue, you are in the right place! There are so many free events to attend (i.e. Jazz in the Gardens every Friday, performances at Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo’s annual Guam Liberation Day Party) and free places to visit (hello Smithsonian museums and beautiful parks around town). Go. See it. Enjoy it.
5. Walk. If you’re like me and from a place where it is acceptable to drive from one store to another even when those two stores are in the same strip mall, get ready to put your legs to good use. On top of the health benefits, it’s a great way to really experience the city! And when you’re not walking around and hopping onto the Metro, remember this: on any escalator, stand on the right and walk on the left.
4. See the sights. I knew a few too many interns who spent the last day of their summer in DC scrambling to get some pictures of the monuments. Not surprisingly, they were not able to see all of the ones they wanted to see. Spend your first couple of weekends checking out the National Mall. You’ll get to see what you want to see and have something to show your parents and friends at home. If you want a little secret, seeing the memorials and monuments is best at night when you won’t be walking around in the sweltering heat. Plus, everything is beautifully lit in the evenings! If you have a summer romance going on, I just gave you a great date idea. You can thank me later.
3. Grab your deals. Groupon, Living Social, Capitol Deal, Google Offers, Gilt DC, the list goes on. If you’re on a tight budget as an unpaid intern (and even if you have a nice stipend), these sites are your ticket to eating well and experiencing a lot of the fun stuff DC has to offer.
2. Be informed. Read, read, read. Waiting for the Metro? Pick up a copy of the Express. Down time at your internship? Get online and check out the stories on Politico or the Washington Post. Hopefully you are already on top of your current events, but if you are not, this is the place to start. After all, you are in the middle of all the action!
1. Make friends. I am still very close to my own fellow interns to this day, even though many of them are doing great things all over the country! Your fellow interns will be great accomplices as you adventure around town. You will find that they are also incredibly smart, driven, and ambitious. On top of all of that, many of them come from all around the country (and maybe even around the world). Getting to know them on a deeper level exposes you to new ideas and new cultures – and maybe some heated political debates. Regardless, you will be able to learn from them and with them.