The annual pilgrimage of summer interns to D.C. was in full swing by the time I began my first full-time internship at the end of May. There were scores of college-aged kids on the Metro with me every morning, doing their best to look like young professionals in their suits and ties, pencil skirts and heels—because even in the heat and humidity of July, Washington is a very formal city.
On days when I took the blue Metro line into work, most of the people who boarded the train at Foggy Bottom/George Washington University were student-types, living in George Washington University dorms and interning around town, like Simon Bordwin ’13, who was the public policy intern at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) this summer.
Last summer, Bordwin lived at home and commuted into New York for work; this summer he came to work for GLSEN in D.C., because their headquarters in New York “weren’t sure early on enough.” Washington also offered him a new social scene to explore.
“As an LGBT student at Bowdoin, it was really great to live in a city where not everybody’s a bro,” said Bordwin. “Although there are a lot of bros here, don’t get me wrong. But it was more of going from Maine to a real city that’s not as overwhelming as New York” but still has “a surprisingly large gay population that isn’t intimidating.”
In general, Bordwin said “D.C. is much more manageable,” although he was “surprised by how expensive it is to go out” in Washington.
Julia Graham ’13, and Louisa Cannell ’13, who both grew up in the D.C. suburbs and also lived at home this summer, agreed that going out in D.C. was not especially easy.
“When I want to go out, it has to become an event,” said Graham. “I have to drive to [a Metro stop], I have to sleep over somewhere. I’m probably less social” in D.C. Bordwin acknowledged a similar sentiment: “at home, I’d rather sleep in my own bed” than on a friend’s couch after a late night.
I live just four miles outside D.C. in Arlington, V.A., and as a result, my experience living at home and commuting via bus and Metro—sometimes with my dad—was presumably less rowdy than the experiences of other students living in D.C. for the summer. (Being under 21 was also no small factor.)
Though the D.C. metropolitan region was a great place to grow up, none of the area natives I talked to plan on moving back to D.C. after graduation—neither do I.
“I absolutely will not live at home. I refuse to be a member of the boomerang generation,” said Graham.
My reluctance to return to D.C. as a college graduate certainly doesn’t detract from my experience interning this summer. I worked full time—about 45 hours a week—as an intern at a bipartisan lobbying firm about three blocks from the White House. The duties of my internship were rarely mundane; I attended congressional hearings and did lots of research—I occasionally stuffed envelopes and made copies, but I never had to fetch coffee and only once ran an errand. Our firm’s chairman was a former congressman, who often invited the office interns to accompany him to his speaking engagements on the Hill, one of which included sitting on the floor of the House in chairs usually reserved for Representatives.
This was one of the handful of times this summer when it was hard for me to keep a cool, professional demeanor and not have a full-on political nerd freak out. Other times included but are not limited to: making eye contact with Chuck Schumer (senior Democratic Senator from New York) as he walked down the hallway of a Senate office building, and being present on Capitol Hill when the Supreme Court announced its decision on the Affordable Care Act, and standing outside the Supreme Court listening to Michelle Bachmann scream into a microphone about the “injustice” of the decision while Obama supporters walked around smiling from relief.
These experiences were exceptional, and I learned a lot about working in an office—which, to be honest, was a harsh reality check.
There was certainly a fair amount of down time, and I’m coming away with few fast-times on the social circuit.
It wasn’t a particularly glamorous summer—maybe I just didn’t know all the right people—but it was certainly interesting and educational. Isn’t that what internships are supposed to be?