Intern Introspective: Summer in D.C.

Jasmin and Dylan have spent the past seven weeks busy working on projects in HFA’s office. When they are not attending briefings, researching and writing their policy projects, and participating in team meetings, they are getting to know Washington, D.C. In this week’s blog, Jasmin and Dylan share how they’ve made the most out of living in our nation’s capital!
Living in Washington, D.C., provides some unique professional and recreational opportunities outside of the work place. When I leave HFA offices there is no shortage of excitement as Washington is both the country’s political center and a bustling city filled with diverse neighborhoods. There really is something for everyone, from high class Georgetown boutiques, to the national mall, to funky vibes in Adams Morgan. But what I find most useful are the networking opportunities both planned and unplanned that are always happening. The other day while visiting the hotel pool where my mother stayed during a trip for my birthday, I happened to be swimming around with two familiar looking people. When I inquired further it was U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and his wife, Dr. Susan Blumenthal. She is a retired Admiral, former assistant Health and Human Services Secretary, public health editor at Huffington Post, and a senior advisor to The Foundation for AIDS Research. Senator Markey has been a member of Congress since 1976 and has a long-storied career too. You always need to be prepared because you never know when, where, or with whom you might have the chance to network.
Now, seeing Senators in swim shorts is not a common experience, but crazy stories like this do happen. A few weeks ago, I got coffee with the Legislative Director for U.S. Senator Rob Portman to discuss policy, career advancement tips, and how Capitol Hill really works. When opportunities present themselves in Washington you must grab them and hold on because you never know if that connection might come in handy later. During a briefing on the future of health care a good friend of mine from my Model United Nations team in undergrad, sat next to me with his intern by chance. He works at the American Medical Association now and just moved to the city for this job. I have friends who live in the surrounding area and work at other D.C. based nonprofits, which has helped me network across policy spaces and provided some good old fashion fun.
When the city’s weather doesn’t make me feel like I am a steamer bag trapped in a microwave, I love to explore. One of my favorite things to do is walk the national mall at night when the crowds are much smaller. The Korean War and Franklin Roosevelt Memorials are my favorites because, in addition to personal significance, they both offer nice places to unwind, think about why I am here, and what I am doing. On the weekends I tend to reserve some time to go visit with a friend and antique dealer in Georgetown who specializes in silver items. He is filled with amazing stories from years of collecting and furnished gifts for popes, presidents, and royals. This weekend I plan to enjoy some of the festivities surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing because in Washington stuff like that just happens. Part of the magic of being in the nation’s capital is that you can find something to do that matches your interests and learn about so many new ideas.
When I am trapped inside by the heat or weather I love to cook, and Washington, D.C., has a lot of farmers markets and specialty grocers to try all kinds of new things. When I really want to get food from the source, I love going to the Maine Avenue fish market on the Potomac River. That said I do not suggest going on hot days after noon, because fresh catch only stays fresh so long and no one wants to learn that the hard way. I hope this gives you all an idea about how I spend my time in the city and just how rich in opportunity this internship can be. Life is too short to waste chances to get out in the world and see what is really going on around you. In closing I will end with this: Washington is the kind of place where the world is your oyster and coincidentally it’s the kind of place you can get good real oysters (see fish market advice above). As a seafood fan and lover of life Washington has really been the perfect place for me on and off the job this summer.
D.C. is filled with opportunity in the summer, and it’s exciting to experience what it has to offer, especially coming from a smaller town. I have been trying to take advantage of it all in my free time, and it’s easy to find a surplus of things to choose from. Recently, I became a member of the local Women in Government Relations (WGR) organization. WGR focuses on empowering women in the field to grow and connect in a community environment, ultimately creating generations of powerful female advocates. I believe the group has a lot to offer the community, as they often provide growth opportunities and networking events. I am really pleased that I have gotten to spend some time with the group, as everyone I have met has been so kind, encouraging, and insightful. I also enjoy getting their newsletters and keeping up to date with the current events in the community and the chance to check out new events!
Besides attending WGR events, I’m spending a lot of time at D.C.’s many museums. It’s a great way to get out of the heat on a summer day! Nearly all of them are free- which is basically an intern’s dream. Some of my favorite museums so far are the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History. I’ve visited the portrait gallery multiple times as I enjoy it so much, there are so many things to see! My favorite exhibit is America’s Presidents, a complete collection of presidential portraits. The museum is not on the National Mall, so it tends to be less packed, which is always nice. The American History Museum surprised me, I didn’t think I would find it very interesting, but they have fun exhibits focusing on American culture, with famous movie props galore. They also have an interesting exhibit on the American President’s and the First Ladies, where they have items ranging from dinnerware sets to Obama’s basketball.
I’ve also been trying to explore new areas and food in D.C. The other week, I spent time in the North West area, and went to a quaint Laotian restaurant. I had never tried Laotian food, so it was really a unique experience. The restaurant had beautiful artwork and murals on the walls, a fresh menu, and great food. Another night, I explored up North again, and dined at an adorable and friendly Filipino restaurant. Once again, I had a great meal and experience trying out new foods, including getting hooked on a new favorite dessert, their ube cupcake and ice cream!
As we reach the end of our internships, I hope I can continue to explore the city, attend interesting events, and meet new people! I am especially aiming to attend a few events at different embassies, participate in more WGR events, and find additional briefings to attend. I’m excited to continue taking advantage of the opportunities around us!