I wanted to do the Washington Semester Program at American University because I felt that the immersive experience would really benefit my career in the long run, especially considering there was an internship aspect. I have traveled abroad before. I’ve visited parts of Europe mostly but these were only for 10-day installments during high school. This is actually the first time I’ve been away from home for months at a time, which makes the experience much different from my previous ones. There is also the matter of the program being in D.C.—still inside the United States—meaning that I am not using a different currency or having to get used to a different language or anything like that. However, there are some major differences between here and Florida with the weather being the main one. This is especially pertinent due to the polar vortex that has made these past couple of weeks in the Midwest and East Coast some of the coldest in recent history.
During my time abroad, I hope to learn vital skills from my internship and classes that will help me beef up my resume and better prepare me for my future career in whichever field I choose, whether it be business or politics or a little bit of both. My goals in obtaining these skills are to learn to network and make worthwhile connections with the right people—something I recently learned to be super important in Washington. I also wish to improve my social media presence, which is something I already have begun doing by way of attending a crass course on LinkedIn and taking a class about Twitter on Lynda.com. I hope that by the end of this semester I will feel significantly more comfortable applying to jobs and performing well once hired.
The main way in which I aim to do this is getting out of my comfort zone and thrusting myself into new and different situations. One area I was exceedingly uncomfortable in was using the metro. In Florida, there really isn’t a mass transit or public transportation system to speak of. I initially was fearful of getting lost and being late all of the time but I now find myself much more at ease riding the metro and taking the bus to and from my classes and internship. I am also uncomfortable in settings where I must interact one-on-one with people I do not know well. I have always been pretty bad at small talk but now, sue to my internship, I am in a position where I must interact and communicate with a whole host of new and unknown people. I am still not super comfortable doing this and drafting emails without rereading them a million times but I definitely feel that this practical experience will help me become more acclimated to these common situational occurrences.
Overall, what I am most excited for is all of the experiential learning events that I get to go to. Already I have had the opportunity to go to the Newseum for a discussion about whether or not the United States should negotiate with terrorists to bring back journalists who were taken captive. It was a super interesting and engaging talk and prior to the event we had the opportunity to go to a VIP gathering that involved mingling with journalists and hors d’oeuvres. We also got to meet with a top political media consultant who showed us a series of past ads he has created for various campaigns and candidates. He also gave us lots of great advice on how to enter that field ourselves. There are a lot of great speakers that I am super excited to get to hear from. Additionally, we are also scheduled to go to a couple tapings of morning political talk shows. I really like how immersive the program is and that it allows me to witness so many things firsthand.
In terms of cultural norms, there is not much that separates D.C. from Florida due to it being the same country in all, but there are a couple of notable differences. For instance, I learned that when riding the escalator to get to and from the metro you stand on the right and walk on the left. This is apparently a big deal and if you are to stand on the left you will be shoved and shamed. I also learned that the city tends to shut down with the introduction of snow (even a little bit) because of how ice and such complicates travel even with buses and the metro. Another thing I learned is that Washington D.C. runs on interns. A professor here made a joke that if anyone ever wanted to overthrow the government, all they’d have to do would be to unionize the interns. And while on the topic of interns, I really love my internship. My supervisor is a great mentor and includes me in on calls and meetings so that I can see how things work up close and get a first-hand understanding of how it all happens. Overall everything is going quite well so far and I cannot wait to see how the rest of the semester turns out.