How to Survive a Shutdown

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 20, 2019

So you’ve been in D.C. for a while. You’ve been to the museums, walked around the mall, and did restaurant week (look it up. Your stomach and your taste buds will thank you). If you want to try something a little more academic or if you want to grow that mythical network everyone’s told you about, I suggest events hosted by think tanks!
 
Disclaimer: be sure to clear all your outings with your supervisor!
 
1. What is a Think Tank? At first, think tanks can seem like a mysterious set of institutions, situated high in their glass towers in and around the nation’s capital. In reality, they serve a practical role in political discourse by researching topics, producing journals, and hosting public events.
 
Think tanks come in a wide variety, focusing either on certain policy issues like foreign affairs or the economy or on a wide range of topics with a particular ideological perspective.
 
2. Public events - Most think tanks host public events each week. To find these events, I recommend Eventbrite.com. There you can search through most major think tank events by topic and date and register to attend. Additionally, ask around your host office for a list of think tanks that cover policy areas you’re interested in.
 
Not every event requires an RSVP and even if you aren’t on the list, sometimes a business card is all they’ll require for you to get in.

Getting there can be tricky -- not every event is hosted in the immediate vicinity of a metro stop. Be sure to plan ahead and overestimate how long your trip will take. It’s also a good idea to get there early because...
 
3. THEY HAVE FREE FOOD! That’s right. Nothing sings to my hungry, broke college student soul like that sweet, sweet phrase. Look for events around lunch time or that eat up several hours -- those are most likely to have boxed meals. Another prime time is breakfast, though the offerings will more likely be bagels, donuts, and other pastries. Nearly every event will have coffee and water, however.
 
4. Network - Food isn't the only reason to set aside extra time to attend these events. Arriving early and staying late helps you meet other attendees (so does wearing something obviously Texan, like your snakeskin boots). Try to ask interesting questions during the Q&A to put you on everyone’s radar,talk with the speakers afterwards, and set up meetings later in the week. These things will help build stronger, more meaningful connections.
 
Making the most of your internship means taking full advantage of the things DC has to offer. Remember: your office is your home but D.C. is your campus.

Reagan Ashley
U.S. State Department
Washington, D.C. | spring 2019