Posted on Saturday, Apr 04, 2020

An integral part of the internship experience in Washington, D.C. is learning to navigate your way through one of the most dynamic cities in the world. During those first few weeks, it takes some time to adjust to the massive crowds of tourists and school groups that come down to the nation’s capital each year, but you learn to walk with a purpose. The excitement to visit every museum and interact with each exhibit consumes you. While the metro seems scary at first, you quickly learn to navigate It to every part of the city. You become eager to grow your network and you never hesitate to shake hands to introduce yourself. It is so easy to get caught up with the hustle and bustle of this magical place but there’s one lesson that may not have been emphasized enough: Wash! Your! Hands! 
As future policymakers, we are all eager to get hands-on experience in the policymaking process, but it is important to remember to get your hands in the sink first. It is no secret that we all come to D.C. to make a difference and it is important to remember that a whole lot of good can be done for your community through an action as simple as washing your hands.
Here are some good reasons to wash your hands often:
  • Washing your hands helps protect you from germs and bacteria and will help protect those around you. Living in the intern housing, you learn to really care for your fellow interns and their passions, you don’t want them getting sick and missing out on exciting internship experiences, do you???
  • There are other members in your community who would greatly benefit from being exposed to fewer infectious diseases. Being a good citizen means watching out for whoever may be picking up what you’re putting down on the metro handrails.
  •  When done properly and at strategic times, handwashing can be one of the most effective public health strategies. Sing whatever song you must sing, just make sure you get those full 20 seconds and get those hard to reach places!
  • You want to leave your mark on this city, but, not like that. In addition to washing your hands, I encourage everyone to just be mindful of how much you touch throughout the day. By limiting these points of contact and increasing your handwashing, you’re making sure you leave a cleaner and more positive mark.
For the interns of spring 2020, this is a message that was increasingly repeated to us as our internships were altered due to COVID-19.  Messages encouraging people to wash their hands were displayed all over metro stations like in the photo above. With the threat of COVID-19 looming so large, it is important to understand that even the smallest thing you can do could make such a difference for those around you.

Cindy Figueroa
Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, D.C. | spring 2020