How to Nail your Internship...In Sweatpants

Posted on Wednesday, Dec 15, 2021

I knew moving to D.C. was going to be a culture shock, but navigating a virtual internship while others were in person was difficult. I interned with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Office of Land and Emergency Management. I wanted to experience EPA headquarters to make an informed decision about my life post-graduation, and that is exactly what I received. While my supervisors did their best with keeping things “normal,” there were things I needed to do to ensure my internship was a success and to overcompensate being in the apartment all day.

Here are things I learned and did throughout my virtual internship that kept D.C. exciting and motivating.

  1. Change out of your pajamas. I resisted the urge to stay in the same clothes all day because it kept me sluggish and unmotivated. Although I did not dress head-to-toe in business casual, I put on lounge wear that was comfortable but also felt confident in. This will keep you focused for meetings all day.                                                                                                                                  
  2. Take walks after work. I struggled trying to work out as I had before moving, so I walked around the area. This created amazing experiences out of the mundane. Every Tuesday, a small farmers market was held just around the corner of our apartment. I found a library and got a library card. I got to listen to music and experience this new area with drive. These walks helped clear my head, stretch my legs, and become more comfortable with my surroundings.                     
  3. Your bed is for sleeping, not working. I utilized the desk provided to us to ensure I was not tempted to fall asleep or become lazy throughout the day. I bought a candle and had my family send my slippers to me to make the apartment feel like home and a comfortable place to work.      
  4. The experience is what you make of it. Although a virtual internship is less than optimal, you have the same opportunities as your cohort to make something of it. For me, I scheduled multiple interviews with EPA staff to create intentional relationships and to have in-depth conversations about their role at the EPA. They provided me with advice for the future and encouragement for my nerves. This was the most impactful experience I had.

D.C. is an amazing place, no matter the situation. Being grateful for the experience will keep you positive throughout the low parts of it. Make sure to befriend the people you live with; they will enhance the experience more than you could imagine.

Madeline Luster
Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, D.C. | Fall 2021