How Flexibility has Strengthened My Internship Experience

Posted on Friday, Jul 19, 2019

If you’re like me, you like structure. You like knowing the what, when, and where of everything, but in Washington, DC flexibility is pretty helpful. Here’s how a little flexibility has made an impact on my summer:  
  1.  Mid-Atlantic Lead and Healthy Homes Summit in Baltimore, MD
A few weeks into my internship I was forwarded an email for an upcoming event in Baltimore.The email had no message, just a link to register and a tentative schedule, so I figured why not. I expected the event to be a bunch of people passionate about improving housing and learning new best practices.What I didn’t expect was for the U.S. Surgeon General to be there, which is a BIG deal for public health people like myself! I also got to meet the organization’s CEO for the first time, learn more about the new field I was in, tried a new form of transportation, and saw a little bit of another city.
  1.  JazzFest at The Wharf
I always try to leave a little wiggle room in my weekends. The only requirement I try and place on myself is: 1) see at least one museum a day and 2) try different food. This particular weekend the wiggle room led me and my roommates to an impromptu trip to JazzFest at The Wharf.  It turned out to be a great plan.  I was able to get some locally made soap, split a chili bowl and hotdog from Ben’s Chili Bowl (a landmark restaurant in DC), and got to listen to some jazz with my roommates at a pretty nice location!
  1. More work
Even though the idea of more work doesn’t excite everyone, it sure made me excited. I had been developing factsheets about different housing hazards for the first two months as part of the Client Services Team. Then all of a sudden, I was asked to help with the National Lead Prevention Campaign and do research for the Policy and Innovation Team. My flexibility has allowed me to work in different parts of the organization, meet more people, and, on one unfortunate day, led to me being soaked in the rain while running down the street with a box of informational booklets (the CEO was cc’d on the email about the task…I had to).
You don’t have to throw out all your plans, but it’s always nice to leave a little wiggle room in your day for the unexpected. A little flexibility could mean getting diverse work assignments, seeing more of the city (or going to another city), and going to fun impromptu events or happy hours.

Juliana Berlanga
Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
Washington, D.C. | summer 2019