The World Is Your Oyster (I Personally Prefer Fish, Though)

Posted on Friday, Jul 19, 2019

I have to start with some frankness: As someone who is currently working in Arlington, Virginia, I sometimes slightly envy my intern peers in D.C. proper who are closer to many high-profile, high-impact events than I am. Don’t get me wrong, I love my internship; I get to take initiatives on projects I’m interested in and learn more and more every day! But, time flies so quickly, and anyone living in an area with so much history and vivaciousness wants to take advantage of it, right? I write this with all prospective students in mind, whether you end up working in D.C. proper or just outside of it. With that, here are a few ways I’ve been able to make the most of my time both within and outside of my internship, and how you can as well!
  1. Weekends (and the 4th of July if you’re here during the summer)! Your weekends are, of course, your greatest opportunity to explore the city. Two museums I enjoyed visiting for the first time were the National Museum of African Art and the Holocaust Museum. The former is the only museum dedicated solely to African art in the United States and is a fascinating trip throughout the continent and its complex, multi-layered history. The latter can only be described as harrowing, but a powerful and sober reminder of how easily tyranny can gain momentum and devastate a society. But, even if you’ve been to a tourist attraction before, go again! Every time I visit any of the Smithsonian museums, I always find myself learning something new or re-learning something old. For example, the memorabilia in the Presidency exhibit at the Museum of American History never fails to fascinate me.
  2. Talk to your internship supervisor if there’s an event that interests you. I am fortunate that my supervisor told me upfront he understands I should be able to take advantage of my time in D.C. Consequently, I took one morning off from work to attend a Senate committee hearing on the humanitarian crisis at the southern border (Side note: Most Senate and House committee hearings are open to the public, so if you get the chance, go! You should also show up an hour and a half early; those lines form quickly!). 
If your supervisor makes this offer to you, take advantage of it (reasonably, of course; remember you do also have a job to do). But, even if your supervisor never explicitly says so, from talking to other interns, most of them understand that young professionals should get to take advantage of city life.
  1. Take advantage of and relish the opportunities at your workplace. If I’m being honest, this part is easier for some workplaces than others. For example, if you’re a congressional or government affairs intern, you will likely be asked to attend a hearing every now and again. If you work for a nonprofit/NGO, you might have to attend events related to that organization’s niche (ex: immigration, health policy, etc.). Enjoy these events and take some notes on what you learned or got out of them! Where I work, I’m not asked to attend as many events, but I’ve enjoyed several external meetings I’ve had at the Department of Commerce, World Bank, and other groups. 
There’s never any shame in taking a Saturday to relax and catch up on Netflix, but don’t make that the only thing you do. Push yourself to explore, learn, and grow as a person! The world is your oyster while you’re here in D.C. (though I personally prefer fish; speaking of which, the Municipal Fish Market is pretty fun!)

Mustafa Ahmad
Global Cold Chain Alliance
Washington, D.C. | summer 2019