Robert De Niro did it. Elle Woods did it, even Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn did it. They all landed a sweet internship. Now, I am by no means an expert on internships, but I do have experience with one particular creature of internship–the DC summer internship–and I’m here to tell you what they don’t tell you in the interviews or on the “Young Leaders: Summer 2016” webpage. It’s not all beautifully tailored suits and influential people traipsing around (but there is some of that).
Whether or not you’ve been to DC professionally or have any interest in going, virtually every American college student has either met, been, or at least heard of someone who’s interned in our dear capital city. So what’s it really like?
The weather is killer.
My buddy Nicholas, who’s both a native Washingtonian and interning this summer for the Executive Office of the Mayor in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (*breath*), still dreads the summers. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get over the shock of walking out of his house into a 90 degree, 90 percent humidity day. Add to that equation a full suit, public transportation and the fact Capitol Hill is literally a hill. Ick. Oh, but you have to always have a jacket at the ready because anywhere with AC is a polar vortex and you’ll freeze your hiney off in three seconds.
No bang for your buck.
Man oh man. This past spring DC was ranked as the fifth most expensive American city to live in , placing it above even San Francisco. That reality is rough for many of the city’s interns who are unpaid. Still, the higher cost of living forced me to get out and enjoy the Smithsonian Institution’s museums and zoo, which are all free, as well as the many outdoor concerts and festival open to the public free of charge. While bar hopping or bi-weekly brunches ( all the hip Washingtonians go to brunch) may put you deep in the red, a quick Google search makes it clear all that the city has to offer gratis.
All about networking.
You never know who you’ll just bump into here. One evening I was hanging out with my buddies downtown and I struck up a conversation with a woman in this super neat outfit. Well, turns out she was the daughter of the Ambassador to the US from Monaco. She ended up inviting me and my friends back to the embassy residence, which was GOR-GE-OUS. The city is full of interns every summer and that means lots of interesting people looking to meet other interesting people. If you keep your wits about you the networking possibilities are limitless.
You get out what you put in.
Yes, DC is hot and sticky. Yes, it can be pretty expensive. Yes, there are influential people all over the place. That all aside, in the big picture, a DC summer internship isn’t that different from any other summer internship. You can be bummed out about sweating through your dress shirts and not affording an Uber after a Nat’s game during surge pricing, but you are in the midst of a great opportunity. While a city can influence your experience, it’s ultimately the company you’re working for that determines your satisfaction–not the brunches, not the AC and not the famous people you’ll meet.