Without a doubt, my D.C. internship was the greatest adventure in my education.
My experience at The Washington Center has prepared me for next fall when I undertake graduate classes while working at the same time. It may not be easy, but I’m ready. Here are some of the reasons why.
I learned through my friends and coworkers here how to advocate for myself. At my first evaluation, one of my supervisors was curious why I hadn’t stayed longer as previous interns had consistently done. I had never been opposed to staying late, but it shouldn’t be a given. Lorna, the other intern at the evaluation, had a strong stance that she could be as productive without staying late. She told our supervisor, “If you have me pick between this job and me, I’m picking me every time. I value this office but I also value my time.” That really resonated with me because there have been previous employers who have taken advantage of my strong work ethic and kept me beyond my responsibilities and hours outlined in the job description.
All interns should feel comfortable having a dialogue with their supervisors about how long they’re working. I have had too many conversations with TWC interns that they never had a set time to leave; they would leave when their supervisors left, sometimes as late as 6:30 p.m. Other interns in the area said their bosses asked them to work and be available for weekend projects and conference calls because, “That’s how the real world works.” That is entirely problematic to be at your employer’s beck and call, especially for unpaid interns. Time is valuable. Working extra hours shouldn’t be a requirement.
Discovering new career paths has been a nerve-racking yet exciting prospect. I appreciate all the opportunities TWC gave me to explore different paths. Through LEAD, I got to see a food bank’s operations and look at Georgetown University’s communication grad programs. From public affairs career panels to Race in America discussion series to grad school fairs, these opportunities were on topics that mattered to me and made me think about where I might want to end up, whether I wanted to consider more education to fill in any gaps.
The advice I was given in terms of jobs was that there is no wrong move. I was told to be careful about post-grad education because school is expensive, but that it is what you make of it. I’m looking forward to having a semester to myself to reflect and really consider what my direction is. I’m young and have time.
Balancing work and schoolwork has been a challenge, and it seems like it is one I will have to continue to work on. I have held different on-campus or campaign jobs every semester of college since the end of my first year. Working Monday through Thursday, however, week after week, was a structure I wasn’t used to. Previously, I made my own hours week by week. Here, I was on a structured schedule for certain tasks. Unless I had a brief or I was asked to come in earlier, I generally always came in at the same time, left around the same time.
When Thursday afternoon would roll around, for the first time in my college career, I knew my weekend hadn’t started yet. I would still have to get through my evening International Organizations and Humanitarian Law class and LEAD the next morning, plus a mandatory online class I take through my institution. Sometimes, I would schedule coffees on Fridays to get advice from Hill staffers too. I hope it all translates as I expect.
While I was only here a semester, I think my experience has been different than anything I could’ve done on campus or in another abroad location.Matt Enriquez
While I was only here a semester, I think my experience has been different than anything I could’ve done on campus or in another abroad location. Communication is a major skill in any workplace and I got a lot of experience communicating with political staffers on the Hill, networking at receptions all over D.C., and taking constituent calls in the office of my Congresswoman. I have applied to my Congresswoman’s district office back home. District office work is different because it’s casework instead of legislative work, but communication is one of my strengths I’m bringing--hopefully--to my new office.
I finish my undergraduate degree this December and I look forward to recounting tales of my first internship experiences to new supervisors, new coworkers, and friends, as I continue to do the things that will develop me into the young professional I want to be.
About the AuthorMore Content by Matt Enriquez