A Week in My Life as an Intern for the Department of Defense

March 19, 2020 Elizabeth Westbrook

A Week the life of a Washington Center Intern for the Department of Defense

Liz, a political science major from Loyola Marymount University, shares what a week in her life is like as an intern for the U.S. Department of Defense.

My name is Liz Westbrook and I’m a political science major from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles! I decided to come to D.C. to take a break from a regular semester and gain tangible skills from my internship. Since my career goal is to become a foreign service officer, I wanted to gain more international knowledge and work for the government. I work at one of the Department of Defense’s regional centers called the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (NESA). We specialize in research and expertise about the Near-East region.

Monday

DC Intern Walk to Work
The walk to work is usually backlit by a beautiful sunrise, but not on a rainy day at six in the morning!

5:30 a.m. — Since I sacrificed precious hours of sleep to watch the Oscars last night, it takes me an extra twenty minutes to get out of bed. Luckily, I had already packed my breakfast and lunch, so I throw on my professional clothes and ran out the door.

6:20 a.m. — I meet my co-interns in the lobby of The Washington Center’s Residential and Academic Facility (RAF). Our commute is about fifty minutes, and we usually get there ten minutes early. Our long walk from the metro station to the base is something I wish I took into account when selecting my internship, especially when it’s raining.

7:10 a.m. —  I am one of the five interns assigned to the executive seminar. One of my  responsibilities is setting up the room with translators, microphones, coffee, and tea.

8:45 a.m. — The participants in the program arrive. Our participants are civilian diplomats and military officers, who are from the Near East and South Asia region. This particular seminar’s focus is Iran. During the sessions, we take notes on the seminar and any comments or questions the participants have.

12:30 p.m. — Lunch time! I’ve recently gotten into meal prepping, so for lunch today I am having a Lentil Salad, recipe linked here. Meal prepping makes life so much easier when working long days.

1:45 p.m. — More session note-taking, then the interns wrap up for the day.  

3:40 p.m. — We get out thirty minutes early today, leaving me enough time and energy to head to the gym after my commute home. 

5:00 p.m. — I work out at the gym in the RAF; there is not much equipment but it gets the job done. I work out to relieve stress, take my mind off of the day, and stay fit. I try to work out 5-6 times a week.

6:45 p.m. — Dinner time with my suitemate, catching up on our day. We were inspired after the Oscars to watch Bombshell, which is an amazing movie.

9:00 p.m. After the movie, I facetime my parents and boyfriend. This is my favorite time of the day, because I get to talk to the people I love who are so far away.

11:00 p.m. — Bedtime. Since I wake up so early I am ready to sleep as soon as I’m done with the movie.

Tuesday

Washington Center RAF Gym
The RAF gym is the perfect size for my quick High Intensity Interval Workouts!

5:30 a.m. — Wake up ready for another day.

6:30 a.m. — It’s raining pretty hard outside, so another intern and I decide to drive to work this morning, cutting our commute in half. Once we arrive at the office, the day is pretty much a repeat of yesterday: prepping the room for the seminar, taking notes during sessions, lunch sandwiched in-between, and then wrapping up for the day. 

5:00 p.m. — I get in a quick workout at the RAF again before my evening class.

6:30 p.m. — Once a week on Tuesdays, I have my evening class on U.S. foriegn policy. I picked this particular course because I hope to learn more about historical and current U.S. relations with other countries. 

10:00 p.m. — Bedtime!

Wednesday

The Middle East Institute Washington D.C.
The Middle East Institute has a really pretty set-up, including ornate patterned ceilings!

8:30 a.m. — I wake up later than usual because today, we’re going to the Middle East Institute with the program participants!

9:30 a.m. — Take notes on the presentations by the think tank. Our notes are used by other professors at NESA in case they need them at any time. One huge perk of today was getting a free lunch from Panera. 

4:00 p.m. — Workout at the RAF gym, third straight day in a row! 💪

6:00 p.m. — Simple dinner with my suitemate followed by some much needed downtime. I usually watch some Netflix or YouTube videos, I’ve been really into Bon Appétit’s test kitchen videos.  

10:00 p.m. — Time for bed, got (another) early morning tomorrow 😴

Thursday

The Mayflower Washington DC
The Mayflower is right in the middle of Downtown DC, a nice switch-up from the isolated military base.

5:30 a.m. — Waking up at this time does not get any easier, and today’s day will be long since we have a friendship dinner later tonight. 

7:00 a.m. — Set up the conference room and make the coffee.

9:00 a.m. — Final set of notes for the seminar. Our supervisor asks us to take verbatim notes for internal use… which I had never taken before this seminar. I had to learn quickly how to make sure everything a speaker said was on the notes sheet, because our notes can be used by professors for their research. 

3:00 p.m — We wrap up the room for the day and assemble participation certificates for the participants until it’s time to head over to the hotel for dinner. 

6:00 p.m. — We have a fancy dinner at the Mayflower hotel with the participants of the program. It was a great chance to have a candid conversation with the participants about their experience not only with the program, but also with the United States! One participant from Georgia mentioned that interns in his home country are never asked to brew coffee or perform other typical “intern” tasks, which was news to me!

9:00 p.m. — Bedtime because I was very tired after the long day.

Friday

Some beautiful flowers and Valentine’s chocolate to decorate our apartment for the holiday.
Some beautiful flowers and Valentine’s chocolate to decorate our apartment for the holiday.

8:30 a.m. — I wake up for my TWC LEAD class, which is from 9:00 to 10:30. We utilize this class to learn professional skills that we can use in the future.

11:00 p.m. — Workout at the RAF again. 

12:30 p.m. — Today’s Valentine’s Day, which I spend calling friends and family! My lovely parents sent me chocolates and my sweet boyfriend got me flowers, and I am very thankful for them. 

5:00 p.m. — My suitemate and I decide to celebrate the end of the week with a quick walk to the White House. Afterwards, we head down the street looking for something to eat. We settle on this place called Grilled Cheese Bar DC, which I 100% recommend. 

8:00 p.m. — I watch a few episodes of This Is Us with my suitemate to cap off the night. Although my suitemate and I were randomly assigned, the match was perfect and we share a lot of common interests. We make sure to have one night a week we dine out and one night where we watch a TV show or movie together.

Saturday

The Presidential Dog’s exhibit was inside of the infamous Watergate Hotel
The Presidential Dog’s exhibit was inside of the infamous Watergate Hotel.

9:00 a.m. — On the weekends, I usually wake up naturally around 8:30 but stay in bed for a bit longer. Today, I finally find it in myself to get out of bed at 9:00. 

10:30 a.m. — My friend who interns with me at NESA texts and asks if I’d be interested in going to a museum today. I don’t have any other plans, so we head out to the city.

11:00 a.m. — Our first stop is this special exhibit about Presidential Dogs at the Watergate hotel; however when we get there we realize it’s just one room with a couple portraits, so we switch up our plans. We museum-hop our way from the Smithsonian Castle to the Hirshhorn Museum, finally ending up at the Postal Museum

2:30 p.m. — We get lunch in Union Station at Cava, which is a chain originally established in D.C. that is sort of like a Mediterranean Chipotle. 

3:00 p.m. — After all the excitement and traveling around the city, it’s time for a nap! After I wake up, I spend the rest of the day just hanging out and Facetiming my boyfriend. 

Sunday

Walking in NoMA Washington DC
The walk to the nearby Giant is underappreciated, and this photo does not even do it justice.

9:00 a.m. — Workout at the RAF first thing in the morning!

11:00 a.m. — Grocery shopping for the week at Trader Joe’s and Giant, which is my least favorite part of the week because there’s always so much to get for my semi-meal prep routine.

1:00 p.m. — I spend a little too much time Netflixing, but what are weekends for if not binging on your favorite shows? My favorites are Madam Secretary, Grey’s Anatomy, and my guilty pleasure Love is Blind.

5:30 p.m. — I go to Union Market, which is a food hall near the RAF, to have dinner with my suitemate’s family who were in town. 

9:00 p.m. — More Netflixing to round out the week!

Conclusion

This week was one of my busier weeks, I’m not usually working an Executive seminar so I don't have to be at work until nine. I also get back from work around four typically, so to say this week was tiring would be an understatement. However, I do prefer it to my typical week because I love to be busy. At the end of the week, I feel productive, tired, useful, and ready for what’s next!


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About the Author

Elizabeth Westbrook

Elizabeth Westbrook is a political science major at Loyola Marymount University interning at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Spring 2020.

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