How to Use Your Intern Status | The Washington Center

How to Use Your Intern Status

When commuting anywhere in D.C., I have two goals: Don’t look like a tourist and don’t look like an intern.


Many times I’ve looked across the street and seen a student, awkwardly dressed in business attire, holding a backpack or handbag and commuting to work, and it's painfully obvious that he or she is an intern. It’s ridiculous, I know—I am an intern. Why should I try to hide the fact? But it’s very common for interns to try to act like they’re not for a few reasons: interns can be treated a bit differently, but interns are just trying to mimic the young professionals they aspire to be one day.



Courtesy of Buzzfeed



While there are many mechanisms for trying to hide your intern-ness, it is much more difficult to embrace your role with style. Before attending a conference, I asked one of the associates at the office how I should approach the speakers that I wanted to keep in touch with. He gave me this piece of advice: “Remember that in their eyes, you’re a young, passionate student who is interested in what they do. Take advantage of that—who doesn’t like teaching a young and passionate student who respects you?” I then realized that instead of trying to disguise the fact that I was an intern, I should use it to my advantage.


And I did just that. I walked up to a speaker after a panel conference, expressed my enthusiasm for what she did, explaining to her that as a student, I’m trying to figure out the next steps in my life. She responded positively, handing me her business card and telling me she would love to talk about how she got to where she did. In hindsight, I don’t think the interaction could have been as positive if I had just approached her as the employee of a trade firm, solely talking to her for business purposes. As young interns, what we have is ardor, energy and eagerness—it’s just a matter of utilizing those three ingredients to make for the best result.



As you probably already know from your college search, a campus visit can make or break a school and their program. But as you well know, you never get the full picture just from a school’s website or a campus visit. The nice thing about D.C. is that many people are constantly in contact with the main schools in the greater D.C. area, meaning that you can tap into less official information about the schools as part of your graduate school search process. Talk to people, be open about which schools you’re interested in for your master’s degree and why— most people will provide some feedback about the campus culture and reputation of the schools you're interested in. And after a couple of those conversations, you will be much more informed about your graduate school decisions.



I kid you not, how to spend my weekend was something I had to learn. Everyone has different preferences—some may want to go out on the weekends, others may just want to turn on Netflix and fall asleep to an episode of Parks and Rec. Part of being a seasonal intern is that you’re really an extended tourist, so go do the touristy things! Go to the Washington Monument and pay Abraham Lincoln a visit. Visit all the Smithsonian museums and just hang out on the National Mall.  Go to Jazz in the Garden with your friends and sign up to some MeetUp groups and meet new people. Make sure that by the time you’re trip to D.C. is over, you don’t have to take another costly touristy trip to D.C. because you didn’t get a picture of the White House or see Capitol. But, of course, don’t forget to balance it all out to give yourself some time to study, and your bank account a time to breathe. They say life is just one big balancing act, and in D.C. it most definitely is.


Have fun being an intern!



J. Lee

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