Student Blog: Interning at the Canadian Embassy
Hello from Washington DC
by Cyle Petersen '10
I've now been in the nation's capital for exactly one week. It seems like I have experienced a year's worth of sightseeing, local culture, and the like already with very minimal rest time to even reflect on it. So here goes...
The journey started last Friday as I made me trek to the airport and ended Saturday afternoon in the airport here in Washington after I waited for 3 extra hours to get my lost luggage. That wasn't exactly the welcome I was hoping for after being awake for almost 2 days straight, but my luck has definitely changed since then! I got to the beautiful, historic campus at Georgetown University during the check-in hours and couldn't have been more relieved to plop down all my luggage in my apartment and just relax ... for a few minutes. My roommates gradually showed up and we all got to know each other before we had orientation with The Fund for American Studies in the evening. I'm glad I got to know my roommates at least before the evening's festivities because altogether there are almost 400 of us in the program, all interning at different organizations
or corporations around Washington and going to classes and lectures at night to top it off!
Sunday was a relatively "free" day (seems to be the only one on my 2 month schedule for the summer) so my roommates and I trekked off to find a grocery store and a Goodwill to get our apartment cheaply set up. What started as a harmless trip to the store ended up being a 5 hour ordeal that included several metro stops, many buses, and an astounding amount of horrible directing from passers-by. When all was said and done we made it back to our apartment with about half of what we set out for with 15 minutes to spare before our one night activity. Lived and learned I guess. However, the frustration of being lost in a new city soon was overcome with happiness as I found a $20 bill waiting to be picked up on the sidewalk. With no lost-and-found in sight (haha), I thought it was a good reward for all of our hard work, even though we ended up using it to catch
a taxi back so we could be on time. The evening was capped off with a night tour of the monuments. Although it was my second round of the monuments, to me they haven't gotten old yet, so it was very cool.
Monday was our first half-day of activities, rounded off with a riveting 3 hour investigation of Comparative Economic Systems, which will be the case 3 days a week for all of June until my class switches to The Transformation of American Politics. Yay! The morning included my very first time in a suit and my very first time sweating in a suit. The humidity had begun! The night included thinking of how to solve this, what would become daily, problem of being drenched in sweat before I got to where I needed to go. I'm still working on that one, with no answer in sight! I guess it's the price to pay. To say the least, there were more weather challenges to come.
Finally it had arrived, my first "full" day of activities — internship at the Canadian Embassy from 9AM-5PM and the first installment of the Judd Lecture Series from 7PM-9PM. I was woken up to the loudest thunder I had ever heard, accompanied with buckets of rain that turned stairs and drains into waterfalls and rivers. Luckily the weather Gods stepped in and allowed me to arrive to my first day of work with only a light mist falling. I arrived at the Embassy in the midst of a big event, so it was a bit hectic, but I was taken up to the intern coordinator by her friendly assistant. I was given the usual welcome spiel that was expected and then I had to run to my department, Congressional and Legal Affairs, to meet up with the other intern to head to the White House for a tour! Tourist mistake #1 — taking a camera everywhere you go. I soon found out
that you aren't allowed into the White House if you even have a camera with you. This is the reason why there are no pictures accompanying this first blog. Most places, including my workplace, do not allow cameras past the initial security checkpoint. The other intern went in while I waited outside and then when she came out about 20 minutes later we rotated positions and I did get to go on the tour. Upon exiting the tour I had my media-inspired image of the White House smashed by reality. Four or five rooms, a narrow pathway through them, and lots of fancy furniture concluded the tour and my desire to go back. I recommend going on the tour to anyone who hasn't experienced it, just to say you have been, but I'm sure you too will not have the desire to go a second time. The rest of the day back at the Embassy included finishing my tour of the building and introductions to other interns at my bosses in my department. Everyone
I met was so cheerful and laid back, even all my bosses. The work day was now done and the school day was slated to begin briefly. After making it back to the Georgetown campus with 3 minutes to spare, thanks to a 2-hour bus ride through rush hour, I sat in on our first lecture entitled "Is Capitalism Dead?: Lessons from the Current Crisis." It was very interesting and upon departure from the auditorium I could make a little bit of sense of the whole economic crisis that we find ourselves in. Definitely good to know how it really happened. My first day was done, and so was I. My bed was my last destination for the day.
Wednesday was much the same as my first full day 24 hours prior, with a few notable exceptions. First, I was asked to go stand in line for a Senate Banking Committee meeting for a couple hours so that two of my superiors at the Embassy who were tracking the issue could sneak in without a hitch. Luckily, the other intern I was with and I were able to retreat to the back of the line after our bosses got there and we ended up getting in on the meeting as well. Seeing some pretty notable Senators, including Dodd and Bayh, was pretty cool, as was witnessing my first Congressional hearing. The second exception was that instead of having to be back to campus by 7PM for a lecture, I had to be back by 6PM for another 3-hour economics class. As of now I was fully in the swing of things to say the least.
Thursday was much of the same, again with a few differences. When I arrived to work in the morning I was asked to hand deliver a letter to an undisclosed office somewhere in the city (I'm not sure how much information I'm allowed to reveal, as protection of information was a big component of my training earlier that week at the Embassy). Who knows if it was important or one of my bosses just wanted to make me feel important by hand delivering a letter ... I'm leaning towards the latter, but hey, you never know. Upon arrival back at the Embassy I was assigned my first report on a bill that has been making its way through Congress. After a couple hours I was done and e-mailed it to my boss with no reply with things to edit. It was good to know that my Catawba College education had supplied me with sufficient writing skills for my job, all jokes aside! I
was assigned another report, but the day was dwindling down, so I will hit the ground running bright and early Monday morning when I return. I guess I haven't mentioned that I only work Mon-Thurs because I have more class Friday mornings. Lucky me! Thursday night was capped off with my first Internship Seminar, a class that allows us interns to combine what we learn at our internships and apply it to class in order to learn skills that are critical to have in DC like networking and resume building. Very useful. Again, my bed was waiting for me when I got home.
Friday was a nice break from all the hustle and bustle of a busy first work week as I just had a 3-hour class in the morning, and that was it! I had time to take my first ever nap in DC! Later that night I had to meet at the Embassy to get a ride to the annual intern BBQ that two of the diplomats from the Embassy hold each summer to welcome all the interns, all 17 or 18 of us! A good time was had by all and I had the chance to get to know some of the other interns a little better than my initial walk-by introductions during my Embassy tour earlier in the week.
Today, Saturday, would normally be a day to sleep in and relax, but this week all of us in the program were taking part in various service projects across the city. I went to one of the city parks and helped clean up and beautify I guess you would call it. After a late night, standing out in the sun digging 3x4 foot holes would not have been my first choice of activities, but you have to do what you have to do I guess. It was definitely an eye-opener though, as the park I was in is also known as "Needles Park" for obvious reasons. On the bus ride back to campus I found myself sleeping as I sat perfectly upright with no headrest. Tired was an understatement. After a longggg nap, I come to you from my computer in my apartment. More to follow...