Five Tips For The Fresh-Faced DC Intern

Dear DC Intern,

So you just stepped off the plane to work on the iconic “Hill” or ended up in some crammed corner of a non-profit. You know you’ll hit the monuments, schedule a trip to the White House and such. But how about enhancing the experience? I mean, beyond the basics? I won’t pretend I’m a Washingtonian, but just one year ago, I was in your shoes. I started my DC blog (ahem), toted my heels to work, and photographed the Capitol at least 67 times.

Here are a few more pointers – beyond what your program coordinators, professors, college alumni, or East Coast friends will tell you.

  1. Fear not the bus system. If you’re with an expensive DC Internship program (like WISH or The Washington Center), you’ve probably got a pretty sweet setup, and may be very close to the metro trains. I, too, was coddled as an intern; I stuck mostly to the Red Line. But the bus system (though hard at times to navigate), is actually an untapped resource. It really will take you to those hard-to-reach places. In some cases, it’s quicker to cross town by bus so you don’t have to take the metro all the way downtown and transfer.

    By the way, watch out for motorcades. They are a frequent occurrence in the District. My first weekend as an intern, Ted Kennedy's funeral procession made its way downtown.

  2. Budget for the metro. Budget a lot. Pretend like you’re in Europe (That is, don’t fret over the exchange rate, or in this case, the gas mileage-versus-metro-trip comparison). While you’re here, budget out your weekly transit money for your SmarTrip card. Then forget about it. If you’re interning with the government, congrats! Most government internships pay for the Metro. But if your internship doesn’t cover it, get ready to pay up.
  3. You’re here because you love politics? Know the local politics, too. Even though Congress isn’t in session yet, but the local politics are heating up. Want to fit in? Study up on these two people: Fenty and Gray. It’s likely you’ll hear talk about those two on the metro or during a happy hour. If you really want to sound like a local, drop an acronym like ANC or BID.

    And you can make renewals online. Bonus for the lazy student in us all.

  4. DC loves lit. DC is, among many things, one of the most educated cities in the United States (Great! You’ll fit right in!) If you arrived with 2 suitcases, you probably didn’t have a whole lot of space for books. In that case, check out the DC Public Libraries, which has a branch in nearly every neighborhood in D.C. If you don’t have time for leisure reading, take a trip anyways to study up for that foreign policy class you’re probably taking. (Tip: to get a card, all you need to do is bring a piece of mail with your DC address, however temporary the residence). If you’re a true book-nerd, please join me on September 25 at the National Book Festival held right on the National Mall (a.k.a. America’s Front Yard). I went last year, too.
  5. Happy Hours are great…in moderation. They say DC is all about networking. So go to a post-work Happy Hour and brush up on those skills. But for pete’s sake, please don’t make a fool of yourself. Didn’t you leave the frat parties at school? You still have to go to work the next day, and you don’t want to be THAT intern. (To read more about what THAT intern is like, please visit the infamous DC Interns Blog) .

For further resources, check out these two great books: Newcomer’s Handbook and Cheap Bastard’s (both D.C. editions). Other tips to add? Let me know in the comments section.


About Meg Biallas

Thoughts From A DC Intern Turned DCist. A twenty-something goes beyond traditional tourism to achieve Washingtonian authenticity.
This entry was posted in DCist, Internship, public transportation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Five Tips For The Fresh-Faced DC Intern

  1. Thanks for the great tips, Meg. There is a lot to learn about this city and I can’t wait to hopefully post a blog like this to people in my shoes one day! Great advice.



  2. Patricia Biallas says:

    You predicted your own fate in your 9/29/09 blog on the National Book Fair — you’re now an official DC resident. You’ve come a long way baby! Congratulations.

    (So have you signed up to volunteer at this year’s Book Fair yet?)


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