Survival Tips for Summer Interns in Washington

By Bennett Sumner
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, June 26, 2009

If you google "Intern Washington D.C.," you will get more than 8 million hits. Some are blogs about internship experiences, others are sites that offer summer housing options, and then there's the increasingly popular blog "Spotted: D.C. Summer Interns." The entries chronicle ridiculous intern moments, such as when a young lady e-mailed her entire office asking for a tennis ball.

Although the blog is a helpful tool on what not to do, it doesn't give any guidance to the polite interns who simply want to enjoy the city.

What follows is my diary, the experiences of a Washington Post intern in the nation's capital, who for two weeks tried to make friends, navigate a city and get to work every day using only the Metro.

A word about the Metro: If, like me, you were born without a sense of direction, you're going to need to ask for help -- probably multiple times. After getting to the right stop on my first day, I found myself completely confused by the station's multiple exits and entrances. I worked up my courage and asked a young woman to point me in the direction of The Post. She not only helped me out, but we had a lovely conversation.

Tip No. 1: Don't act tough and pretend like you know where you are going, because you will probably just get lost. People in Washington may seem unapproachable, but for the most part they are excited to share their city with you. When in doubt, ask someone!

After just two days of being in the District, I was slightly depressed by my intern status. I didn't know anyone in Washington, had a habit of getting lost and was tired of going places by myself.

Tip No. 2: Make new friends.

It was time to make some new friends, and I decided to do it at lunch. I walked down the street to Cosi and stood in line to order. I was pretty sure the girl behind me was also an intern (face it, interns have a certain look about them), so I took the plunge and started a conversation.

Me: "Have you ever been here before?"

Emily: "No; do you know where we are supposed to order?"

Me: "I don't have a clue! I'm just following the crowd. Do you work around here?"

Emily: "Yes, I'm interning at . . . "

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