Our new apartment hunter is an intern looking to stay in the Washington area after he graduates. Here is his first post as he begins the search for affordable, permanent housing:

(Courtesy of Gina Alessi )

Originally from Paso Robles, Calif., I now attend Hope International University and California State University, Fullerton. I’m now an intern at the Washington Times this semester, and this area, its people, and the opportunities have impressed me so much that I want to live here in the future.

As everyone knows, journalism these days doesn’t pay much, so the best place to start looking is outside the immediate D.C. area. I looked for apartments in Wheaton and Silver Spring a few weeks ago with my girlfriend of five years when she came for a visit.

Naturally, we picked up two copies of Apartment Showcase and started book-marking it, looking for a two-bedroom that allows cats and with most utilities paid for under $1,300 a month.

Fairfax and Montgomery counties look especially promising due to their heavy emphasis on paid utilities and their closeness to mass transportation — something that is crucial unless one wants to hang out on the Beltway for hours.

Specifically, we looked at the surrounding area of Oakfield and Glenmont Crossings in Wheaton. At this point, we’re not quite ready to rent yet. The surrounding area is the most important thing for us until we start to look more seriously at square footage and other factors.

Down the street from both complexes lies the beautiful, large and family-oriented Wheaton Regional Park. It features a botanical garden, miniature train and picnic areas.

We imagined waking up every morning to the sound of birds chirping and sunlight pouring through the trees. Wheaton Regional Park seems to be a magnet for anyone looking for peace outside the chaotic Beltway.

Additionally, Oakfield and Glenmont Crossings are situated on Georgia Avenue — perfect for a short bus commute to the Wheaton Metro Station.

We plan to, hopefully, spend a third or less of our combined income on rent in order to pay off student loans and gain some capital so that eventually we can afford a house and have kids. I believe Washington is a good area for kids. It has the feel of small town despite being a big city.

We’re confident that by living outside the District, we’ll be able to incorporate all the things I love about D.C., while still holding on to our roots in tiny, rural Paso Robles.