“Be careful with what you say. This is such a small city and everyone will find out.”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard something along those lines, I would be making a good amount of money–maybe enough to even cover two or three meals here in DC. As an unpaid intern in such a high scale city, any meal that isn’t taking additional money out of my own (parents’) pockets is a meal I would enjoy even more!
Since I was born and raised close to a city as large as Chicago, I am used to big city life: higher prices, people always in a rush, and always having something to see or do. However, living on my own in DC for the first time was a bit overwhelming. I was not sure what people were talking about when they said that the city was so small. As an intern walking around with google maps pulled up on my phone, I was initially so lost and confused.
I was stuck in the middle of trying to fit in as a resident of DC while still exploring the city as a tourist. Amidst the chaos of adjusting to a new city, I felt overwhelmed with all the new changes. I used to think that there was always so much to do and see in our nation’s capital.
I still believe that to be true. However, I’ve realized that everyone has been telling me the truth–DC is in fact extremely small. One of my friends came to visit me recently and we basically did DC in a day. We hit up the major tourist spots–the White House, the monuments, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court, Georgetown, etc–all within a few hours. We obviously didn’t spend hours taking pictures at each location, but we were really impressed that we were able to do so much in such a small amount of time.
That day made me realize that DC is a very small city. At the same time, I’ve realized that this city is full of big opportunities. For a student hoping to enter the legal or public interest field, there is no better place to spend a summer than in DC. We are literally in the heart of our nation’s capital and where laws are being made.
From the rooftop of my building, I can see the Washington Monument and the Capitol. On my walks to events I pass by the Supreme Court and White House. When I walk out of work and look to the left, I see the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. I live and work in an area that is surrounded by our nation’s history and I love being able to witness the efforts that are made for our nation’s progress today.
Every conference or networking event leaves me with a countless amount of new contacts and information. Since I just recently decided to pursue a route in this field, it has been an amazing experience to be able to speak to and learn from a variety of professionals. Because it is such a small city, everyone seems to know each other. I have been connected to individuals in the government, public sector and private sector. I have been given the opportunity to speak to people from the Hill, Department of Justice, State Department, non-profits, and so much more.
All of these opportunities have allowed me to open my eyes to the endless opportunities I have for my career. I knew that I’m interested in public health and civil rights, but never knew that there was so much I can do with those two passions. The different panels I go to have speakers that have been involved with so much over the years. It has helped me understand that I don’t need a straight path in life. Most of these individuals never planned out where they are now. They just grabbed any opportunity that sounded interesting and went from there.
I never knew that getting coffee with people or attending events can teach me so much. This city has allowed me to be even more positive that this is the kind of work I want to do in the future. I always want to come back to Chicago in the end, but I know that I want to come back to DC for at least a few years. I would love to do my gap year here to gain even more experience and hopefully attend law school here as well. I always complain about the humidity here but I definitely would come back. I know that every additional day in DC helps me learn something new and I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to immerse in this culture even more!