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Surviving an unpaid internship

Jenna Johnson

This summer guest blogger Emily Kennard will start her fourth unpaid internship. So, I asked her to share some tips for living in the city without a salary (she swears that it is possible):

Emily_Kennard.jpgI am really good at not making money. Probably too good. With three unpaid internships under my belt, I'm back for another this summer in Washington, D.C. Last summer I worked unpaid in D.C. as well, and somehow, I am back for more. Some people may think I'm crazy; I tell them I'm just a journalism student.

Take advantage of happy hours
Although this should be common sense, happy hours are my savior. Living on a very tight budget, it is hard for me to pay for two things very dear to my heart: food and alcohol. However, happy hours make this possible. To find out where happy hours are, check out

Walk to work if possible
There are many different reasons to walk to work. You can save money, get some exercise and enjoy some fresh air. Metro costs definitely add up in the end. For about three months, it could cost as much as $500. Walking around the city can open up your eyes to new museums, monuments and restaurants.

Be alert about free food
Always have Tupperware in your office drawer, just in case. Bosses' meetings usually entail some nice, fancy food. Do they always eat all of it? Usually not. This is where interns can help. Also, there is usually free coffee in the office, so don't spend money buying a coffee at the local Starbucks.

Look for odd jobs
Interns are more capable than just working in an office. We can cook, clean and watch over kids (well, hopefully). Look on Craigslist and ask around if anyone needs a babysitter or anything else. Sure, you might only make 30 bucks, but that 30 bucks will buy you a nice meal (or a few drinks).

Bond with other unpaid interns
There are thousands of unpaid interns in D.C. Get together! Potluck dinners work great; you bring one dish, but you eat several. Split big entrees at restaurants. Carpool if you drive to work. Every little thing adds up, especially in a city like D.C.

Final thoughts
Don't be afraid to live in D.C. with no salary. Embrace it! One day when you are working as an executive, you will be able to relate to all of your unpaid interns. And maybe even give them some of your leftover food, if they're lucky.

About Emily
Emily is a senior journalism student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This summer, she is interning at National Geographic. Prior to this, she has worked at Fox News, Figure 8 Films, ABC 11 and NASA. Originally from Ohio, she enjoys dancing, traveling, and enjoying the night life in D.C.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all D.C. interns. So, make sure to bookmark

You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  |  May 27, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Interns  | Tags: Internships  
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