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Plan ahead for a successful internship

Jenna Johnson

Erin Williams is a copy aide at The Post and has done three internships in the D.C. area. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 2009 with a major in telecommunication and film. Here is her advice for newbies:

erinwilliams.jpgCome early if you can.
I had never lived anywhere outside of my hometown before, and I wanted to soak up as much of D.C. as I could since it was going to be my new home away from home. I came down a week prior to my internship to see and do everything I had read up on during the semester prior to my internship. It also helped me as far as getting acclimated to the Metro system and certain neighborhoods within the city.

Form a support group beforehand
Put your Facebook account to good use and perform a search for those students from your school who are now located in D.C. Reach out to a few of them and let them know you are coming to the area and ask if they have any tips, and if you feel comfortable enough, ask them if they would like to meet up once you arrive. That way, you will already know a few people beforehand that you can bounce questions off of and reach out to if you need help.

Learn more about yourself
Use this time to find out more about what you want to do by talking to as many people as you can. When I interned on the Hill, I got really hip to the idea of becoming a press secretary. I let people on the staff know about my interest, and they made sure to put me in contact with a few in Congress, as well as other communications directions that worked on the Hill.

Read up beforehand
I started reading up on D.C. well before my visit, so when I arrived I already knew the major happenings in the area as well as what events were occurring. I lived by the Intern Guide on the Post site, as well as DCist.com.

Prepare to budget
Unless you live in a place that already has a higher cost of living (Read: NYC) then you are going to have a few shocking moments when you realize the difference between your hometown and D.C., as far as money goes. Get ready to budget out a certain amount for taking the Metro to and fro every day, and bring your breakfast and lunch if you can. On that note, take advantage of the perks that your organization has. Load up on the breakfast and lunch meetings, since the food is probably going to be much better than your PB&J. Go to events, eat the free food, grab a glass of wine and relax. But don't overdo it.

Read the Express
Grab a copy when you are on the train every morning. They give it to you for a reason! That way, you already have a head start on what the news is for the day and can engage in good conversation.

Bring a camera
Not to just be a tourist, but to just capture all the new and interesting sights you will see: Dupont Circle, that new weird sushi roll you just ordered, the monuments at night.

Be open to trying new things
You are in a new place, with new faces and new opportunities. Don't be that intern who is homesick every night because you go to your internship and go straight home -- live a little! Go to U street and take a stroll. Hit up a free performance at Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center. Go window shopping on M Street. De-stress with a night of fun at Adams Morgan.


Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all D.C. interns. So, make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload.

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

By Jenna Johnson  |  June 1, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Interns  | Tags: Internships  
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