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The Dirt on D.C. Internships: What to Expect

When I found out I got an internship in D.C. for the spring semester, I was beyond excited. As a journalism major, it has always been my dream to be an editor of a magazine, and the fact that I’d be spending the next four months gaining experience with all aspects of creating a magazine, I couldn’t be happier. 
Heading into my first day, I didn’t know what to expect. D.C. is a big, bustling city and my feelings of excitement mixed with nerves as I imagined all the possible things that could go wrong. Would the Metro be delayed and I’d be late for my first day? Would I get lost in the city and not be able to find the office? Was my outfit choice appropriate?

Now, as I’m almost halfway done with my internship, I can say that there are many lessons I have learned throughout this experience. And some I learned the hard way.  Thinking back, I wish I had had someone to give me some tips on what to expect or how to prepare for my first college-level internship, which is why I’ve created a list of some advice to keep in mind for those of you who may have pre-internship worries.
1.Don’t get discouraged. If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this. It is important to go into an internship with a positive attitude and not get upset if you don’t do something amazing on your first day. Your employer needs to see your skill set and experience in the field before trusting you with a big assignment or responsibility.
Working for a travel magazine, I was a little upset after spending the first day updating restaurant and clothing store listings, but I didn’t let my employers see that.   If you remain positive, enthusiastic and show your boss that you can handle more responsibility, they’ll give it to you. If you have a bad attitude, you might not be so lucky.
2. Get a SmarTrip card. If you’re planning on taking the Metro to your D.C. internship, this card will be your best friend. At the start of your internship, simply buy a card at wmata.com, and you can add value to your card at any time. This will save you not only from having to buy a single fare card each time, but also give you a few extra minutes to get to your train. 

3. Leave extra time. As I’m sure you’ve all heard before, it is always better to be early than late. You want to show employers that you’re responsible, so make sure you leave enough time in case of delays. Especially if your internship is in a city like D.C. that requires public transportation, you need to be prepared for anything. It’s also helpful to look up and write down the stops you need to get off at or if you need to transfer at any stations before heading to the Metro.
4. Pack a lunch! While it might sound silly to pack a lunch when you’re in college, I can promise you’ll be much happier eating your peanut butter and jelly sandwich than spending 10 dollars on a turkey sandwich. While it’s fine to buy a meal every once in a while, in D.C., with a 10 percent tax on restaurant meals, buying lunch every day can add unnecessary costs.

5. Do everything. Really. Volunteer for any and all assignments you’re offered. Employers will be encouraged to give you more opportunities to step up if they see you taking the initiative. You can also build great relationships with employers this way and maybe score a killer recommendation letter for future jobs and internships!  

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