street in D.C.

Four Facts about D.C.

This article is part of a semester-long series following Aubrey Neal’s experiences in the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program (WHIP). WHIP provides Hillsdale College students the opportunity to participate in semester-long internships in D.C. while taking classes at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center.

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After my first day at my internship, I have learned a few things about working in this huge city. Before I lay them out for you, however, some prefacing is necessary. I’m working in the Capitol district, right across the street from the Capitol itself, where everyone walks with purpose and has the confidence of “I’m the next president, so I dare you to say a word to me.” Welcome to my precinct of the city. I’m quite positive that if you walked a block, everything before and after this sentence is entirely void.

1. Everyone wears a suit. This morning it was 8 degrees outside (feeling like -12), yet the business-formal scuffle through the snow didn’t cease; it only became more huddled. Dress shoes, designer laptop cases, and big black umbrellas became just as freezer-burned as our bodies did. Here, you dress for your job, not for the weather.

2. No matter what the movies (or the law) tell you about pedestrians in the city, looking both ways for traffic is a necessity. You are more likely to have a car try to squeeze in between you and your friend who are crossing the street than to have the huge Suburban wait respectfully behind its white line.

3. Work environments differ as much as personalities do. With one day done and looking forward to the next, the office that I’m interning in is unlike any I have worked in previously. This office operates like a well-greased machine, yet it feels similar to A.J.’s Café on a Thursday afternoon with the constant laughter and loudness of its energetic, younger staff, excited by the livelihood of their careers.

4. Everyone has been in your place at some point. No matter their position, no matter how expensive their suit, and no matter how they treat you, your boss, your co-worker, and the person you pass in the hallway have all been a student, an intern, and a new body in this city. Most people who you come face to face with realize this and seem to respect the fact that you are catching on to city life. Every now and then, however, you have an experience that makes you feel like WHIP really is a study abroad program because no one seems to speak your language.

Still in my first week of being a D.C. resident, there is more that is happening around me than I could possible write down. It does, however, give me confidence to say that any student from Hillsdale can survive here. It may take some time, it may take some prayers, and it definitely takes a metro map, but it is possible.

Aubrey Neal is a junior at Hillsdale College, majoring in Political Economy. She is currently a participant in the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, interning in the public policy department at FreedomWorks. Originally from the mountains of Northern Idaho, Aubrey is excited to share her numerous new experiences and opportunities from the capitol with Hillsdale and its supporters.