Interns: Currency of the Capitol And Little Minions to People In Charge

Anyone who takes college seriously can attest to the importance of internships, whether you’re an engineering major or a studio art buff.  D.C. is arguably the epicenter of internships.

At first, it seems that internships are irrational. Why would anyone take a job where they must lick envelopes for a congressman only to be paid with an extra business card to put away in a networking drawer? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to internships, otherwise I wouldn’t even be in D.C.  But I must concede to the fact that not all internships are created equal. If you plan on taking on the capital monster known as D.C., you best be careful in choosing your internships.

The majority of my fellow UCDC residents enjoy their internships and the work they do. There are, however, some that bemoan their existence every morning before work starts.

Take Candice, for instance. She initially took an internship at a child advocacy group believing she would fight the good legal fight for the children of America.  Little did she know that she would spend her time as a serf…err…I mean intern serving lemonade and snacks to children eight hours a day.  That certainly wasn’t on the UCDC brochure she read back home. Luckily for her, as soon as the harsh, soda-flavored reality kicked in, she quit to find greener pastures. Last time I checked she was going for a Department of Justice internship, a vast improvement to serving pretzels to snot-nosed children.

Even prominent internships can still go wrong for individuals who aren’t well versed in dealing with the bureaucratic nightmare of Washington. Christy scored a research internship where she would help to develop the American Midwest, which had been devastated by economic recessions.  Unfortunately, there was no one to tell her what to do.  Spending eight hours a day with a confused look on your face in the middle of a bureaucratic mess can be taxing no matter how interesting or renowned the institute is.

Another confused intern is Lisa, who can’t even access a computer in her internships because of IT issues that the staff apparently did not bother to address until her arrival. With no work to do, I advised Lisa to invest in a Nintendo DS to kill the time.

So to those back home thinking about their future endeavors in the internship game, just know that not all internships are created equal. Deciding where to intern will be a battle between the prominence of the institute and the prominence of the labor. Should I choose an internship merely because it takes place in an important chamber of Congress?  Or should I go with that small and unknown think-tank group where the work is stimulating and rewarding but provides little networking opportunities? It’s a very valid issue for all future interns and especially those who are heading out to UCDC in the near future.

Fortunately, even if the internship you choose is absolutely dreadful, you are always free to quit and find a more suitable one. What are they going to do, cut off your nonexistent benefits and paycheck?  That is perhaps one aspect of interning that is liberating.

Now, why would we put ourselves through this? Why go all the way to D.C. to serve coffee to shady senators or make copies for crusty old lobbyists? We all have to pay our dues to better ourselves. Plus, I take pleasure in knowing that bratty college kids who never knew the value of hard labor are currently licking envelopes for free.