DC Living – You Have Now Entered the Professional Sphere

Written by Liz Hartman – Program Advisor, IBGA

Moving and living in a city can be tough. To help you, here are five important tips I learned from my past summer in DC that helped me excel within my internship, TFAS and my everyday living in DC. Be your best self this summer by following these tips!

Get To Know the People You Work For
You might be working with people that are older, younger or the same age as you. There might be a lot of differences between the two of you, but it is important you listen and get to know who you work for. If your supervisor talks to you about their kids, be engaged and excited. It might not be something that you can relate to, but showing this extra attention and displaying that you care will go a long way with your supervisor.

Fight Mundane Routine
We all know the feeling of coming home from a long day and just wanting to sleep. However, there are just too many opportunities in this city to take advantage of! Go on a run through the national mall, look up extended hours for Smithsonian museums, attend networking events with your office, meet for informational interviews. The possibilities are endless if you have the willpower to fight monotonous routine, and take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities awaiting you in DC.

Have a Prepared Elevator Speech 
There are many unexpected opportunities in DC to run into prominent people. Having an elevator speech prepared can help exponentially when gaining connections and future employment opportunities. Click here for examples and tips on how to write a good elevator speech.

 

Dress to Impress
Whether it be at your internship or out on the weekend, you never know when the opportunity will arise to attend an important networking or social event. Have a professional outfit prepared that you can wear on a whim to be ready for the numerous opportunities that will spring up this summer. Pay attention to the dress codes of different events, and know the differences between smart casual, business casual, and business professional!

Treat Everyone you Meet with Respect The person sitting next to you on the metro may someday be your boss, so it is very important that you treat everyone respectfully. Make an effort to put your best foot forward with everyone you meet. It could open a lot of doors in the future.

Mapping Your DC Running Route

Written by Brooke Cary – Program Advisor, IPJ

Washington, DC was recently voted one of the most active cities in the United States. No matter the time of day (or the temperature) you will always see people jogging through the city. So, whether your style is short and sweet, or long and casual, DC has some great run routes for you.

But first, a few tips:

  1. Avoid the “short” streets. One of the most irritating things about running through the city are the stop lights. Having to reboot your momentum every 350 feet because the stop light changed is no fun. Before you start your run, be sure you stick to the longer roads for a smoother run, especially if you’re tracking your time.
  2. Safety (and joint health) first. DC is a concrete jungle. City routes can wreak havoc on your joints if you’re a regular runner. Make sure your shoes have a good amount of cushion and support for your arch.
  3. Switch it up. There are so many options. Get creative and mix up these routes, or do them backwards to avoid running into a rut.

Now, the routes!

Short and Sweet (1 – 3 mile routes)

  • Circle the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. This is a great route if you’re looking for something that’s easy, brief and just under two miles. Leaving from Potomac House, at the GW Campus.
  • Run to the Arlington Memorial Bridge to see one the best views of the Potomac River, then circle the monuments and head back for a slightly more challenging 3.4 mile run. If you’re feeling extra energetic, you can run the steps near the bridge.

Long and casual (4 – 6 mile routes)

  • This route is pretty self-explanatory, but a favorite route for DC runners. It’s a 4 mile run down to the Jefferson Memorial and back again.
  • On this route, you’ll get the best of both worlds: running by the waterfront and pass by the White House. Head down through the President’s Park and cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

Muscle slay (7 – 8 mile routes)

  • Run past the monuments to scope out some new landscape in DC like East Potomac Park. This 7.5 mile run will give you a good workout, while giving you some new scenery if you’ve already run the National Mall more than enough times.
  • Classic run to Capitol Hill – This route is just over 8.5 miles and avoids the majority of the irritating street lights (unless, of course, you need a breather). You’ll pass by several of the Smithsonian Museums on your way there and the Jefferson Memorial waterfront on your way home!

Finally, after a good run head over to Burger.Tap.Shake or Captain Cookie in Foggy Bottom for some delicious, well-deserved calories. Happy jogging!

DC Metro Hacks

Written by Sarah Markley – Program Advisor, IPVS

It’s week two of your TFAS summer, and I’m sure by now you’ve all mastered the morning commute. The DC metro is one of the best options for getting around the city, especially since it’s so close to GW’s campus.  It can be daunting at first to use public transportation, but once you get the hang of it your life becomes so much easier. Even if you’re an experienced rider, using the metro can still be tricky at times – so I’ve put together a few tips to help you always look like a DC pro!

Get the App
Having the right app makes all the difference. An all around favorite is DC Rider, which offers an easily accessible metro map as well as a trip planner. You can also set your commuting route, and the app will show the next train from your home and work stations. There are updated times for trains arriving at all stations in the city, so you’ll never be left wondering how long you have to wait. Every second counts when you’re getting ready in the morning, don’t let the metro cause you to be late to your internship. This way you’ll always know if you have time for a Starbucks stop, and you won’t be that panicked person sprinting down the escalator!

Register your Card
On the WMATA website, you can register your SmarTrip card with your personal details. This allows you to reload it from home, and you can also recover the balance if the card is lost or stolen. It’s a great safety net so you can have peace of mind even if you go through a few cards this summer.

Stay Updated
Make sure you’re aware of all closures and delays that might affect your commute. You’re living in DC during the SafeTrack era, which means segments of the metro have been shut down periodically over the past year. Check the WMATA website to see which stations will be closed this summer, and follow them on Twitter for updates about accidents and other daily inconveniences. Better yet, visit ismetroonfire.com for a laugh and the latest smoke detection.

Walk with a Purpose
There’s nothing locals hate more than someone who stands on the left side of the escalator. Make sure you follow the crowd and stand on the right, and have your card ready to scan at the gates. Also try to avoid being stuck in the doors of the train, it’s always best to wait for the next one instead of jumping in as the doors close. Trust me, it’s better for your safety as well as your pride.

Keep a Sense of Humor
Remember that this is the metro, and it definitely will not always run smoothly. Delays and maintenance are a part of life, so don’t let it get you down if your train is behind schedule. Like the rest of the 9 to 5 crowd, you can just roll your eyes and turn up your music. You’ll even get comfortable enough to joke about the areas surrounding different stops, like the creator of this map.

You’re off to a great start in DC, and soon you’ll barely have to consult the map before hopping on a train. Your new confidence will make tourists ask you for directions! By the end of the summer, the city will feel like home and you’ll miss even the imperfect parts (like the metro) when you leave. So keep these tips in mind, and happy riding!

Building Mentor Relationships

Written by Grace Lederer – Program Advisor, ICPES

Forming relationships with mentors is an essential career tool. They will serve as a valuable resource throughout your career – offering advice, constructive criticism and insight in your area of interest. Below are some tips on having a beneficial mentor relationship.

Take Time to Prepare
Think about what you want to get out of each mentor meeting before arriving.  Are you seeking advice on etiquette and professionalism?  Do you want to be connected to more professionals in your field?  Do you need them to offer edits on your resume and cover letter?  You want to demonstrate that you value the time your mentor is spending with you.  Thinking about such topics before meeting will save you from answering “Uhhhm…I don’t know” when asked what you hope to get out of the meeting.

Be Positive
Attitude is everything.  Positive individuals often gravitate towards one another.  Never meet up with your mentor and proceed to complain about your workplace the entire time.  Even if you are not enjoying your job or your internship, always frame your update in a positive light, i.e. “I don’t see myself working for this organization after graduation but I have learned some really useful tools while there…”

 

Get Their Story
Ask your mentor how they landed their first job and how they moved onto their second.  According to CNN Money, workers in our generation will change jobs an average of four times before reaching the age of 32.  Learning how to navigate these transitions gracefully is essential—especially since people are more connected than ever.  Never speak poorly of former (or current) employers or burn your bridges when switching jobs.

 

Get the Timing Right
You will want to establish that you have their permission to write them as a reference on job applications and see if they would be comfortable writing you a letter of recommendation in the future.  This is a request best suited for a situation when you and your mentor have met multiple times and have established a trusting relationship.

Pick Brain Mentors
Your mentors don’t have to be people you know in real life!  Study the habits and success stories of figures that you admire—some people that I draw inspiration from are Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, Malala Yousafzai, and Dietrich Mateschitz.  Following relevant people from your field also provides you with topics to make small talk about before getting down to business with your mentor.      

PA Testimonial – Reim

Written by Reim Alian – Program Advisor, Institute on Economics and International Affairs 

Growing up in a small town in Connecticut where the graduating classes were at most 60 students and small businesses scarcely lined Main Street, I yearned for the taste of the fast paced city life. Providence, Rhode Island where I attended college kept me pacified but did not completely satisfy my craving. It wasn’t until I spent eight weeks nestled in the heart of Washington D.C. did I finally feel full.

The city became less intimidating as each day passed. The busy morning commute to my internship became second nature as I scurried through the bustling Foggy Bottom Metro Station unfazed, in heels, with a coffee and bagel in hand, all while on the phone with my mom.

I spent eight weeks crammed in Suite 200 at 1001 Connecticut Avenue with eight other interns, passing around coffee pots and legal documents. Suite 200 is home to Americans For Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, an accredited non-governmental organization that promotes democracy and reform in Bahrain and other gulf states, all while raising awareness of human rights violations and abuses. ADHRB staff support and advocate for human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists by collaborating with other entities in Bahrain, the Middle East, the European Union and the United States.

As an intern, I translated documents, live tweeted segments of the 32nd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and examined several accounts of human rights violations. While at ADHRB, I published two online articles regarding UAE Cybersecurity Laws and Bahraini political prisoners. In addition, I researched and drafted sections of The Shia Discrimination Report in Saudi Arabia that was published in 2016.

When I wasn’t sitting at my ADHRB desk, or in the lecture hall at George Mason University, I was scaling the historic streets, watching the sunset from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, and indulging in red velvet cupcakes and caramel cappuccinos, sitting in one cozy café at a time. And when I wasn’t eating cupcakes, I was attending rallies and keeping up with the news, as it was happening. I witnessed the potency of democracy when Democratic Representatives occupied the House floor demanding gun control reform and as the chants of “this is what democracy looks like” lingered through the thick June air.

The Fund For American Studies eminently affected my personal and professional development; and in eight short weeks, my understanding for international relations was transformed as I listened to the narratives of celebrated lecturers, such as Mr. Arthur Laffer of the Reagan Administration and as I learned about the detriments of poor economic policies and their disadvantaging effects on the Global South.

As my plane began to ascend, leaving The District behind, drowning in fiery sunset hues, I could not help but feel thankful for an incredible summer filled with challenge, growth, and opportunity. I closed my eyes thinking of when I would be able to return back home, back to D.C.

PA Testimonial – Liz

Written by Liz Hartman – Program Advisor, Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA)

Months after completing the TFAS program, I look back and am still amazed at my summer in DC. My journey began like many others, not knowing what I was getting myself into, but I am so glad that I took the leap from  Oregon to attend the Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA).

Through my internship at the Hohlt Group, I adapted quickly to the professional world. This was not an internship where I merely made coffee or copied papers, I was working on projects for clients and it was thrilling. The work experience I gained was remarkable and just one of the many incredible aspects about my summer.

TFAS gives interns access to high caliber events that would never be possible otherwise. I was able to attend networking opportunities all over DC, lectures given by Senator Rand Paul, Judge Napolitano, and others through the Capitol Hill Lecture Series, leadership seminars and more. The institute site visits were unbelievable. We attended briefings at different sites every week, including Bloomberg Government, AEI and Caterpillar. I was also selected to speak at the Congressional Scholarship Awards Dinner, an event honoring Congressmen and private sector leaders. This was an incredible privilege and one I will never forget. The connections TFAS provides are vital to breaking into the DC circle. The contacts I’ve made have helped me to this day.

I had the pleasure of becoming lifelong friends with some of the most accomplished people from all over the United States. Together, we took DC by storm – networking our way through the capitol or attending Jazz in the sculpture garden. I have so many amazing memories from my summer all of them involve the incredible people that I met – all thanks to TFAS.

TFAS connects you with friends, mentors, and professionals in DC and beyond. The TFAS alums go out of their way to have coffee with anyone who asks. That network speaks for itself, and tells you the kind of leaders who attend this program. When you join TFAS, you are joining a group whose goal is to help others as they have been helped before. That is what makes this organization so special.

I still look back on my summer in DC and am impressed by all of the invaluable opportunities I was given. Get ready for one of the biggest whirlwind summers of your life. Push yourself to get the most out of this amazing experience because the opportunities are there, it is up to you to embrace it.

PA Testimonial – Grace

Written by Grace Lederer –  Program Advisor, Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES)

The opportunity to be a TFAS program participant fell into my lap last year just a few days before the application’s priority deadline.  An email with the subject headline “Intern in DC this Summer” sent by Saint Leo University’s honors program caught my eye and I was immediately interested in the program.  I applied and was thrilled to find out that I was accepted into the Engalitcheff Institute of Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES).  Although I had no idea what kind of internship I should expect, I trusted in TFAS to lead the way.

I had spent the previous summer interning at Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, a tropical research institute in Costa Rica.  When the ICPES Program Director called and said that she had gotten me an interview with the United States Department of Agriculture, I thought it was the perfect fit and I could not have been more excited.  I was slightly worried that I did not know enough about engineering to be in the USDA’s Water Infrastructure Sector, but once on the job, I quickly realized that I was able to make meaningful contributions in my workplace by writing development strategies for water projects, coordinating conferences, and managing the USDA_RD social media platforms.

I loved everything about my workplace, particularly the setting.  Its close proximity to Capitol Hill allowed me the flexibility to attend what turned out to be one of my favorite TFAS events of the summer—a Lecture Series titled “Free Markets, Individual Liberty, and Civil Society.”  My attendance at the first optional speaker was based purely off the lure of a free meal, but I quickly found how intellectually stimulating it is to attend speakers that I may not have thought I would have any interest in on the surface.  I thoroughly enjoyed broadening my views and hearing the viewpoints and experiences of legal experts and business executives.

The best part of the academic experience with TFAS was how relevant the lessons I had in the classroom were to the current events that were unfolding in our country.  My ECON 309 “Economic Problems and Public Policies” class at George Mason addressed hotly debated policy issues that had become central to the ongoing presidential election.  It seemed that each day I had a lesson or a guest speaker, I would come home to find the topic trending as a national news headline. 

Out of all the amazing experiences that TFAS afforded me, being able to end my days by coming back to an apartment building filled with friends made it that much better.  It was so refreshing to be surrounded by driven young people who shared my passions and we made countless memories exploring the city together.  I still keep in touch with my roommates and neighbors and I think the network we built with each other will be just as valuable as the professional networks that we created in the years to come.