Pro-Tips: Working and Living in DC for the First Time

Written by Kate Kielceski – Program Advisor, Institute on Economics and International Affairs

Spending a summer in the District is an experience unlike any other. The grand federal buildings around every corner, the seemingly endless networking opportunities, the countless museums, and the rich history permeating this city attract bright young minds from across the country and world. But the fast pace and intense atmosphere of Washington can be overwhelming for newcomers. Based on my intern experience last summer, I’ve compiled a list of insider tips that I wish someone would have relayed to me upon my arrival in DC.

Embrace commuter shoes. You may feel a bit silly pulling on running shoes with your pant suit, but I promise you will feel sillier struggling to get to work in dress shoes. Washingtonians are always in a hurry to get where they are going. They don’t have time for you to be hobbling down the sidewalk in high heels or rigid loafers. Embracing commuter shoes provides the comfort of sneakers or sandals and cuts down on commute time!

Sometimes walking is the fastest mode of transport. This summer in particular, because of Metro construction, consider walking. Often times, especially when trains are infrequent (evenings and weekends), walking is a faster option than taking the Metro. Plus, walking allows for the chance to see new things and get oriented to DC’s neighborhoods. If you are underground on the Metro all the time, it’s harder to get a sense of the city.

Always have business cards. Without a doubt, you will find yourself networking and chatting with professionals across fields this summer. The conversation may go great and at the end you inquire about getting you new contact’s information. The person asks for your business card – make sure you have one at the ready. Better yet, have five. You never know who you will meet and when you will meet them. Don’t   leave home without your business cards and get stuck in an awkward situation. (Check out VistaPrint for a 500 free card promotion!)

Don’t pay for coffee. With internships, classes, and all the events you will be attending this summer, it is inevitable that you will get worn out and tired. If you are a coffee drinker like me, do yourself a favor and invest in a travel mug. It’s too easy to get into the         habit of stopping for coffee every morning on the way to the office or class. And             while it might be satisfying to be on a first name basis with the barista, this habit will cost a ton of money. Take coffee with you. If your office has a coffee pot or a Keurig, keep grounds or K-cups at the office. Better for the environment and your wallet.

Never be caught without an umbrella. Summer is a time of atmospheric instability here in Washington. Storms are both frequent and powerful. If there is a 15% chance of rain or more, it will pour, and it will be during the 15 minutes you are outside commuting or heading to class. Buy an umbrella and keep it with you for the rest of the summer. If you don’t, it will only take one storm and a soaked suit to change your mind for you.

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