This is a compilation of blog posts current WMI students have written about their experiences while living in DC.

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By Christian Brosnan

Everyone going into the public relations, advertising, and/or marketing fields understands the concept of an agency, but not everyone gets to experience it. I have been lucky enough to get a taste this summer of all that this particular realm of the industry has to offer and cannot overstate the positive effect it has had on my personal growth. Much of this is owed to the organization and people I interned for, who believe that all interns can bring more to the table than just getting coffee and doing work around the office. Working here has created a summer of growth and learning that will guide me for the rest of my life.

At my particular internship, I am entrusted to be part of six different teams that work on various campaigns for a multitude of companies. This leads me to the most important component of working at an agency: as a twenty-one-year-old I get to contribute work to real companies that people interact with on a daily basis. Not to diminish the importance of in-house public relations, but in my opinion, working at a single company would not privy me to such widespread experience. Additionally, the fast-paced nature and consistent intensity of agency life, while calling for a well-oiled personal time management system, led to a greater learning experience.  

This relentless workload funnels me into another cornerstone of agency life that is often overlooked but remains crucial. Work at an agency, due to varying factors, does not always end at five o’clock, but often remains constant. The work ethic needed to maintain deadlines is large, yet meeting those deadlines creates quite a feeling of accomplishment.

The amount of work also forces you to become more confident in your own work. The rapid pace of agencies puts a heavy burden on deadlines and calls for everyone’s work to be completed well. This is often a drastic change for students who have only experienced school. In the professional world, but especially in agencies, everyone else is extremely busy and does not have enough time in the day to complete their own work let alone walk you through every step of the process. Whether it is a pressrelease, a blog post, email and pitch construction, social media post, etc., there is a need for you to quickly create content, work hard and trust that you did it well.This was an intimidating aspect of this summer for me. I had published work with and without my name on it for a different company in the past, but there my deadlines were far more generous and I had a large number of people checking my work periodically. This summer, I was expected to put forth good work right away, and I could not be more grateful. Agency life also demands confidence in your co-workers – that they will be upfront with you and tell you when your work missed the mark. This leads me to my final point about the positive effects of agency life.

In agency life, and particularly at my summer internship, the average age of employees is rather young. In my office, I believe the median age is 25-26. This adds an element of relatability and friendship that bolsters the overall internship experience. Working alongside people in a similar age demographic adds to improved comfort levels and better collaboration in the office space, and in my opinion also creates a more enjoyable work environment. Thus making networking easier and enhancing the work/life balance. It also increases the learning process because your co-workers remember the feeling of being in your shoes and want to help you.

Prior to this summer I had a very limited interest in public relations agencies; however, the experiences that I have gained from my internship have changed me in ways that I have only begun to understand. I might be busy all day, but I can confidently say that I have never felt happier or more proud of what I am doing. This internship has not only taught me about myself and my work ethic, but it has also shown me more about the world. I firmly believe that everyone who wants to work in the public relations industry should begin at an agency.

Ode To My Heat Coast Summer

By Ana Lewett

Weather on the East Coast should not have come as any surprise. I couldn’t of heard more weather warnings if I tried when I told my friends and family I would be interning in Washington, D.C. from May through July.

“You’ll be in D.C. in July?” my West Coast friends would jeer, as if humidity was the most offensive thought in the world. “Oh, get ready, that place sucks during the summer.”

I wasn’t excited when one of my favorite teachers and journalists said the hottest he’d ever been in his life – after embedding in Afghani forces in the Middle East and climbing 14ers in the peak of summer in Colorado – was driving through Washington, D.C. with no air conditioning.

Great, fantastic – I had to commit to turning into some kind of amphibian for the summer. At least I’d lose a couple pounds in water weight, I guessed.

Showing up my first day in the District, I was expecting the worst. And I got it. I lugged 72 pounds of clothes, a box of *heavy* sheets and towels (that I didn’t need) and my dolphin pillow pet in and out of a beautifully air-conditioned apartment building in full-blast D.C. heat. I thought that would be the sweatiest I’d ever be, as the freshly hardened sweat on my body would just melt again when I stepped out of the AC. It wouldn’t be. After four caked layers of humidity and sweat from my trips in and outside, I was finally able to shower, extremely bothered and thinking of the precautionary steps I would take the next day to avoid that from ever happening again. 

It happened again. And again, and again. Entering the metro station, dripping. Showing up to work, soaking. At the Gay Pride Parade, beads of sweat rolling from my under-boob, down my dress, and onto my foot. True story. All this information is necessary to gain a full picture of what East Coast humidity really means.

How do people live like this? I began to really question what the point of all this was. It wasn’t getting easier; it was never going to get more “pleasant”.

So I was trapped in the terrarium that is D.C. until August, heat lamp on and an occasional misting to keep the humidity overbearing. You’re going to have to adapt or die, I thought to myself. It’s simple natural selection. Some people aren’t cut out for it- only the finest of our species have the grit to live in this kind of weather and still work in the center of our nation’s happenings. I was going to persist. One hundred degrees and 87% humidity will just have to be the new norm.

And eventually, it was. I went down to the beaches of North Carolina one weekend, and as I left the car for the first time since leaving D.C., I took in the 20% increase in dampness with a smile on my face. OK, I didn’t last for more than 15 minutes. But I almost kind of liked it for a second. Air-conditioning was starting to feel too dry and sterile. Heat and humidity brings soul and character. And that’s something I can live with.

So, turn the AC a little lower and open that window; I’m starting not to mind the wet air so much.

“We Hold These Truths…”?

By Kali Woods

A sense of patriotism ravaged the capital, as strangers from different places gathered together to revel in the anniversary of our country. American flags blew gracefully in the breeze as innocent children ran carelessly through the grass with their sparklers; barbecue grills kindled with the pungent aroma of charcoal smoke; couples kissed passionately under the fizzling of the bright fireworks as if it were midnight on New Year’s Day; their smiles illuminated the night sky.

I wanted to be as joyous as them. I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to feel that same sense of pride, but my heart was conflicted.

When I look at the White House, I’m immediately enticed by its beauty. It stands unwavering in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, serving as the symbol for American prosperity. Everytime I see it, all of the giddy anecdotes I’ve heard in my history classes over the years instantly come to mind: a rotund William Howard Taft stuck in his presidential bathtub; a 

 

 

 

cute, little John F. Kennedy Jr. hiding under the resolute desk; a smiling Bill Clinton playing with his dog, Buddy, on the White House lawn. I wish it could all be so sweet and simple, but as a Black woman in America, my conscience forces me to look past the picture perfect facade that our history books have painted over the years.

 

Thomas Jefferson’s words replay over and over again in my mind: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights….”  Every year we celebrate the power held in these words, boasting about how much more morally sound America was in comparison to other countries back then, but where were the rights of my people? As I meditate on these words, I think of the many women who looked just like me, who were raped by the same Founding Fathers that pushed for the ideals of a just society. I think of the very White House that we admire so much that was constructed by hundreds of slaves laboring tirelessly under the watch of their relentless overseers, only to be denied entry for centuries into the very house which they had built. Where was that “liberty and justice for all” that we recited every morning in school? How had I celebrated the founding of my country for so long, knowing it was built off of the backs of my own ancestors?

 

I instantly felt disgusted in this holiday and myself, as I had found conviction in my own intersectionality. I was battling between my desire to be one with my fellow Americans and willfully acknowledging the struggles of my shortchanged ancestors. My mind wanted to explode.

I racked my brain trying to find a way to balance the two conflicting parts of me, and after digging deeper, I realized that the two sides had more in common than I originally thought. Jefferson’s same words, reiterated by Dr. King nearly two centuries later, allowed me to see that our country’s history is not perfect, but that we are a work in progress. America’s founding principles of equality, democracy, liberty and justice, although oftentimes found to be hypocritical, are the same coveted values that have inspired and still do inspire my people to push through their tribulations. I’m proud to be Black. And I’m proud to be an American, not because of my country’s foundations, but because of the steps we’re now taking to achieve the goals we should have from the beginning.

Working in a European office

By Miguel Pineda

As a recently arrived intern I was amazed with all of the opportunities that Washington, D.C. has to offer. It would be impossible to see all that D.C. has in just three months, but one thing that has already taught me a lot about Washington is my internship with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. As a new intern I expected to show up to work early in the morning everyday at 8am and work hard until at least 5pm, a typical workday for many Americans.

I quickly found out that European business practices are MUCH more laid back than a typical American office. It started when I first met my boss Mark, or Mr. Yates as I call him. On my first day of work I showed up extra early and in a full suit, ready to run coffee to whoever needed it. When he saw me he immediately said that I was too overdressed and that I was way too early for work. Although we hit it off after that, he made sure to explicitly tell me three different times that I had to come to work from 10am-4:30pm, business casual, and if I needed any days off for anything to just let him and I could have them.

Naturally I was shocked. I had always been told that hard work and dedication were the cornerstones to any job. Literally every side job I had ever had from dishwasher to construction worker had been very clear about the standards they expected and that shortcuts were not an option. Here it seemed like I could come and go as I pleased. After about a week or two I realized how inclusive my coworkers really were. All of them had very open minds and were extremely curious of my time working. Not only did I not have to make coffee for everyone, but I was put on assignments where I really helped the reporters in the office work. I felt like I was contributing to the team, and like I was really doing better.

My coworkers (who also had a similar work schedule to mine) seemed much more happy and easy going despite the amount of content and the production quality that they produce. Each reporter put out at least two stories a week, by either radio or television, but I could never understand how they managed to put out so much content in such little time. I then realized that the European model of doing work was much more effective for the worker and therefore the company. My coworkers were not worried about being treated well, their pay or even how much time they spent at the office. I learned that a shorter workweek helped me in my work life, as well as my personal and financial life. It was completely different than what I was used to, but I quickly adapted to how it worked.

Another interesting aspect was the variety of different languages that were spoken when I went into work. Everyday I heard people talking in Italian, German, French, and English just within my office. Our break room, which is shared by other European broadcasters, is always full of people speaking languages from all over. Everyday I am greeted by new languages, accents, and even terminology making for an exciting and diverse work environment.

European offices were definitely something that I was not used to. I personally have found them to be friendlier, more nonchalant, and more appreciative of the work I do. I love how I feel like I am a part of a team, the more relaxed work dynamic, and the diversity all of which are present each and everyday. All in all I love my internship and all of the people that I met in it. With a little less than half of the summer to go I cannot wait to see what else is in store!

D.C. Drivers

By Carly Fernandes

Living in Lafayette, California for my whole life, I have not been exposed to much.  As everyone from my area says, my town is a bubble. We are lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel 20 minutes into the beautiful cities of San Francisco and Oakland, but they are nothing like D.C.  One of the main takeaways I have had so far from my time here is that D.C. drivers are absolutely ruthless.

Whether I am in the passenger seat of an Uber, walking down the streets, or simply listening to the street traffic from my window at night while I’m trying to fall asleep, drivers in Washington absolutely horrify me.  I fear for not only my life, but the lives of everyone around me every time I am around a car or hear the excruciating honks that seem to occur at a constant rate.

Now, some of the locals in D.C. or New York might just say that is classic city driving.  I may come from the West Coast where things run a little differently, but I will never understand why it is necessary to lay on the horn for 30 seconds the instant the light turns green.  Maybe everyone here is in more of a rush than in San Francisco, but the honking is not going to get you there faster. Maybe it’s the culture to drive this way. Is it embedded in D.C. locals that the polite and most efficient way to drive is to swerve through cars without hitting the brake? Or forgetting to stop for pedestrians? You better run across that street as fast as humanly possible – even though you might have the right away, that will not necessarily stop a D.C. driver.

It truly amazes me that I do not see more car accidents occur in Washington D.C.  Maybe this style of driving works for those who have to deal with it.  I don’t know how I would handle it, considering I cried and popped my tire the only time I’ve ever been honked at.  After spending seven weeks in Washington D.C., I have come to the conclusion that East Coast city driving is most definitely not for me.  

Is There Room in the National Budget for a Dehumidifier?

By Michael Preston

It has quickly become the thing I dread the most about every morning. No, not the alarm. Not the daily grind of the upcoming workday. Not even the small fortune that I’ll inevitably be spending on food for the rest of the day. Nope – the thing I dread the most every morning is checking the weather app on my phone to find out the humidity forecast for the day. This daily routine has turned into a sadistic exercise where I get to envision just how much sweat my shirts and slacks will likely have to absorb today, as well as just how much I will be suffering during the short journeys from apartment to Metro station and Metro station to work. It is safe to say that I don’t do well in this climate.

How anyone can do this on a regular basis for years and years is beyond me. Suits? Dark suits? Sleeves? Summer heat? Any kind of heat? What kind of monster decided this was a good idea? And when will business formal shorts become a thing? Feel free to join my movement to introduce shorts and sleeveless jackets to the guidelines of business formal as I unstick my shirt from my back and look for something to wipe the sweat that is glistening on my forehead.

Maybe I’m spoiled from the dry mountain weather of Boulder or the Mediterranean climate of my hometown in California…no, I’m definitely spoiled. But I have no idea how I’m supposed to adapt to this change short of showing up to work in a tank top and flip-flops. I thought I sweated a lot when I work out, but it is a whole other level when you are trying restrain said sweating. I think I sweat more when I know I should not be sweating. What a fantastic situation to be in!

The best part is that it’s only going to get hotter! Despite locals claiming that August is the hottest month of summer, that title actually goes to July, according to the Washington Post. And the summers have only been getting hotter and more humid over time, meaning in a few weeks’ time there’s a possibility that all that is left of me is a husk drained of all fluids. Please send help in the form of industrial-strength fans and ice packs or this blog post may be my last form of contact with the world.

Until sleeves become optional in the workplace and Calvin Klein introduces a line of formal sweat-wicking apparel to compete with Under Armour, my feelings towards the humidity will be firmly planted in the “Above 75” category even if the actual weather is in the “60-65” region. This naïve California kid is not cut out for the wrath of Mother Nature.

Ankle weights

By Claire Dietz

“We’re gonna throw you in the deep end, with ankle weights.” We were told this on our first day.

They weren’t kidding.

I’m from a suburb, but go to school in Iowa City, Iowa. There I’m used to working for a hyperlocal student paper that regularly runs up against other papers throughout the state and beats them.

I found out very quickly Washington D.C. is nothing like Iowa City, something that would surprise exactly no one.

In Iowa City, I cover arts and culture around the city and the University of Iowa. I also work for a student radio station that covers the same sorts of things the paper does.

Over the past three years I have made a niche for myself consisting of knowing a lot of what happens in Iowa City on a weekend. But in D.C., I was pushed into something entirely different.

Currently, I’m interning at a publication called The Cancer Letter. But this isn’t any old publication. This publication is read by doctors and scientists throughout the industry. It has the power to change the industry with a few articles and has spoken with some of the most powerful names in the cancer world. Also, it helped put Martha Stewart in jail in the mid 2000s.

Talk about being thrown in the deep end with ankle weights on.

On my first day at work I was overwhelmed and terrified I wasn’t fit for this. Maybe this was a joke, or the director of the program had made a mistake. Maybe I had been placed in an internship I would inevitably flop at.

That first week was terrifying, without a doubt.

But I kept on keeping on. I kept working, I kept trying.

Now, we’re at a point where we are at about the halfway mark. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much ankle weights can weigh you down.

But here’s the thing: I’m getting stronger. Each step forward is making me stronger.

Am I exhausted? Absolutely.

Do I want to cry? Totally.

Am I learning? Without a doubt.

Am I being pushed to a breaking point? Oh yeah.

Do I regret all this? Not one bit.

Am I out of my comfort zone? Yes.

Do I think this was a mistake? No.

These past five weeks haven’t been easy. I don’t expect these next five weeks to get easier. But I can feel myself growing.

My brain is thinking differently; all my cares have all but flown out the window. I feel myself pushing myself to try new things. I am forming habits. I am learning Javascript. I’m reading more. I’m doing more things, differently.

When I got thrown in the deep end with these ankle weights, I thought I was going to drown. It certainly seemed that way.

But now, a few weeks later when I look back to where I started, I’m honestly a bit blown away.

My relationship with my own writing and editing has changed significantly, I feel more confident in the things I’m handing to my editor each week. I’m making videos for class, and learning programming on the side.

These haven’t been the easiest few weeks, but I think looking back, they’ve been rewarding in some unexpected ways.

And my ankle weights have changed. The things that could have very well drowned me in my first week in D.C. are now something I can tread water with.

In these first weeks, different things were overwhelming. Making a website with Wix  is now an afterthought. But going to a senate hearing on the National Institute of Health’s 2018 budget is an overwhelming dragon I’m going to slay very soon.

These 10 weeks aren’t easy, but you come back from them changed. You are able to handle things differently. And when you look back, you’ll be shocked to see how far you’ve come.

 

Let’s Metro – Or Not

By Christine Figliozzi

Oh, the Metro. What an unassuming enemy. If growing up in the D.C. metro area has taught me one thing, it’s that the Metro can either be your best friend, or worst enemy. All depending on the day, of course.

More often than not, the Metro is my knight in shining armor. Showing up just in time to whisk me away to wherever I need to be. But, on a rare occasion, the Metro is the cause for my demise.

My first dramatic encounter with the Metro wasn’t even a personal trauma, but rather an eyewitness account of someone else’s. It was during peak hours one evening and I was sitting on a silver line train headed back home after a long day. I was getting my book out and waiting for the doors to close when all of a sudden, I hear a shrill screech. I look up and see a woman flailing half in the train and half still on the platform. Most would assume that the doors would be like elevator doors; when they sense that something is between them preventing them from closing, they open back up. Nope. Not the Metro doors. When they close, they close. Right before the train was about to depart she gets pulled back out onto the platform. I watched her face go from sheer terror to relief as we pulled out of the station. Needless to say, I was shook just from watching this episode.

The second encounter was a personal attack. It may not have been a physical one, but rather an attack on my mental stability and a true test of patience.

It was 6:30 am on a cold winter morning. The Metro had just implemented their Safe Track system and the trains were only running every 20 minutes. I could see the train pulling up as I swiped my card. Sure enough, as soon as I was about to step on the train the doors shut. Still traumatized from watching these doors eat another woman, I stood back and watched them slam shut in front of me. To add insult to injuring, the train sat at the platform for about 10 minutes with the doors shut before it departed.

The next train finally came, so I boarded, took my seat, and began to defrost. Again, the train sat at the platform for 10 minutes before we finally departed. Not long into the journey the train comes to stop, nowhere near the next station. The conductor comes on and makes an inaudible announcement and then the lights go out. We sit in the same spot in the dark for about 15 minutes before the conductor comes back on and makes another inaudible announcement, after which we start moving again, but in the wrong direction. The train begins to head back to the station we had just come from. The platform coming back into sight, I begin to wonder if it’s even worth it to continue all the way to Petworth. Luckily,  the train never went all the way back to the platform, but instead continued forward.

I finally show up to the office an hour late and severely under caffeinated. When I recount the morning’s events to my supervisor, I was met with laughter that brought him to tears. He did feel bad enough for me to buy me a rather large cup of coffee in an attempt to make my day just a little better.

Long story short, when the metro is functioning it can be a great way to get in and around the city, but when it’s having an off day avoid at all costs.

The goal is to report, to inform, and to remain objective

By Alex Segell 

Attorneys arrive in bland and expressionless suits, so passé you wouldn’t be able to remember details even if you tried. They smile at one another candidly, shaking hands or even embracing for a hug. Offering quips here and there, they make small talk and humor each other with light laughter.

In the audience sits a family, and while it’s been years since they lost their loved one, they still wait with solemn faces. They lean forward in moments of a potential breakthrough and dismiss themselves when the evidence becomes too daunting.  When the counsel continuously objects, further delaying long-awaited closure, those who knew the victim roll their eyes, scowl, or even go so far as to throw their hands in the air out of impatience. Some grab the hand of the person sitting next to them, maybe to channel their frustration less obviously or simply out of the need for comfort.

Nobody acknowledges my presence, as I sit in the back row quietly scribbling and slowly shifting in my seat every so often. I am a new set of eyes, an inexperienced observer, and I listen to the intimate details of someone’s last moments on this earth.  I sit near the families, unnoticed, and wait for the same details. The goal is to report, to inform, and to remain objective.  With only a few hearings and a trial under my belt, it has proven difficult to remain objective at times. A mother giving a testimony about the love she had for her daughter, or a father who sits in the audience and wears a jersey bearing the name of his son can easily provoke emotion. I am a fly on the wall while others endure a tragedy that cannot be fixed with a conviction.  

D.C. alone has experienced 49 homicides this year, and counting. That’s 49 families whose entire lives have been flipped on their head in a matter of seconds.  More importantly, that’s 49 deaths that the general public will never know about nor care about. I sit and I scribble for the sake of the family, and for the off chance someone is interested in a death that occurred in a Southeast neighborhood of D.C. I listen to the details so that there is a legible and sincere record of someone’s life and their demise – so that people might pay attention.  But my presence does not change the fate of the victim, or the sorrow of the family, or the process of the trial. I am a third-party outsider, with no connection to anyone who sits in the room, but I involve myself deeply in a way that only I am aware of.  

While it may seem like I am too emotionally unsound to sit through a homicide trial and appreciate it for everything that it is, I mean to say the opposite. It is a surreal experience, to say the least, to listen to such intimate details, to be exposed to lives that I knew nothing of before, and to be there when questions are finally answered.  A family in a murder trial will not notice me, nor will the attorneys, the judge, or law interns who sit more confidently in the front. I am not a significant actor in the eyes of those who are so personally affected by this case, and at times I feel guilty for being there. But the work that is being done by the notes that I take, and by sitting unobserved, holds the possibility of affecting those so personally tied to the case in a way that gets them closer to closure.  

Navigation Skills

By Blake Balfrey    

If my family were to give you one piece of advice about me, it would be to never trust me with directions – ever. Just don’t do it. Until just a few weeks ago, I have lived my life in familiar places all filled with wonderful and resourceful people to help me. Mid-May however, I chose to abandon this familiarity and challenge my navigation skills, or lack thereof, by spending a summer in Washington, DC.

My first test included navigating the city, and let me tell you, it’s not easy. Someone chose to lay this place out in a very “systematic” way – making my life miserable. During WMI boot camp, I seemed to always volunteer to navigate the group efforts to find lunch in our short hour. I managed to make it shorter by leading everyone fifteen minutes off route. I’ve had six ubers and counting cancel on me because we (mutually!) could not locate each other. Now that I’m about four weeks in, I have managed to figure out that yes, the streets are numerical, but bottom line is there is definitely room for improvement.

Below street level, the metro has been an entirely different story. The very first attempt of me getting to my internship included metroing to a stop (I couldn’t tell you which one to save my life), getting on a bus, the wrong one for the matter, transferring to the opposite direction bus and eventually getting into an Uber to Cannon Office House. Other than that, I’ve relied on others to know where we are going and so far, it has worked – shout out to Catherine, even if we get to work 30+ minutes early!

Pretending that I’ve improved my navigating to work, my next learning curve has been in my office building itself. The not-so-secret secret is that there are numerous tunnels under the hill that connects the congressional, senatorial, and Capitol buildings to each other, and let me tell you that is a whole new ball game. There are endless corridors, hallways, elevators, and room numbers. So, without a question I have been getting my 10,000 steps in. The best is that not once, but twice I have taken the senate subway to the Capitol and have found myself on the fourth or fifth floor – apparently having an intern badge gets you in everywhere.  Moral of the story is confidence is key to people not questioning if you’re lost. So, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the lesser known parts of the Capitol building – they’re beautiful by the way; if you can, you should go.

But despite all my mishaps, the most enjoyable part has been learning to navigate DC culture – figuring out how DC operates, learning to guide myself through meeting entirely new people, and being thrown into a new lifestyle. This crazy city is quite the culture shock, especially when you are being led (or more like thrown into the deep end) by Jon, Katey, and Amos. By week four, I have actually managed to understand the complicated, intertwined social scene and interactions, the balance necessary to balance work and class, and most importantly adulting. Overall, there is a learning curve, but if someone is teaching a navigation class, please, please sign me up.