Tips for Interning in an Unfamiliar City

As the school year (for those of us on quarters) comes to a close, many of my friends are preparing to make a temporary move to an unfamiliar city to intern for the summer.

If you’ve followed my blog in the past year, you likely know I moved to Washington, D.C. last summer to intern on Capitol Hill. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I learned a lot. My experiences didn’t just come from my job though, they also came from moving to a big city that I was unfamiliar with.

“At the office” (sort of) last summer.

I’ve come up with a few tips for those who are doing just that:

1. Map out your route to work before you start. I know it sounds totally nerdy, but the night before my first day, I hopped on the metro and rode to the stop closest to the office where I’d be working, and found the building itself. I timed the trip and added 10 minutes just in case there was some kind of crisis on my first day. The last thing you want on your first day of work is to get lost finding your office – first impressions are everything.

2. If you plan on wearing heels to work, carry flats in your bag. I repeat, FLATS! not flip-flops! While flip-flops are fine for to and from work, you never know when you may have to trek across the city (or office complex) to give a tour, run an errand, etc. and flats are much more professional than flip-flops. You can get roll-up flats on that don’t take up a lot of room and are still fashionable.

3. Attend happy hours and speakers. When I worked on the Hill, there were all kinds of intern happy hours during the week. Even if you’re not 21, usually you can still attend and I highly suggest you do because they are a great networking opportunity not only for your future, but for making friends while you’re in the city as well. I was only ‘of-age’ for half my internship last summer, but was still invited along to coworker happy hours just for the networking and socializing opportunity.

If there is any kind of lecture series, I highly suggest you go. I got to see Colin Powell speak on the House floor last year (talk about a great experience). I was fortunate that there was a mailing list for lectures and happy hours, but if your internship doesn’t offer that, ask your coworkers! Chances are they’ve hosted interns before and can help you.

4. Network, network, network. I know saying this seems like beating a dead horse but I can’t stress enough how important it is to make a good impression on coworkers and any other people you meet. Who knows, you may decide you love the city you worked in and want to move back, the contacts and impressions you made while you were there are crucial. 

5. Explore! Doing good work is important, but remember, you won’t get the full experience if you don’t explore the city you’re living in. College Candy offers a great intern guide for living in a big city, I suggest you check it out!

Have you interned in a big or unfamiliar city? What are your tips?

Are you interning in a big city this summer? What questions to do you have?

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