Three Lessons from a College Intern

By Emily Blackburn || THG Summer Intern 2018

Spending the summer in a city far away from home can be a daunting experience for a college student—especially if that city happens to be our nation’s capital. With so many opportunities and such little time to take part, it takes a great deal of determination (and budgeting!) to make the most out of a summer internship experience, both in the office and in the city. Here are a few of the most valuable “life lessons” that I have learned over the course of my summer in Washington, D.C.

  1. It is perfectly okay to do things on your own.

In the age of social media and “FOMO”, it’s easy to feel like others are leading more exciting lives than yours, and it’s even easier to let opportunities to explore a new city pass you by when you don’t have a friend to do it with.. My advice is easier said than done: put mind over matter and go out on your own! It takes a great deal of courage to venture out and try new things while going solo, but the experiences you gain far outweigh the discomfort you might have felt at the beginning of your journey. Whatever you do, don’t wait to find a companion to go see a new museum or visit a monument—your time in your new city is precious, so make the most of every moment! I took this advice later than I should have over the course of my summer in D.C., but I am so glad that I finally put it into practice.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

While this point seems simple in nature, it can—and should—be applied across a broad range of topics. Never be afraid to approach your colleagues if you have questions about a project or a potential opportunity. I can guarantee that your supervisor would rather answer questions now and have a near-perfect finished project later, than to be forced to backtrack because expectations were lost in translation. My favorite way to clarify instructions with my project manager is to briefly repeat my objectives and deliverables. This establishes that we’re both on the same page and I can move forward on the project with clear steps to succeed. One more thing—always ask for a deadline! By doing this, you’ll be able to better prioritize when you have multiple assignments, and you can manage your time more effectively to ensure that your project manager isn’t waiting around for your finished product.

  1. Make time to take care of yourself.

In a fast-paced working environment like D.C., it’s almost inevitable that you’ll feel overwhelmed at some point. While it’s easy to think you’re the only one feeling this way, try to remember that you aren’t alone, and everyone around you (especially your fellow interns) is adjusting too!  If the hustle and bustle start to feel like too much, remember that your health and happiness should always be your priority. Never be afraid to take some time for yourself and focus on that! Am I insinuating that you should leave the office midday for a quick massage? Not exactly. Self-care preferences may vary, but could involve cooking your favorite meal, treating yourself to something small at a local store, or even spending some time reading a good book after a long week of work. All of these are great options for disconnecting from your stresses. Regardless of the ways you prefer to decompress, make sure you make time in your schedule to relax so you can get back on track to feeling confident and prepared for your work environment.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” This quote serves as a daily reminder that no matter the distance you travel, or the jobs you take on, the first step to being successful is having the confidence to begin. Don’t be afraid to take this first step—to ask questions and to venture out on your own—and always remember that while you’re likely going to be your own biggest critic, you should also be your biggest fan. Take care of yourself and feel confident about the journey ahead, because life is too short, and adventures await!