Snoverwhelmed

Snoverwhelmed

Just as my classmates and I were
getting acclimated to our new and busy schedules in Washington D.C. this
semester, a series of unprecedented snowstorms has essentially paralyzed the
city and sequestered us all here in Arlington. In total, nearly 56 inches of
snow has fallen this winter, shattering the previous record that was set back
in 1898. From the two most recent blizzards alone, Arlington has received
nearly 30 inches of snow.

It almost goes without saying
that the government has been crippled by this and was shut down four days last
week (on a side note, shutting down the federal government for one day costs
roughly $100 million in lost productivity – a major “ouch” for taxpayers). The flip
side, of course, is that we’ve all been able to sleep in late, have epic
snowball fights, watch old episodes of the West Wing – and bond throughout it
all. It feels like an arctic rendition of spring break.

By now, though, we all are
getting an itch to get back to our internships and classes. Severe cabin fever
has spread like the plague as we all agonize over what to do with ourselves. It
doesn’t help that we’ve been disconnected from the city for so long because of
the metro, which closes above ground stations after 8 inches of snow have
fallen on the tracks. Hopefully next week the snow will be cleared, the city
will come back to life, and we’ll all be able to resume life as usual. I for
one am ready for some warm, summer days.



The Buchanan

Luxurious. Classy. Spacious.
These are the words that came to mind today as I moved into my new home for the
next few months: the Buchanan Apartments. Located in Arlington, just three
metro stops away from the city, this apartment complex is a huge upgrade from
even the nicest dorms in Williamsburg. In the lobby, where first impressions
are critical, the tall ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and ambient jazz music give
the place both a warm and welcoming feel.

Once you pass the front desk
(which has 24 hour concierge), a bank of elevators is to the right and a
hallway that leads to a billiards room, a small gym, and a meeting room is to
the left. As I explored the building, I couldn’t help but think that if only more
W&M students knew about this place, more would apply to the W&M in Washington
Program.
After I got off the elevator on
the 15th floor, I navigated a long hallway before reaching my
apartment. Inside, a wonderfully spacious living/dining room is the first thing
you see. Every room comes pre-furnished, even the kitchen, which has everything
needed to cook a delicious meal. As for the bedrooms, well, they are large
enough to run laps in and have humongous walk-in closets. Finally, the balcony
off the main room is another nice feature, even though view from my apartment
is only of a high-rise office building.
In college, it’s rare to live in
a place with as much class and style as the Buchanan. But this semester, the
students in the W&M in Washington Program are in for a treat. It’s going to be a
great semester!



Winter Restlessness

Both December and January are glorious months. After the
chaos of finals, the caffeine-wired, sleep-deprived W&M student body finally
gets a much-deserved break for the winter holidays. It’s a time for sleeping
in, eating mom’s home cooking, visiting old friends and family, and, of course,
checking banner for final grades.
But after two weeks or so, I
start getting an itch – an itch to get back to the grind of school, of
extracurriculars, of something. And
for better or worse, I think this same sense of restlessness plagues nearly
every student at the college. After all, we are a driven bunch. For as much as
W&M students complain about how busy they are during the semester, deep down, I
suspect they relish their overstuffed agendas. The hard work is an immense
source of satisfaction.
I’m particularly excited to
return to school because I’ll be participating in the W&M in Washington Program
next semester. And everything seems to be falling into place. The classes I’m
enrolled in sound fascinating, I’ve secured an internship with the White House,
and I’m moving into the apartment in Arlington later this week. The entire process
of getting prepared for this semester has been remarkably smooth. I think this
is in large part because of the wonderful staff in the W&M in Washington office,
which has been there every step of the way. Over the past several months, they
have worked closely with the entire spring 2010 class to ensure that we had
access to the best internship opportunities, were prepared for interviews, and
had a great place to live. In other words, they worked hard to alleviate any
stress or doubt that students might have had coming into the program and in
doing so, they have guaranteed that this will truly be an amazing and memorable
semester.



The Interview

 
“So, why do you want an internship at the White House?”
And so it began. “I think this is
a very special time to work at the White House,” I said. “Of course, anytime
you get the chance to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is obviously a high
honor. But this is an historic administration. And for the first time in a long
time, I feel proud of many of the initiatives that are coming out of the White
House. I want to do my part to contribute.”
On the other end of line, five
staffers from the Office of Management and Administration were gathered around
a speakerphone listening to what I had to say. I must confess – being the
center of attention in a conference call with the White House is a fairly
nerve-racking experience, though everyone on the line was surprisingly cheery
and easygoing. It was very clear that they all got along famously and that this
office would be a great place to work.
Over the course of the next
fifteen minutes or so, they proceeded to ask me a slew of questions relating to
my academics, previous internship experiences, and language skills. There were
no curve balls per se, though the
last question I found intriguing. After looking over all of my application
materials, one staffer noted that I was “clearly passionate” about the
environment and asked if I would feel “shortchanged” by working in an office that
didn’t deal directly with environmental policies/issues. First of all, I found
it hard to believe that anyone could be “shortchanged” by working in the White
House, regardless of the department. In all seriousness, even bottom of the
totem pole, lowliest of low positions are nothing to scoff at. Second, so much
of what the Office of Management and Administration does is event planning -
which does (or at least should) have an environmental component. In my
response, I mentioned the idea of “event sustainability,” which I thought was a
nice way to tie in the work of the office with my own interests.
After getting the chance to
prod them with my own questions for a bit, the interview concluded. Overall, I
thought it went well. There were no heinous gaffes at least. Of course, I knew
the competition for the position would be intense. But for the moment, I was
content.



The Rat Race

Over the past few weeks, I have
been sending out internship applications like a mad man in hopes of landing an
internship for next spring – when I’ll be participating in the W&M in
Washington Program. To date, I have applied for positions at the Center for
American Progress (CAP), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the
World Bank, and the White House. And I’m not even halfway through my list.
I’ll be honest – the entire
process of sending out applications can be daunting. It adds even more work to
a semester that is already packed with classes, extracurriculars, and an
internship. After all, crafting resumes and cover letters, doing mock
interviews, and tracking down professors for letters of recommendation is all
very time consuming. Sometimes it’s hard to shake the idea that you’re not
getting anywhere, other than behind in your reading for classes. But make no
mistake. There are days when it all pays off.
Today was one of those days. I
received an email this afternoon from the White House Visitors Office. They
liked my application materials and want to schedule an interview with me for
tomorrow!
Cha-ching!
Almost before I finished reading
the email, I opened Google (because it knows everything) and did a search of
“White House Visitors Office.” What I learned is that this office manages tours
of the White House (for both the general pubic and VIPs), organizes state
welcoming ceremonies, and plans special events like the famous Easter Egg Roll
on the South Lawn. The best part about this gig may be the location. Whereas
most offices place their interns in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
(EEOB), the interns in the Visitors Office work in the White House, out of the
East Wing. Exciting stuff.
At this point, I don’t know how
everything will turn out. But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that the
competition will be fierce. I better go prepare for tomorrow!



W&M in Washington: An Introduction

Williamsburg is a beautiful place. It’s got charm and class.
It’s got tons of history. Most importantly, it’s got both ghosts and colonists
- and lots of them. And in all seriousness, how is it possible not to love a
place like that?
Of course, Williamsburg doesn’t have it all. It’s perhaps not
as sexy as other college towns, like NYC, Chicago, or Washington, D.C. We don’t
have any skyscrapers. There are no Fortune 500 companies here. And the
nightlife – well, it leaves much to be desired.
The good news, though, is that William & Mary has so
many great programs that allow students to take advantage of opportunities
beyond Williamsburg. For example, the study abroad programs are quite popular.
And because the Reves Center has connections with universities all over the
world, most students (assuming they are academically strong and have the
requisite language skills) can study just about anywhere, from Beijing, to
Oxford, to Seville.
But what if you’re looking for something a little closer to
home? Then there’s something for you too! In fact, one of the best-kept secrets
at William & Mary has to be the W&M in Washington Program. In a
nutshell, it’s an academic semester program with an internship component
operated out of the Washington, D.C. office near Dupont Circle. Students
receive 6-8 credits for their coursework and an additional 6 credits for the
academic work they complete in association with their internship. Each semester
is based on a theme, which determines what classes will be offered and what
internships are available to all participating students. The theme for next
spring is “International Politics in Economic Hard Times.” The courses will
relate to this larger topic and relevant internships might include positions at
the State Department, USAID, or the IMF, just to name but a few.  I should point out that while this semester’s
theme has an obvious government/IR flavor, the themes do change every semester.

In terms of the housing situation, all students live in
group apartments located only three metro stops outside the city in Arlington,
VA. I’ve actually had the chance to see these apartments in person because of
an internship experience I had last summer. And I must say that the entire
place is incredible, palatial even. The main lobby is really swanky and plays
all sorts of classy jazz music so you feel like a VIP when you walk in. The
apartments themselves come fully furnished and are massive. You could even run
laps in the bedrooms. But you don’t have to because there’s a nicely equipped
fitness center downstairs. Best of all may be the all-in-one
coffee/frappachino/mochachino machine off of the main lobby. This place is no
joke.
If you are intrigued by this program and want to find out
more, check out the W&M in Washington website at: http://www.wm.edu/sites/wmindc/.