February 13, 2010 by Phil Hernandez
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.
January 9, 2010 by Phil Hernandez
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!
January 4, 2010 by Phil Hernandez
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.
November 7, 2009 by Phil Hernandez
“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.
November 3, 2009 by Phil Hernandez
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!
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!
November 1, 2009 by Phil Hernandez
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/.