Posted by Rebecca Tjahja
Washington, D.C. is undoubtedly the best city in America to intern. The last 12 months of living in D.C. have made me a bit biased, but I say this as a proud California native. It has sometimes been challenging spending a year in D.C. while still in school, but the incredible opportunities that I have been able to take on have made every challenge worth it. I’ve had the privilege of working for the White House, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the Internet Education Foundation (IEF) as a Google Policy Fellow. The incredible impact of the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met have shaped me as a young woman and young professional. Here are the three reasons why every young professional should intern in D.C.:
1) Close relationships focused on your development as a leader
Passionate people from around the world come to D.C., bringing with them an incredible amount of brain power and diversity in background. From policy advisors up to the President’s senior advisors, the level of expertise and intelligence was amazing. Fortunately, everyone took time to share their expertise and perspective with the interns, and helped us see how to become the leaders we wish to be. During my time at the White House I was incredibly lucky to serve under Special Assistant to the President, R. David Edelman. He never hesitated to give me the responsibility and autonomy to think for myself, and allowed me to exercise a part of my brain and leadership ability I wouldn’t be able to otherwise in another setting. I found that other leaders in D.C. followed this same practice. As a Google Fellow, the executive director of IEF, Tim Lordan, gave me the same freedom to start and develop my own large-scale project and encouraged me to take initiative rather than cautioning me against it. I also managed to make it on C-SPAN thanks to Tim!
2) The people that you will meet
I grew up in Los Angeles, but I think I’ve met more famous people in Washington, D.C. than in LA. It’s also important to note that one’s perception of who is “famous” changes while in D.C. (I think I fangirled more about meeting Ian Bremmer than Selena Gomez. Who’s Ian Bremmer? Exactly.) Influential people are infinitely more accessible in Washington D.C. than anywhere else. The number of hearings, events, and receptions that I’ve been invited to has led me to connect with some of the most important decision-makers in the free world. I even had the opportunity to directly ask President Obama for his advice on leadership, which is a moment that will stay with me forever.
3) History is not only felt, but made here
I stood backstage with then Secretary Julian Castro and my boss from the White House as they prepared to give their remarks up on stage about rural broadband connectivity; sat front row as President Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio discussed the climate change and its future threat to our society; walked and talked with five different ambassadors down West Executive Drive about current happenings in their countries; stood in front of the Capitol as the transfer of power was passed from President Obama to President Trump. I didn’t realize at the time that my day-to-day activities and observations were at the forefront of what was defining our country. There is no other place in the world where “learning by watching” has been more impactful or motivating. Every young professional can come here and have the same experience.
Many successful and powerful influencers and decision makers’ paths have their humble beginning as an intern like me in Washington, DC, and right now I see myself at the beginning of a similar trail. Life-changing opportunities come with the right person, place, and time, and this city is an amazing catalyst in that equation. One connection has evolved into many, each providing insight into my strengths, weaknesses, and which direction I want to go into in my near and far future. If you are looking for an intellectually challenging environment to grow as a leader and person, Washington, D.C. is the place to be. It is a place where I felt that I could make a difference and where a difference was made within me.