2009 Microsoft-AAPD Federal I.T. Intern Mitch Paschen shares his internship experience and a few tips with our incoming 2010 AAPD intern class.
As I walked out of Reagan Airport on May 24, 2009, I knew only one person in the whole Washington DC area, my former summer camp counselor. Other than this one contact, I was in a strange city I had never been to before. From there, I hailed a cab, and was off to Ivory Tower to begin my summer living at the George Washington University. Because of my disability, I required a single room, so I did not have a roommate to make friends with right away. Luckily, as I checked in, I met another AAPD intern who was moving in just across the hall from me. That night, he taught me the rules of the Metro system (he had interned in DC the summer before) and off we went.
Over the next day and a half, I met a few people who were moving in on our floor. When Tuesday finally came, we met with some of the AAPD staff and headed out to their offices. One thing that took getting used to in DC was wearing a suit when it was 85 degrees outside. Once at their offices, we were all introduced to each other. The next day, each of us were paired up with a professional mentor. This helped me to get to know someone who works for a big company outside the government.
The first few days with AAPD are very valuable. Get to know the staff. They are always willing to help you with any questions that you might have, not just about your job placements, but things around the city as well.
My job placement was US Customs and Border Protection (I was an IT intern). I spent most of the summer learning about and helping with LAN support. After getting to know some of the employees fairly well, they asked me come back again this summer. Thus, this will be my second year interning for them. These job placements are not only great hands on experience, but they are also great networking opportunities. Your job placement may just turn into a full time employment offer after college. You never know!
Here are some tips for making your internship experience more enjoyable for the summer:
1) Go sightseeing on weekends. I still have only seen about half the things there are to see and I went out every Saturday and Sunday. Also, most of the sights in DC are free, so go nuts! The best thing to do is get a group of around 4 or 5 interns and go somewhere different each week.
2) After you check in the first day, find the nearest grocery store, general store, dry cleaners, restaurants (go out often, but watch prices, sales tax in DC is 10%), post office, and Metro stop. These tools will prove invaluable over the summer.
3) If you aren't satisfied with the work your employer is providing you (i.e. it is mostly gruntwork), do not be afraid to ask for more. You are there to learn and help out.
4) If feasible, arrange for your family to come out and see you later in the summer. You can show them everything you have learned and how you are adapting to capital city life.
5) Go to a Washington Nationals baseball game. Tickets are super cheap, and who doesn't love an old fashioned baseball game? Plus, they usually never sell out.
6) Visit Gravelly Point on a Sunday afternoon (to get there, just take the Metro to Reagan Airport and walk north).
7) Go to AAPD events if you can get off work. One of my main reasons for going was that they usually serve food at them (as a college student, I cannot turn down free food). Also, many prominent politicians may be in attendance.
8) Last but not least, do something you wouldn't normally do at home. I several times took a walk to the Lincoln Memorial at 2am. Another time, I just started walking north to see where I would end up. (If you decide to walk southeast, make sure it is during daylight hours).Have a great summer and drink plenty of water (it gets very hot and humid there midday).
Mitch Paschen, 2009 Microsoft-AAPD Federal I.T. Intern