Tips and tricks are often given for students planning on studying away at an international site. New cultures and customs can make life there difficult, and at times it can even seem impossible to navigate, but people rarely give tips for others traveling across a few states. Staying in the same general region of the country, no one really gave me tips for moving from New York to Washington besides a few good restaurants I should try to go to. I have learned a lot this semester through being challenged and pushed beyond by comfort zone, and the tricks that I have complied to make my life easier here may help someone in the future. Whether just considering whether this city is the right place for them, or just wanting to know what to plan for, I hope my advice can provide guidance and recommendations for the most successful time spent in D.C.
The first step someone should take when considering whether or not to study in D.C. is to evaluate their reasons for going. Almost everyone that comes here comes with the intent to pursue an internship opportunity that is not available to them in New York. For many of us this semester, that meant Capitol Hill. With every upperclassmen in the program holding an internship along with classes (granted there are only around 40 of us), we are bound to run into each other at some point. I remember my surprise when I ran into my classmate that lives across the hall at a briefing in one of the House office buildings. But working while also being a student is difficult, especially in a office where working until 6 or 7 can be expected. When you have students that are all working in politically affiliated offices, taking classes surrounding various political topics, and are living in the nation’s capital, the environment gets focused on politics 24/7. And if you are interested in politics, then you will love it. Even outside of work and class you will often find students debating one another about the validity of a certain candidate or on a vote that took place on the Senate floor that day. But if politics isn’t your thing, then you’ve been warned.
For someone already planning on coming to D.C., I would say that the most important thing is to already have established what you want to get out of your experience here. There are a ton of highly connected people here, but it is easy to get stuck in a routine and not take advantage of the opportunities around you. If your goal is to get recommendations for your future internship/job hunt, then make sure to take advantage of the chance to impress those that can put in a good word for you later on. If you want to get connections because you plan on returning to Washington, use your office, as well as NYU, to meet people that you can start building relationships with. NYU has a vast network of alumni working in D.C., and simply asking to be connected with some people could lead to a close relationship down the road. Networking is part of the culture here, but it doesn’t have to be formal. Most people are willing to grab a coffee with you during the week, which is a good chance to learn about what they do and to ask them for advice.
Many of the tips and tricks that help make living here more enjoyable can be learned early on, but if you came here for the wrong reasons, or end up missing out on what the city had to offer you, then they won’t help in the end.