Monday, February 4, 2013

And so it begins...

Just as a heads up, this first blog is a long one! The rest should not be this long.

So far, I love the District. It is full of life and diversity. You can tell that it is an international icon and hub for business and travel. Getting here was quite the adventure.
I believe it is my first time flying completely alone; I have traveled alone and without parents before, but not quite like this. I had to get up at the crack of 4 oon Sunday morning, which was terrible since I was wide awake until about 1:30 and excited like a little kid on Christmas Eve; this time, however, I did not jump on my parents bed and wake them up. I have been trying to quit energy drinks, but I figured I would allow myself one that morning (and the two previous days under the banner of “celebratory” drinks}. Got through check-in, security, and boarding just fine, and had a short flight to the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. I made it to my second flight with no trouble. My sister and I got good at what we call “human parkour,” which just means weaving in and out of crowds in malls and densely travelled areas; I have used that skill a lot on this trip.
Anyhow, I got on the flight, which was about two and a half hours. I arrived in Reagan National Airport, picked up my luggage, and began my strenuous commute from the airport to my residence in Silver Spring, MD. I figured out, with the help of the station manager, how to purchase my Metro ticket and where to go. I have done some traveling to other places with Metro systems, so it was fairly easy to get down. I accidently got on the wrong Metro line, but I found out that if I stayed on long enough, I could switch to the Red Line, which was what I would have to get on from the line I meant to get on, so it wasn’t really that bad of a mistake. I arrived at the Silver Spring Metro and followed the directions to the Solaire Housing Complex, where I am staying, in an email I received. It was about a half-mile walk, mostly uphill. Lugging a hanging bag, suitcase, and school bag up hill in slushy water with a thick overcoat on over a blazer and nice clothes was a bit of a challenge.
I got there, got things squared away with my room, walked around a bit, grabbed some coffee, and met my roommate. So far I just have one. My other ones may or may not arrive. One is supposed to get here sometime between now and Sunday, which is quite the gap. Sean, the roommate here is pretty cool! He is from South Carolina; a group of 16 came from his university. Many of them live in these apartments, so I have gotten to know a few. The rest live at the primary housing location, which also is the place where the classes and meetings are held. That is where I have been these past two days.
Monday was an overall orientation. It was pretty typical. There are around 430 interns total representing 40 states and 17 countries. We had to sit in on different workshops and information sessions about our programs and different civic engagements. I will more than likely be working with veterans who have mental health issues for that; the civic engagement project is essentially just volunteering. The one with the vets fits in well for my degree, psychology, and my internship, which is at the Department of Veteran Affairs, Patient Centered Care to be more specific. I will get to that later. Wednesday afternoon was an open house with workshops, so I went and grabbed some grub. On my way out, I ran into this Chinese foreign exchange student who was looking for food as well, so her and I went to a little café! It an interesting experience eating lunch one-on-one with someone I have never met before, let alone someone from a different country. She was really cool, though. It was a neat experience. After that, we went back for more orientation stuff.
Tuesday consisted of meeting with my program, which is Science, Technology, and Society. We just had a more program specific orientation and looked at what the next 15 weeks will be like. The work shouldn’t be too hard. The group is one of the smallest of The Washington Center with only about 20 people. Our advisor, Tiffani, ordered some food for us from California Tortilla, which was delightful! Needless to say, I chowed down on that stuff. We got out about 12:30 and had the rest of the day off, so I explored the Silver Spring area. A decent mall, hotel, restaurants, and shopping area are within walking distance to my apartment, which will be very nice.
Wednesday was actually my first day at my internship. I left my place at 7:45, hopped on the Metro, got off at the right station, got on a shuttle to the VA, and got there right at 8:30, which is when I am supposed to be there. It worked out well. My supervisor, Diane, is great. She is very laid-back, knowledgeable, and a skilled supervisor and boss. The other intern, Lauryn, is really cool! I am extremely excited to work with them both.
What I will be doing is pretty cool. We will be working on different programs, like a Washington VA app for smart phones, incentive and reward programs, patient advocacy, and just making sure the veterans are comfortable and well taken care of. Today I had the pleasure of meeting a 105-year-old WWII vet who was one of the first African-American females admitted into the armed forces. She was delegated the task of sorting out a mail room full to the ceiling of letters to soldiers in Europe; her commanding officer said it should take her six months, but she did it in three. It was a very surreal, humbling experience. She was a spunky, one-legged lady who dresses up and looks nice everyday because she wants to live life to the fullest and because she “just might meet a young, charming man and wants to look good” she said. I am so honored and thankful for this opportunity to work for and serve those who have been injured serving and fighting for my rights, liberties, and freedom. The rest of my first day was dwarfed in comparison to that experience. I just did some paper work, set up my office, got acquainted with the building and personnel, and took a tuberculosis test, which means I had Thursday off. Thursday night, however, I had my first class. I will be taking Forensic Psychology whilst here; I’m pretty excited about it! I don’t think it will be too tough.
Friday was my first real day at the VA. I got some paper work for security and clearance stuff taken care of, helped with some tasks, and had the privilege of attending the medical staff’s grand rounds at noon! That was quite the treat. A surgeon did a presentation on Narrative Medicine, which is an up-and-coming style of practicing medicine. Narrative Medicine pretty much just means that the patients tell their story and talk for a time without interruption while the doctors make notes. Essentially, it is about doctors spending more times listening and getting to know the patient to see if there is anything about their lives that might add to the problem. It sounds like it should already be a common practice, but when doctors are making their rounds in hospitals and clinics, two minutes of listening seems like a long time. One thing that was brought up that I found interesting is how they said that being required to fill out questionnaires and paper work on their computers while seeing the patient takes away time and makes it harder to do that. I believe the Affordable Healthcare Act makes it so that the doctors have to fill out certain things while seeing the patients. It will be interesting to learn more about Obamacare since I do not know that much. Getting the perspective of doctors and people who work in the healthcare filed will be interesting too.
My weekend was quite fun! I met up with an old friend Friday night. We went to Jumbo Slice pizza; the name was no lie. The slices were HUGE!!!! You could put pretty much anything on it, and it was bigger than a personal-pan pizza, but it was a slice. My mind was blown. After that, my friend and I went to a latin-jazz club, which was incredible! The cover charge was only $5. The band consisted of a pianist, a bassist, and four percussionists who took turns playing the congas, timbales, bongos, and small instruments like maracas and guiro. Being a drummer and novice hand percussionist, I was in heaven. The environment was very exciting with people salsa dancing everywhere, and the space was very warm and intimate. I will most certainly be going there more often. Saturday was mostly filled with going to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, food, and watching some shows with my old friend. On Sunday, I went grocery shopping, chilled, and watched the Super-Bowl!
So far, my adventure has been great. It feels like it has been a month already, and in reality, it has just been a week. I will admit that for the first few days, I kind of wished I had just taken classes at RSU; that was mainly because it was cold and dreary, and because I had not made any friends yet. But now things are looking up! I feel like this will be a fantastic opportunity for me to learn office etiquette, better my verbal and written communication skills, advance my knowledge in several areas, and help those who have served my country. Be sure to keep an eye out for my next blog! I will try to blog consistently at least once a week.

No comments:

Post a Comment