Thursday, June 27, 2013

In Which I Hit a Police Officer in the Head with a Tennis Ball

So a professor from Rogers told me not to throw anything at anyone while I'm in D.C. Luckily for me, my supervisor at my internship told me otherwise and I got to chunk a lot of stuff at police officers and the horses they were riding. The U.S. Park Police are part of my Department, and they're brushing up on their training and drills before the  4th of July celebrations next week. The past two days, I was sent out to their training stables to be a "demonstrator," and got to throw tennis balls, water bottles, and Frisbees at the officers. They told us to try and get past the shields of the ground officers and peg them if we could. I did. I also got to mock sword fight other demonstrators with wooden canes, shove and be shoved by police shields, and verbally assault the officers. And they let us pet the ponies! It was definitely a change of scenery from sitting in the office and writing/editing stuff. The Chevy Suburban we took there and back was one of the dark-tinted government ones, and it was cool to see the tourists rubbernecking as they tried to see if we were part of a motorcade, frantically looking up and down the street we were on. The first time I was at the stables, we made it about three hours before the officers were called out for an emergency in front of the White House. I learned today that there was a massive group of protesters who had chained themselves to the White House fence and one guy who jumped it and got tackled by the Secret Service. Park Police went to lend a hand to the Secret Service, and they brought the horses and some bolt cutters to clear the mess up. 'Murica.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Less Narrative, More Full Picture (you know, if you're wanting to figure out if this shindig is something you'd want to do)

It's pouring rain outside today, so I figure I should do my dreaded homework and take a break for a blog update. This post is just a short snapshot of what it's like to live and work here. The RSU scholarship to the Washington Center is great, and the Center asks students to complete three major components for their program while here: an 40 hr/week internship, a civic engagement project, and a class at one of their campuses. There are workshops and speakers tucked into various spots of free time throughout the summer, but the main grades come from these three components.

The internship is awesome so far. At this point, I want to give a shout-out to every professor who ever taught me about the intricacies of the English language. That knowledge has been invaluable in the professional field. I edit a lot of massive documents and distill a lot of them down into summaries to present to my supervisors, which has shown me how very useful it can be to study as an English major in college. Since I'm in the Office of Emergency Management, there is a FEMA liaison in our office who takes me to FEMA headquarters to sit in on some really interesting meetings. National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife are both on my floor where I work, and the office of Wildland Fire and the bureau of Indian Affairs are just downstairs. This is cool because they all are majorly involved with disaster response and search and rescue (which I am really interested in). Some of the folks who work in these offices and bureaus have 30+ years of experience saving lives and being bada  awesome.  Now they are working to make policy that gets the government in step with what's happening on the ground. On top of all that, my coworkers and I get to celebrate Sushi Fridays and have random happy hours throughout the week. 'Tis quite fun.
Department of Interior Main Building

The civic engagement project with Veterans Affairs is equally awesome. Our coordinators give the students a list of events to participate in each week, and I get to pick the ones that sound most interesting. My favorite so far has been visiting memorials with veterans, which is possible through a program called Honor Flight Network (seriously, feel free to break from reading the blog at this point to Google it). There are some really amazing stories that you get to hear from veterans while hanging out with them, and it makes you appreciate just how much was sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today. The other event that I love to do with the project is a Wednesday night run with Team Red, White, and Blue. There are a lot of veterans that aren't much older than I am and we run, walk, and talk for three miles. Thank God for the walking part, because I know they'd be shipping a casket back to Oklahoma if I tried to run three miles at a veteran's pace. It's as much a social event as it is exercise, and everyone there has a great time.

The last component of my grade for the Washington Center is my class, a three hour ordeal every Monday night. It's labeled "Strategic Communications" but somehow I managed to work my way into another English class. A majority of the class is spent in analysis of different articles and a presentation of the ideas and motives that the articles express. We are required to give oral presentations and frame our own messages on a mock project each class, but most of it is centered on analysis and succinct writing. Again, I'm surprised by how useful it is to have a Liberal Arts English background in the professional field. And the class isn't that terrible, it's just on a Monday. At night. For three hours. Meh.

So other than Mondays being exceedingly long and arduous days, the whole experience is wickedly cool. I love my internship placement and the civic engagement project I got to pick, and the class is good. My roommates aren't scary, the housing is great, and D.C. is an amazing city to live in. The best part is making new connections with people who are shakers and movers and knowing that, if I can stand out, I'll get to be that sort of influence on the world too, someday soon.

And that's what you get out of just the first three weeks.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Batman, Bicycles, and Billionaires

The Jefferson Memorial
"You go to L.A. for fame, go to NYC for money, go to D.C. for power" were the first words of advice (or maybe warning) I heard at my internship site from a coworker, who is a D.C. local. I'm not feeling especially power-hungry today, but I can see where he was coming from with his assessment of the city. Everyone networks here. Everyone wants to know who you are, what you do, and to build a connection with you that might be useful for future opportunities. Business cards... business cards everywhere! And people on bikes. They're everywhere too. But yeah. So my first impressions of D.C. are that it's pretty small as far as big cities go; again, people are on bikes because most places aren't more than a few miles - at most, 10 - apart. People are friendly and typically dressed professionally (which makes sense given the city they're in), it's pretty humid and rains quite a bit, and you can't throw a rock without hitting a memorial or monument of some sort. On that note, I toured the National Mall with an RSU alumnus last Friday, who prefers not to be named but simply referred to here as "Batman." So Batman and I biked around and dodged tourists while seeing some of America's greatest memorials and monuments. The architecture and design of some of the memorials is breathtaking. I'm part of a civic engagement project that will be working with veterans and involve visiting the monuments, so that's cool and should be pretty fun. The Department of the Interior, where I'm interning, is across the street from the National Mall. It makes it easy if I want to go sightseeing after work, but I've already developed a distinct dislike of some tourists. They are everywhere and a select few of them are terrible. Honestly, I've never visited a new city or country and wandered into the streets while looking down at a map, dragging along a family of five, and backing traffic up for three blocks as I stand there absolutely clueless. True story. So the location has its ups and downs. One of the few days I've ridden my bike to and from work (biking in the rain really ruins any chance my hair has of not looking like Mufasa when I get into the office), I stopped after work to check out some monuments and had to pull out a map to figure out how to get back home.
My Noble Steed for the Summer Term
 Another cyclist stopped to help me out, and we started talking about what we both were doing in D.C., which is what everyone in the city does. I talked in length about my internship and RSU, and the cyclist told me that he worked on K Street with an international trade company. He was quiet and helpful, pointing me in the right direction. We traded business cards and I went on my way. After I got back, I Google-searched the company (of course). The man was the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. It was like figuring out that I'd met Tony Stark on the street and just thought he was a mechanic. Feeling like a total dweeb, I took it to heart to make the best impression I can with every person I swap business cards with whilst here. Who knows, maybe I'll run into Clark Kent next week? Until then, I'll network and marathon Dr. Who with Batman.