Surviving a Summer Internship Far from Home

If you are reading this, it means that you want to secure or have already secured a summer internship. If you haven’t found something yet, set up an appointment with CLC staff to explore some resources. If you are all set, these are some things to keep in mind while you get ready for the best summer of your life. I spent the summer between my junior and senior year in Washington DC, and I made several mistakes while I was preparing for my internship. For example, I had no idea how to find housing, or how to eat on a budget. I hope my mistakes make your summer easier and more fun.

Just like most things in big cities, housing is (very) expensive. You can try to save money by sharing a room or commuting. More traditional options for interns are well-known intern housing options like June Homes. You can find city specific alternatives if you start searching early on; however, these tend to be more expensive, and they fill really fast. Other options that might be less pricey, are reaching out to alumni or personal connections and asking if they know of anyone subletting or in need of a summer house sitter. Another way to learn about subletting options is through subletting groups on Facebook. Try to avoid less reliable websites like Craigslist. If you find something that you like, ask to see the apartment or house through a video call, or if you can have a connection in that city go visit the apartment in person. There are some people out there making money from fake apartment postings. Someone gave me this advice before my summer in DC: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.

Getting around. The best way to get around on a budget is by using public transportation and walking. If your city has a metro, don’t be afraid to use it. In most cities you can get a metro card and load it at almost every metro station. Usually, metro cards also work for city buses. Another way to move around the city is by using free transportation designed for tourists, in DC it was a bus: the DC Circulator. Buses tend to be less reliable than metros, but they usually reach more places. If it will be your first time on that city, download these apps: Via, a cheaper ride-share option; the metro app, will let you know the best way to get places and how far way buses are; and CityMapper, will show you different options to get places as well as the price for each option.

Eating on a budget. Food is also very expensive, so the cheapest option is to go grocery shopping and cook for yourself. Keep this in mind while searching for housing. If you are planning to cook, make sure you find housing that has a fully equipped kitchen. Remember that in in some cities you have to pay for disposable bags, so bring reusable bags with you when you go grocery shopping. Buy a Tupperware and bring food to work, it is not weird. Most interns are also on a budget, so they will probably be doing the same. In some cases, you can even eat for free. Usually events happening during lunchtime or after five provide free food.

Although food is expensive, most entertainment options are free. Make sure you find things to do after you get out of work. There are hundreds of free events happening all over the city, ranging from congressional briefings about public policy to showings of 90s movies at a park. Summer is a special time: museums have new and exciting exhibits, families have picnics at the park, people to listen to music. Use Facebook, Google, and Eventbrite to learn about free events happening near you.

Contact other interns. The only thing that makes free events better, is going with the right company. Most interns in the area are just like you, trying to find people to hang out when they get out of work, so reach out; again, it is not weird. Reach out to interns at your organization, reach out to interns from Lawrence, and reach out to young alumni living in your city.

Make and cultivate connections. If you find a person whose job sounds like something you’d like to do, tell them. They can be your boss at your organization, or someone that you met at a meeting, request to meet with them for an informational interview and ask them anything you want to know. But it doesn’t stop there, email your connections to let them know what you’ve been up to.

Dress to impress. Make sure to have a business casual wardrobe that will keep you cool during the humid summer months. Most organizations will require you to dress up for work. Remember that you might be using public transportation and walking a lot, so use clothes that look fancy and keep you cool. You might be attending meetings with congress people, CEOs, and other important people in your field. Make sure you look presentable and refreshed. Some people even bring walking shoes with them to ensure comfort.

Be prepared for anything. Summer weather is unpredictable. A morning that looks like a humid summer day, later turns into a thunderstorm that floods the city. While there are no good ways to prepare for that, here are some things to keep in your bag so you can survive hot days, rainstorms, and everything in between: a water bottle, sunscreen, sunglasses, an umbrella, a cardigan or light jacket, and a reusable bag.

I hope these tips make your summer internship easier and more fun.

By Barbara Espinosa ’20 who survived an internship in DC during one of the hottest summers ever.