Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quintessential Quotidian

This is a recounting and reflection on my daily schedule during my internship at the U.S. Agency for International Development. I hope it may be helpful to someone interested in interning at USAID or another Washington, D.C.-based organization.

6:45 a.m. Wake up, shower, put aside long-sleeved button-down shirt and tie for bike ride to Ronald Reagan Building (RRB). 

Although the Lab had a more relaxed working culture, I chose to wear a button down shirt and tie each day. In Washington, D.C. wearing a suit jacket in summer is highly impractical due to the humidity. Dressing at a medium level of formality was convenient as I could blend in at meetings with managers at USAID and at events at different organizations with more formal dress codes. For instance, I attended an event at the State Department where most individuals wore jackets and ties.

I packed my lunch each day because it was less expensive and less time consuming than buying food at RRB. In addition, bringing my own lunch gave me the freedom to eat at my desk or outside in the Woodrow Wilson Plaza outside RRB. However, if I did buy my lunch my favorite spots were the Department of Commerce cafeteria which had a tremendous and subsidized hot food bar, Roti, and District Taco.

7:30 a.m. Breakfast.

As I stayed in a long-term hostel, I shared a refrigerator with 20 other people. It was always an adventure searching for my food. Sometimes I would pack my breakfast and just eat it at my desk to get out of the house and to be in the office ahead of everyone. There was something strangely empowering about arriving at the office ahead of all my coworkers.

8:15 a.m. Ride bike south to the RRB

Biking to RRB from Petworth never took me longer than 20 minutes. Also, RRB is very friendly towards bikers. There is a spacious bike room with access to showers and overnight storage. I did not wear my dress shirts during the commute to work so I would not arrive drenched in sweat. It is common in D.C. to wear your running shoes or sandals until you get to the office. I road to work in my running shoes and changed into my leather shoes at my desk. 

9:00 a.m. Be at my desk.

During the day, I would do tasks such as:
  • generate content and edit interview transcripts of innovation programs at the Agency,
  • research questions for the best-practices needs assessment tool which was my main deliverable for my internship,
  • complete Initial Environmental Evaluations (IEEs) for the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development grantees,
  • respond to emails.
I found it tough to do my daily assignments and find time to answer emails if I arrived any later than 9:00 a.m. I felt best when I arrived as early as possible.

12:30 p.m. Lunch.

I typically had lunch with fellow interns in the office in the Woodrow Wilson Plaza. There is a tremendous farmers market on Fridays.

1 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Attend presentation from USAID bureau or presentation on success story from USAID mission.

On a daily basis different offices held presentations and brown bag lunches where USAID employees could learn about programs or interesting case studies. The best place to find out about these events were flyers outside the elevators. For instance, the Innovation Center hosted “Tech Tuesday’s” where a speaker in the tech or development space spoke about a successful project. USAID always had call-in numbers for meetings which I assumed allowed people to attend because of teleworking. However, this was also used by some USAID employees to call in and listen from their desk phones. Many members of my team enjoyed teleworking on Fridays which equated to working from home. Fridays, I was sometimes the only person from my team in the office. 

The afternoon on Thursdays and Fridays was also a great time to meet with contacts for coffee. I met other USAID interns, people on different teams, and interns in other agencies in the afternoons.

3:30 p.m. Team meeting.

Every Wednesday my team would meet for a weekly meeting to share program and administrative updates. I got into the habit of bringing baked goods to my team's weekly meetings. Every other week there was a 'peer-to-peer' presentation for team members to present on their individual projects, trainings, or results from Agency-related trips. In the 10th week of my internship, I was asked to present my work on the innovator needs assessment tool. Conveniently, Jona Reptishi from the International Development Innovation Network was able to attend my presentation on the best-practices tool.

5:00 p.m. Leave work.

Typically, most people on my team left work around 5:00 p.m. although some logged back on to email and work from home after 5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Attend lecture, forum, happy hour, discussion or play soccer.

I attended numerous events after work hosted by the Center for Global Development, the U.S. Coalition for Global Leadership, the Young Professionals group at USAID, GLIFAA, the 1776 venture accelerator, and the ASU McCain Institute. One of the members of my team organized a Tuesday night Trivia game at a bar near RRB.

I also joined a Tuesday night summer soccer league to stay active and make friends in D.C. As our undefeated season progressed, I grew to like my teammates. I often spent my weekends with these friends. It was amazing how joining just one league allowed me to play throughout the week. I often had requests to play as a substitute on other nights of the week. I played soccer at every opportunity I had! 

8:00 p.m. Prepare dinner and lunch for the next day.

I enjoyed cooking in the long-term hostel as I was surrounded by other young interns. My fellow hostel-mates had internships at the State Department, the White House, Congress, IBM, the Library of Congress, and National Geographic. There was also a French chef cooking at a fine D.C. restaurant who shared with me some of his baking tips! At the hostel, I always had someone to share food with, talk to, and watch movies with. I really love living in such a vibrant and international setting. We often shared recipes and food with each other. On Sunday nights, my hostel mates and I had a tradition of playing soccer together. I looked forward to it every weekend.

Top: An All Lab meeting in the Point IV Conference Room (a reference to Truman's Fourth Point establishing international aid to Europe in his inauguration speech). Upper Left: Jona Reptishi from IDIN visits me in the RRB to hear my presentation on my innovator needs assessment tool. Lower Left: Me biking through Georgetown. My friends from the hostel and I baking a pie and sharing cooking tips. Upper Right: My summer soccer team "Larry's Lounge" ended up winning the entire league undefeated. Unfortunately, only the nicest team, the winner for "Miss Congeniality," won an actual prize: a large bar tab. Lower Right: One of the many open presentations at USAID. This one is a "Tech Tuesday" talk in the Innovation Center about the results of a project which brought internet to a refugee camp.

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