Experiencing a new city, new job, and new people halfway across the country all simultaneously is enough to make anyone a bit overwhelmed, especially if you come from a small town (shout out to El Campo, Texas). However… I did not expect to fall in love so quickly with Washington, D.C.! The past few weeks, I’ve been getting into the groove, trying completely new things yet also looking for little pieces of home as I explore the city. I did not expect to learn as much personally as I am professionally, so I’m sharing the not-so-obvious lessons I’ve learned.
Life is too short to play it safe
For most of my life, I wanted to be a lawyer. I was always somewhat interested in politics, with my interest in agriculture being something I stumbled upon and developed in high school. In my adult life, I would say I’ve always been able to identify what I’m passionate about, what work excites me, and what gets me out of bed in the morning. I’ve struggled with figuring out what career fits these interests and putting it into words when I get the “so, what do you want to do when you graduate?” question. While I still am working on the answer to that question, the one thing I know for certain is that I’m passionate about agriculture, policy, and helping people. Since I first stepped foot at Texas A&M, I quickly identified that the ANRP Internship Program was something I wanted. It almost didn’t seem real when the time came to finally apply for the program about half a year ago, let alone that I got accepted and that I’m actually in D.C. right now as I’m writing this. As I was applying, I had recently figured out and decided that I no longer wanted to go to law school or be a lawyer. It left me in a weird place, not knowing what my future would hold, at a time when I was getting asked those questions more than ever. Even if your plans are changing or you’re not exactly sure what you want to do, internships like these are one of the best things you can ever do for yourself (like seriously). You don’t have to have it all figured out; you just have to take that leap of faith to pursue what’s calling you. And regardless of how intimidating the thought of D.C. was to me, D.C. was calling, and I had to answer. If there is a time to go out and experience things, to get to ask “dumb” questions, to expose yourself to new ideas, to take a stab at something you’ve always found interesting, to make mistakes, I really feel like in my case it’s now. There will always be a million reasons why you can convince yourself NOT to do something… but what’s the harm in trying?
Dolly tried to warn me – my first 9 to 5
When making my D.C. summer itinerary, I had it absolutely jam-packed. Smithsonian’s, monuments, memorials, and every touristy thing in the east coast area one could possibly think of. What I failed to consider, which may seem silly or obvious to others, is that sometimes I am too tired to treat every weekend like a brand-new tourist. I LOVE my office and my job, but going from a pandemic college schedule to a 40-hour work week for the very first time is definitely an adjustment for anyone regardless! To be a bit dramatic- the FOMO (fear of missing out) I felt on weekends or evenings after work when everyone else was doing their brunches or sight-seeing almost felt debilitating. I had to learn that while, in some ways, this feels like an extended vacation this summer, I’m also living and working here full time. So, sometimes it is perfectly OK to be too tired to do absolutely everything! I had to allow myself the privilege of resting and recharging, not feeling guilty or like I was wasting my time in D.C. by not getting the absolute most out of it. With my first taste of office and 9 to 5 life, I’ve learned that it is ok to have a night in, to not be at 100% energy all the time and that you really have to prioritize self-care and your rest time just as much as you have to see everything that has our nation’s Capitol has to offer. Between sight-seeing and meeting with people, I don’t think I had a “night in” after work for my first two weeks of living here and let me tell you; it was exhausting! If you want to do your best with your new job, meet new people, or do whatever you are pursuing, you also need to take care of yourself and allow yourself time to rest.
Everyone is actually like, really nice
I didn’t even realize how much I’m learning while living and working here because I’m unaware of what I’m picking up on as they’re happening. Not just about the unspoken aspects of living and working in D.C., but learning the policy process as a whole and doing so first-hand. This could also be because I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to have an active role in participating in it. I can get intimidated when I think about how sometimes politicians can be celebrities or feel nervous when meeting someone with a higher position or a lot of influence. One of the coolest things I keep thinking about is that the impressive people I get to meet with or see working started as an intern just like me. These people have been willing to help me without even thinking twice because they were once in the same position that I’m in as an intern. While some people may seem unreachable or extremely intimidating, they are just people. I’ve always thought politics to be so polarizing and divisive and know that sometimes it can get ugly. Physically being in D.C. I’m finding that it isn’t that way here because everyone has to work together to make things happen. Besides the fact that this is our country’s Capitol and everything that comes along with the aspect of living in a federal district, what has made my experience the most memorable is the people. Being surrounded by like-minded people who are passionate and interested in the same thing you are, in a place like this, is so special. Everyone here genuinely wants to help others and make a difference in the specific areas of interest that they are passionate about! While this may seem obvious to some, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how kind and hospitable everyone here has been to me.
I also didn’t realize how young this city is and that our federal government is essentially run by 22–30 year old’s behind the scenes. If you are graduating college or love the young professional atmosphere, Washington D.C. is PERFECT for you! It is a great transition, especially coming from a college town like College Station into a city where the social and professional spaces are set up to where you can thrive. Network like crazy, make connections, and meet as many people as possible, but don’t get too caught up in what everyone else is doing. We all have different goals, ideas, interests, backgrounds, and experiences, and everyone is doing their own thing or is seeking other things out of their experiences here.
You can take the girl out of texas, but….
This may be because I am one of the most sentimental people ever, but opportunities like these teach you so much more than just the job itself. As I stated before, this job and program have given me invaluable learning experiences and opportunities I enjoy more than anything I’ve ever worked on. However, I truly feel that to not only survive but to thrive in new situations like these or when given these amazing opportunities, you have to embrace the struggle to make a home that feels like your own. Rather than learning to live away from home or do without one, leaders must learn to live in and between two homes — a local and a global home. It is important to me that while pursuing these ambitions, I’m still acknowledging where I come from and the things that make me, me. Without a local home, we lose our roots; without a global home, we lose our reach. I’m doing my best to stay grounded while giving all I have. The trouble with moving around and falling in love with new places is that you leave a piece of your heart in each of them. Although my time here this summer is short, D.C. will always have a piece of my heart, and I would not be surprised if I ended up finding my way back here for a bit longer.
National Association of Wheat Growers
Summer 2022 | Washington, D.C.