For my STEP Signature Project I spent a summer in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Academic Internship Program. Through this program I was able to intern at the Government Accountability Office, network all around DC, finish my senior cap stone paper for my Public Policy major and learn more about future careers in DC. The program required that I work about 32 hours a week, do Friday study tours, and take two classes, one which was writing the 20 page senior cap stone paper about a policy topic of our choosing.
Because of this semester, I quickly realized how many wonderful opportunities exist in our government and, despite the current political sphere, the magnitude of hard work and dedication that goes into the public sector. This was eye opening as I witnessed analysts hustling to make feasible and well researched policy alternatives and suggestions for current issues. This is not to mention the personal growth I was able to achieve through this program. Being from Columbus, Ohio and then staying here for university, I am only truly familiar with the Midwest style of work. Going to DC which is a hodgepodge of people all over who affect the masses was a bit of a culture shock. For one, everything is much faster. You walk fast, you talk fast, and you better think fast too. I was surrounded by some of the brightest minds I have ever had the pleasure of working with and the change of pace was a bit intimidating. I was able, however, to quickly adapt to this new pace which was refreshing to see I was able to work in such a new environment. I think this will be helpful in a future career as I learn to adapt and work with individuals of varying expertise, interest, and maybe even culture. The second is how much I am able to handle all at once. This summer was exhausting – writing a giant paper, taking a class, working almost full time, and trying to explore a city all at once required a lot of time management and prioritization. Planning ahead was not a strength I had coming into this program but I realized it was essential. I even began to coin a new life phrase for myself that use daily: be the best past me for the best future me. To my mother’s delight, this also included making my bed in the morning.
As a part of the WAIP and DC experience, there was one word that was probably said more than any other: networking. There were many discussions on the essentials of networking and how many, if not nearly all, of the people we talked to were in their current positions because of networking. This aspect was crucial and transformative as I was able to hear from a variety of different people’s experiences of their career journeys. Prior to this experience, I may have believed that people entered a job and stayed with it. However, networking drew a different picture. This new landscape included many pitfalls, direction changes, further professional development and, you guessed it, networking. One woman I was able to talk to, and would now consider a mentor, discussed how she came into an internship position that was usually only offered to law students after just finishing her undergraduate career at Ohio State. This lead to her then becoming the Under Secretary of the Global Agriculture in the Obama administration by the age of 22. She addressed the importance of persistence and even offered me comforting words and advice about my “life narrative”.
This change is significant in my life because it continues to open the doors and allow me to discover more about myself. I was able to learn that I was more adaptable than I may have thought before but that I would also be a bit more futuristic in my planning. I learned the importance of diligence as well as being skeptical such as with the general perception of federal government workers. Because of these changes, I am able to recognize the importance of mentors that have helped me reach this point in my undergraduate career. I have begun to reconnect with those I had prior to or already at Ohio State and staying in touch with those back in DC. Further, I feel I am a better student. I am more organized and feel energized again about my future career. I see myself melding my strengths and interests in public policy and pharmacy to work as an advocate on behalf of pharmacy professionals and patients. Because of this program, I have a more clear view of a future career and the steps I need to take to get there.
Overall, this was an incredibly rewarding experience. I am not sure where I would be without it.