For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in the Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP). I spent spring semester living in DC, interning at the National Archives, taking public policy classes, and learning what it takes to be a successful young professional.
I underwent several transformations as part of this program, the main one being personal: I learned how to become an independent adult and create a life for myself in a new city. As part of WAIP, I interned from 9-5 and had class (along with other professional development events) in the evenings from 6:30-9. This was a big change from my usual schedule in college, and I was nervous going into the program that I would not be able to keep up with it. The other main transformation that took place was with my career goals and my idea of what kind of life I want after I graduate. I went into the WAIP program with a relatively narrow focus for my career: performing arts administration, preferably at a nonprofit organization in a large city. However, once I got there and started exploring and meeting with people, I learned that there are a lot of opportunities and paths out there that I never even knew existed, and that I need to be open to them as I think about my future.
These transformations were spurred by several components of the program, the biggest one being the internship. At the National Archives, I was a Public Programming Intern, and I worked with both the Public Programming and Education teams to create and run events and activities that helped people connect with the Archives. This was work unlike anything I’d ever done before, and it made me look at museum education and programming/events in a whole new way. I also worked with a great team, from supervisors who were happy to answer all of my questions about museums, life in DC, graduate school, and more, to other interns who I got to collaborate with. This internship truly allowed me to grow and feel comfortable and confident as a young professional.
Another key aspect of the program that changed me was the requirement for networking. Every WAIP student has to find 5 people whose careers are of interest and ask them for an informational interview. This was one of the requirements that I was most nervous for, but it ended up being one of the most helpful parts of my experience. I got to meet with people from The Kennedy Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Americans for the Arts and ask them about their careers. I learned that everyone has different paths, and often times when things don’t go as you planned, you can still end up where you want to go. These meetings allowed me to get a glimpse into a lot of different organizations and types of work, and they also made me feel a lot more confident about networking and approaching strangers.
In a similar note, the last parts of WAIP that caused a transformation in me were the study tours. Every Friday, instead of going to our internships, the whole WAIP cohort went on study tours to different places in DC, and we sometimes met with OSU alumni if there were any at the places we visited. I got to take a tour of the NPR headquarters, meet the Surgeon General, visit the Newseum, hear from former staffers of Senator John Glenn, and have plenty more incredible experiences. Every study tour (especially the ones with alumni) was a reminder that anything is possible if I work hard enough, and that being a Buckeye is special. They truly made me feel like every door is open, and I will carry that perspective with me as I head into my senior year and prepare for the job hunt.
This transformation is valuable for my life because I now know how to be an adult and I am prepared for life after graduation. I still want to work in arts administration, but I now feel that I am more open to other options, and that there are many different routes I could take and still be happy. I learned how to network, how to create an educational program, how to lead a group of 30 8th-graders through a museum, how to navigate the metro by myself, how to feel confident at professional events, and so much more. I am more flexible, more capable, and I know that whatever challenges come my way, I will be ready to meet them.
I feel like a completely different person than I was in January because I had this experience and I succeeded. I will take the things that I’ve learned in WAIP and use them for the rest of my life, both on a professional and personal level. I could not be more happy with my STEP Project, and the way that it truly transformed me.
(The first picture is of me at the Scarlet and Gray Congressional Breakfast, the second one is of me and my roommates at The White House).