Budget Bites

It’s rare these days to find a paid internship, especially on the Hill. Cities tend to be much more expensive than suburbs and rural areas and DC is certainly no exception. Today at lunch my co-interns and I were talking about the difficulties we face as unpaid interns living in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I feel very fortunate because I have the Internship Grant provided through Dickinson, but most interns do not have that same support. As the conversation with my co-interns progressed, we began to talk about ways that we all save money and how we survive in D.C. without an income. So, here is a list of “budget bites” for you, or a couple quick tips about how interns can save money, but still have a great time in the nation’s capital without seeing red in your bank account.

1.) D.C. is full of free entertainment, ranging from the Smithsonian to the Monuments to the nature parks in the city and its suburbs. Take advantage of these things, in addition to the free concerts and art shows. Visiting the embassies is also a really unique and FREE thing to do in the city. They often have lecture series, films, and other free events open to the public. D.C. is really special in the sense that you can go through the entire summer without having to spend any money on entertainment (I know I have).

2.) Don’t use uber or lyft, use split. Split is also an alternative taxi service, but they don’t charge the same surge pricing as uber and lyft do at busy times.

3.) Continuing with the transportation theme, use the bus circulator rather than the metro. The metro is expensive (can cost over $3/ ride) and the bus costs $1.00. The savings really add up! Just think, that extra $2 can get you a coffee in the Senate cafeteria or a cupcke at Gerogetown cupcakes!

4.) Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan! The first week I was here I didn’t use a grocery list when I went to the supermarket, and that was quite the rookie mistake. After suffering sticker/ receipt shock, the next week I planned out what I was going to have for dinner each night of the week, made a list, and saved a lot of money.

So, you want to intern on the Hill?

So here I am, as the locals say, “on the Hill”. Since I no longer need to use Google Maps to get home from work, I now consider myself to be a local (you may consider this a bit of a stretch, but for someone who has never lived in a city before coming to D.C., I consider this to be a major accomplishment). My first few weeks of interning with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has come and gone, and let me tell you, it has already been a whirlwind. When I walked into the office on my first day, I felt a strange sense of déjà vu- not because I have been to the Hart Senate Office building before and not because I have interned with a Senator prior to this summer, but because I felt the same anxious excitement that I felt when I first began college at Dickinson.

My supervisor emailed all the interns (11 in total) and explained that our first week would be an orientation week. “Woohoo”, I said sarcastically to myself when I read that email. Although I knew that the first week would be a getting to know you kind of week, I have never been a huge fan of orientations. I consider them to be a necessary evil; you need to attend orientations in order to be able to do the job well/ know what you’re doing, but on the other hand they are a bit stressful. And I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. All newbies want to succeed and be the best intern they can be, and orientation week is the first step in having a successful internship. Now, replace “intern” with “college student” and “internship” with “college career” and this statement holds true for freshman orientation of college. Lots of VERY important information is being thrown at you during orientation, whether that be how to give tours of the Capitol Building to constituents or how to get to the dining hall from your dorm. The first week of the internship was even more similar to freshman orientation because the upperclassmen (AKA Senators) were not there- Congress was on recess for Memorial Day. 

Orientation week had three major highlights for me. So here they are, not listed in any particular order:

1.) Taking the trolley from the Senate office buildings into the Capitol. You might be thinking, “hmmm, why is this a highlight of orientation week?” Well not only are trolley rides fun, but taking the same route and sitting in the same trolley cars as some of the country’s most powerful and influential people is kind of surreal. When you flash your congressional ID and the security guards nod at you, it makes you feel like a pretty cool cat.

2.) Answering phone calls. Typical intern task, I know. But having the opportunity to talk to constituents voicing their concerns is really exciting. It’s nice to talk to people about what they’re passionate about.

3.) Walking by the Supreme Court and the Capitol every morning to get to work. No explanation needed, the view is priceless.