Saturday, August 10, 2013

All Good Things

Team Red, White, and Blue "100 in 100"
So I'm sitting at a gate in Baltimore-Washington International waiting on a plane to make the first leg of my journey home. I've got mixed feelings towards Delta Airlines at the moment; they contacted me at midnight to tell me that my first flight was pushed back three hours. This would have been news to celebrate if I hadn't already booked a ride with Super Shuttle from my apartment for 3:15 AM. I'll make it to my connecting flight in plenty of time still (there was a lengthy layover in the original itinerary), so I guess it's equally boring waiting out the time no matter which airport I'm at. And Delta offered its apologies through all-you-want cookies, pretzels, and juice here at the gate. It's like going to a blood drive, except there are no terrible needles, just the tasty snacks. Again, mixed feelings, but thee food is much appreciated.

Arlington Cemetery
But on to the real stuff: a final commentary on D.C. and my experiences here. I must admit, going into the internship and summer, I had no idea how important these 10 weeks would be for my future. As is the way with D.C., I made connections that have opened a number of doors for job opportunities. My internship helped me better understand the career field of emergency management, but it seemed like absolutely everything I participated in gave me new opportunities to network. At an event for my civic engagement project with veterans, I met another young woman who is an engineer in emergency management in the D.C. area. She had some great advice for pursuing a career in the field, and encouraged me to stay in touch as I built my résumé up with more experience and education. The career field is growing rapidly, so there are a lot of positions in both the government and private sector. In sum, I loved my internship because of all that it made possible, as well as the amazing office atmosphere at the Department of Interior. The other projects through the Washington Center made it a truly life-changing experience.

Braves @ Nationals
Outside of my internship and projects, there was a lot of fun to be had hanging out in and around D.C. One of my classmates from my semester in Wales visited this past week, and we explored Arlington (it was a strikingly large place) and watched the Nationals play the Braves. The game was even more exciting than the all-American pastime typically is; after Harper (a Nationals player) hit a home run, the pitcher pegged him with the ball the next time he was at the plate. Chaos ensued as players from both teams rushed out of the bullpens and dugouts, yelling at each other. The Braves' catcher was physically being held back by a team manager from punching Harper in the face, as Harper cursed the pitcher while standing halfway down the first base line. The game was two parts baseball, one part hockey. Two sports for the price of one and we had a great time sitting back with chili dogs and Dippin' Dots just watching it all play out. The Braves won.

Library of Congress
So that's about it. I turned in my Capstone portfolio and we had a commencement ceremony at the Washington Center Residential and Academic Facility, I loitered around the Library of Congress a few evenings, and I ate the most random assortment of food the past three days as I finished off what I had left in the pantry and fridge. There were a thousand and one things that made this summer amazing, but the greatest was easily the chance to meet a lot of passionate people who are out to change the world.

Until next time, D.C. Keep it real inside the Beltway.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Hitchhiker's Guide to Being an Intern

What a crazy busy summer, and it just keeps getting busier as it gets closer to being over. I’d use the expression a “snowball effect,” but I can’t bring myself to do it with the stifling heat that’s taken over the city. It feels like a sauna every time I step outside. Aside from the weather, D.C. has continued to be absolutely awesome and keeps throwing new stuff at me each day. My supervisor connected me with the National Park Service and I’ve had the chance to do some training with them during the work week and I’ll have the opportunity to do more this fall, thanks to the work of multiple RSU professors who have helped me with scheduling. The National Park Service has a lot of sweet government job opportunities in emergency medicine and search and rescue, which would be a dream job for me. D.C. is a city that’s all about networking, and I’m finally realizing the importance of making those connections. I love D.C.

The internship has been good fun, but some of the best experiences have been those I’ve had off of the clock lately. Last weekend, I went with a friend up to Boston to watch the Red Sox play the Yankees at Fenway. I will venture to say that it is the highlight of my summer here on the east coast. We also walked the Freedom Trail through Boston, before we headed down to Philadelphia to see landmarks like Eastern State Penitentiary, Rocky’s Steps, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell. The baseball and the history that surrounded us made it a great trip, and we finished it off by watching half a dozen episodes of Suits (the true cherry on top of all the awesome).

This weekend, I went with a coworker to see the city of Annapolis and partake of traditional Maryland cuisine: crabs smothered with Old Bay seasoning. They were delicious. She picked me up from the metro station and we drove to the old city, and we spent a few hours just roaming the streets and shopping. They had a pottery shop that was undeniably amazing, and tons of waterfront stores to explore. When we were done in the town, we went to a beach on the Chesapeake Bay and swam in the half-salt, half-fresh water before kicking back to sunbathe. Having missed out on my usual summer at the lake, it was cool to have some time by the water here on the coast. Today I worked on a few documents I had to edit and went out with a friend to watch the new movie Wolverine at a theater in Chinatown (honestly, “Chinablock” would be more appropriate, it’s a small area). In all, weekends have been the greatest part of the summer, and that means a lot considering how cool the internship site and the office are.

I’ll be back to home sweet home in just under two weeks. My class has two assignments due tomorrow night, and the Washington Center expects a finished capstone project from me next Monday. Yayyyy, homework (I hear that there is this mythical time in the future where I won’t have homework ever again…pshh, it can’t truly exist). The pace is really picking up in these last few days of the summer. I’ll catch a plane on the Saturday before classes start and be back in Oklahoma that afternoon. If I’m not completely zonked out when I get in from my flight, I plan to move in to the dorms on the same day. We’ll see how that one turns out. I love being busy and the next couple of weeks promise not to disappoint. I try to keep in mind a quote that’s been reiterated to me by a great professor: “Don’t panic.” Advice taken, towel packed.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Anybody Want a Peanut?

My Meeting with Congressman Mullin
The Fourth of July came and went
It was hot as hell, but time well spent.
Watched a parade and fireworks, had a picnic
A few days later I was wretchedly sick.
Didn’t die, so I went to the Archives
Where housed are those which protect liberty and lives.
Met my congressman and went on a Capital tour,
Saw the Folger Shakespeare Library just moments before.
Following that, the Holocaust Memorial Museum was a somber place,
Words can never fully express what those walls encase.
I’m missing home some, but D.C.’s a blast,
Four weeks left, time’s flying by fast.
Here’s to Rogers State, my friends, and all,
Washington’s great, but I can’t wait for fall!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In Which I Hit a Police Officer in the Head with a Tennis Ball

So a professor from Rogers told me not to throw anything at anyone while I'm in D.C. Luckily for me, my supervisor at my internship told me otherwise and I got to chunk a lot of stuff at police officers and the horses they were riding. The U.S. Park Police are part of my Department, and they're brushing up on their training and drills before the  4th of July celebrations next week. The past two days, I was sent out to their training stables to be a "demonstrator," and got to throw tennis balls, water bottles, and Frisbees at the officers. They told us to try and get past the shields of the ground officers and peg them if we could. I did. I also got to mock sword fight other demonstrators with wooden canes, shove and be shoved by police shields, and verbally assault the officers. And they let us pet the ponies! It was definitely a change of scenery from sitting in the office and writing/editing stuff. The Chevy Suburban we took there and back was one of the dark-tinted government ones, and it was cool to see the tourists rubbernecking as they tried to see if we were part of a motorcade, frantically looking up and down the street we were on. The first time I was at the stables, we made it about three hours before the officers were called out for an emergency in front of the White House. I learned today that there was a massive group of protesters who had chained themselves to the White House fence and one guy who jumped it and got tackled by the Secret Service. Park Police went to lend a hand to the Secret Service, and they brought the horses and some bolt cutters to clear the mess up. 'Murica.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Less Narrative, More Full Picture (you know, if you're wanting to figure out if this shindig is something you'd want to do)

It's pouring rain outside today, so I figure I should do my dreaded homework and take a break for a blog update. This post is just a short snapshot of what it's like to live and work here. The RSU scholarship to the Washington Center is great, and the Center asks students to complete three major components for their program while here: an 40 hr/week internship, a civic engagement project, and a class at one of their campuses. There are workshops and speakers tucked into various spots of free time throughout the summer, but the main grades come from these three components.

The internship is awesome so far. At this point, I want to give a shout-out to every professor who ever taught me about the intricacies of the English language. That knowledge has been invaluable in the professional field. I edit a lot of massive documents and distill a lot of them down into summaries to present to my supervisors, which has shown me how very useful it can be to study as an English major in college. Since I'm in the Office of Emergency Management, there is a FEMA liaison in our office who takes me to FEMA headquarters to sit in on some really interesting meetings. National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife are both on my floor where I work, and the office of Wildland Fire and the bureau of Indian Affairs are just downstairs. This is cool because they all are majorly involved with disaster response and search and rescue (which I am really interested in). Some of the folks who work in these offices and bureaus have 30+ years of experience saving lives and being bada  awesome.  Now they are working to make policy that gets the government in step with what's happening on the ground. On top of all that, my coworkers and I get to celebrate Sushi Fridays and have random happy hours throughout the week. 'Tis quite fun.
Department of Interior Main Building

The civic engagement project with Veterans Affairs is equally awesome. Our coordinators give the students a list of events to participate in each week, and I get to pick the ones that sound most interesting. My favorite so far has been visiting memorials with veterans, which is possible through a program called Honor Flight Network (seriously, feel free to break from reading the blog at this point to Google it). There are some really amazing stories that you get to hear from veterans while hanging out with them, and it makes you appreciate just how much was sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today. The other event that I love to do with the project is a Wednesday night run with Team Red, White, and Blue. There are a lot of veterans that aren't much older than I am and we run, walk, and talk for three miles. Thank God for the walking part, because I know they'd be shipping a casket back to Oklahoma if I tried to run three miles at a veteran's pace. It's as much a social event as it is exercise, and everyone there has a great time.

The last component of my grade for the Washington Center is my class, a three hour ordeal every Monday night. It's labeled "Strategic Communications" but somehow I managed to work my way into another English class. A majority of the class is spent in analysis of different articles and a presentation of the ideas and motives that the articles express. We are required to give oral presentations and frame our own messages on a mock project each class, but most of it is centered on analysis and succinct writing. Again, I'm surprised by how useful it is to have a Liberal Arts English background in the professional field. And the class isn't that terrible, it's just on a Monday. At night. For three hours. Meh.

So other than Mondays being exceedingly long and arduous days, the whole experience is wickedly cool. I love my internship placement and the civic engagement project I got to pick, and the class is good. My roommates aren't scary, the housing is great, and D.C. is an amazing city to live in. The best part is making new connections with people who are shakers and movers and knowing that, if I can stand out, I'll get to be that sort of influence on the world too, someday soon.

And that's what you get out of just the first three weeks.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Batman, Bicycles, and Billionaires

The Jefferson Memorial
"You go to L.A. for fame, go to NYC for money, go to D.C. for power" were the first words of advice (or maybe warning) I heard at my internship site from a coworker, who is a D.C. local. I'm not feeling especially power-hungry today, but I can see where he was coming from with his assessment of the city. Everyone networks here. Everyone wants to know who you are, what you do, and to build a connection with you that might be useful for future opportunities. Business cards... business cards everywhere! And people on bikes. They're everywhere too. But yeah. So my first impressions of D.C. are that it's pretty small as far as big cities go; again, people are on bikes because most places aren't more than a few miles - at most, 10 - apart. People are friendly and typically dressed professionally (which makes sense given the city they're in), it's pretty humid and rains quite a bit, and you can't throw a rock without hitting a memorial or monument of some sort. On that note, I toured the National Mall with an RSU alumnus last Friday, who prefers not to be named but simply referred to here as "Batman." So Batman and I biked around and dodged tourists while seeing some of America's greatest memorials and monuments. The architecture and design of some of the memorials is breathtaking. I'm part of a civic engagement project that will be working with veterans and involve visiting the monuments, so that's cool and should be pretty fun. The Department of the Interior, where I'm interning, is across the street from the National Mall. It makes it easy if I want to go sightseeing after work, but I've already developed a distinct dislike of some tourists. They are everywhere and a select few of them are terrible. Honestly, I've never visited a new city or country and wandered into the streets while looking down at a map, dragging along a family of five, and backing traffic up for three blocks as I stand there absolutely clueless. True story. So the location has its ups and downs. One of the few days I've ridden my bike to and from work (biking in the rain really ruins any chance my hair has of not looking like Mufasa when I get into the office), I stopped after work to check out some monuments and had to pull out a map to figure out how to get back home.
My Noble Steed for the Summer Term
 Another cyclist stopped to help me out, and we started talking about what we both were doing in D.C., which is what everyone in the city does. I talked in length about my internship and RSU, and the cyclist told me that he worked on K Street with an international trade company. He was quiet and helpful, pointing me in the right direction. We traded business cards and I went on my way. After I got back, I Google-searched the company (of course). The man was the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. It was like figuring out that I'd met Tony Stark on the street and just thought he was a mechanic. Feeling like a total dweeb, I took it to heart to make the best impression I can with every person I swap business cards with whilst here. Who knows, maybe I'll run into Clark Kent next week? Until then, I'll network and marathon Dr. Who with Batman.

Monday, May 13, 2013

My final blog

May 6th- May 11th

It seems so odd that this will be my last DC blog. I have really enjoyed writing these! It has been a great way for me to debrief and catalog my trip. I know not many people have followed this blog, but I hope you all have enjoyed my rants and writings. As per usual, I will go through my week day by day. The last part of the blog will be my thoughts on the whole experience! I am writing this a week late, so some of the days won’t have too much.

Monday was The Washington Center’s commencement ceremony! Like all commencements, it was boring. I sat at the back and played on my phone the whole time, as did my roommate, Nasir. That afternoon I ate for the last time at my favorite Greek place across the street. If you are ever in DC, be sure to go up to Silver Spring, MD, to eat at the Big Greek Café! It is on Georgia Ave and Wayne St., or right around there. Tuesday was like any other Tuesday. It was slow, so we didn’t really have much to do. I whipped up my last round of PCMH score slides for Wednesday’s morning report and that was about it! That evening was pretty dull; I was trying to save money so I would have a nice cushion in case something happened whilst traveling home.

Wednesday was my last day at the VA Medical Center. Obviously we didn’t do too much. We skipped out early to go eat at Taylor’s Gourmet Hoagies; my gosh, it was amazing! I had an Italian Sausage foot long with grilled peppers and onions and provolone cheese on a fresh loaf of bread. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! On the way there, we passed the post office where Anthrax was first introduced to America! haha After we ate, Lauryn and I said our final goodbye to Diane, our boss and rode with Jonathan, one of our awesome coworkers who came with us, to the metro stop to be dropped off. At the metro stop, Lauryn, Jonathan, and I all said our final goodbyes. When I was headed back to Silver Spring, I realized I left my bag in Diane’s car! We met up and I got it within 20 minutes, so it was no big deal.

Thursday was my last class in DC and in my junior year of college! I just had to take a test, which wasn’t too bad. I know I made an A in the class! I decided that before class, I would walk around the National Mall one last time! I started at Union Station, walked up to the Capitol Building, walked west towards the Lincoln Memorial, went south to the Jefferson Memorial, and then walked back to Union Station. I know that sounds easy on paper, but that was a ton of walking. To add to it, I got poured on by a microburst. I had to spend the next three hours in wet socks and shoes! It sucked. But once I got back to Union Station, I decided that it was just time for me to walk to class, so I did! I took the test, said bye to Dr. Dieguez, and then ate at Five Guys burgers to celebrate. Unfortunately, they jacked up my order, but it was still super good! Honestly, I really enjoyed forensic psych! Dr. Dieguez was a great professor. I wish he taught at RSU! Haha

Friday was my last day in DC. I slept til around 9:30, got up, and then had an informational interview with an IO psychologist who worked in the VA! That was a good experience. After that, I cleaned the apartment really well, did my laundry, packed, had my RA check out, and then went to Bossa one last time. I went by myself and had a good ol time! I also ate at the Jumbo Slice pizza place one last time! It was good and greasy, as per usual. The music started a bit late, but it was worth the wait! I got rained on heading home too; I think DC was crying because I was leaving. :/

Saturday was my trip back home! The beginning of the trip was a prime example of Murphy’s Law; everything that can go wrong did in fact go wrong. Luckily, I gave myself enough time to take that into account! Haha For starters, one of the wheels on my huge bag broke right as I was leaving the apartment. Then, the Yellow Line did not come, so I had to hop on the Blue Line, which takes a huge detour. After that, the train stopped for around five minutes right outside the airport station. Next, I got my luggage checked, which was no problem, but the security line was huge! By then, Murphy decided to give me a break, and I got to jump near the start of a new security line. I even had time to grab some Panda Express for breakfast around 9:30 even though it does not open until 10. Murphy decided to jab a me one last time, and I had to check my carry-on bag because the gatekeeper said it wouldn’t fit in the over head compartment, which was total BS. Haha Once I got in the air, it was smooth sailing. I arrived in Dallas, grabbed some McDons, and then hopped on my next flight right away! The gates were really close, so it was nice. Once I got to Tulsa, I met up with my mom and sister, grabbed my luggage, and then got a huge greeting from the dogs at home! I had finally made it home!

I will more than likely start to miss DC in a few days. That’s usually how it goes with long trips to cool places it seems! All in all, it was an experience of a lifetime. I learned professional and office etiquette, met great people, learned some of my strengths and weaknesses that I had not really noticed before, and realized what I want to do for a career. Going into the trip, I really wanted to go into Industrial Organizational psychology. After shadowing a neuropsychologist and sitting in on different neuropsych things, I realized that I really want to be a neuropsychologist! I was practically giddy when I did some of the neuropsych things. I will like it a lot more than IO psych I am sure.

It was great getting to hang out with my friend Brandon. We hadn’t really talked much since he graduated, but it was great to rekindle that friendship. We had a ton of fun together! We explored DC, camped in the hills of Maryland, rushed around NYC, and went to great museums together as well as just staying in, eating pizza, playing video games, and watching Modern Family. Without him, I don’t think I would have had nearly as much fun!

My experience at the VA was great and will look amazing on my resume! Haha I learned a lot there about the healthcare system, office etiquette, and navigating office politics. Haha Diane was a fantastic boss and great mentor! I will miss her. After working at the VA for 3 months, I do not think I want to have a career in the government. Haha It was sad to see our tax dollars being used inefficiently. That is no diss to Diane and those I were surrounded by, but I heard a ton of stories and saw many things that speak to bureaucratic inefficiency. I think the Veterans Health Administration is trying to do right and take care of the veterans, but honestly, I am not sure if it is as good of a system as it could be. There is so much yellow tape and hoops that needed to be jumped through it seemed. Sometimes I wonder if it would work better just to fee base out the care for veterans to the private sector and do away with the VA medical centers. Medical centers and hospitals are complex by nature, and the bureaucratic layer just seems to add to it. But then again, I was only there for 3 months. I am sure I am not nearly as informed about the inner workings of the VA. These are just some thoughts and observations!

I should probably talk about the good things I saw at the VA too! Haha as the saying goes “It is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil,” so the bad cases would naturally get more attention than the good ones. I saw a lot of good things at the VA! One was the 105-year-old WWII African-American female veteran I got to meet. She will be in my thoughts the rest of my life. She was so spunky and full of life despite being old and only having one leg. It always brought a smile to my face when I would see her zip around the facility on her power chair. Haha It was also humbling to see veterans who have lost both of their legs walk around and state of the art prosthetic legs. There were so many good cases I heard while being there; it is important to not let the negative things overshadow the good. I heard a lot of bad stories simply because I worked in the office that they came through. All in all, I know the VA is working hard to take care of our heroes, and I am so proud to have been a part of that team. I think I will try to hook up with the VA in Muskogee and volunteer there.

Going to DC was one of the best decisions I made. I am excited for the big new adventure that is approaching in the future. I am not entirely sure what it is, but I am looking forward to it.