Monday, June 11, 2007

Feelings about Washington

Well, my other post was really technical, more like a sort of diary of what I've done (read my other post, My First Day and Beyond, before you read this one. Sorry, I don't know how to link from one post to another. Can anyone give me a tutorial in HTML?). In this post, I want to share more of my feelings and perceptions of Washington and Congress.

First of all, an important concept to understand about being an intern in Washington is that you have very little preparation for what you're getting into. You're thrust into the middle of an office without any clue about the office dynamic, who should be talked to when (or not), who likes whom, who hates whom, who controls the office atmosphere. I was lucky, to an extent - I talked to a girl who had interned in the same office the summer before, so she was able to give me some advice. However, there was some personnel changes that took place in between this summer and the last, so not everything is the same.

Someone described to me all 535 offices in Congress as being 535 distinct businesses. To a certain extent, things are run similarly (meaning, there are basic positions in every office, such as a chief of staff, a legislative director, and legislative aides), but HOW the offices are run is wholely dependent on the personalities occupying it. For example, in some offices, the interns are all buddy-buddy with the paid staff. In other offices, the paid staff is NOT TO BE TALKED TO by the interns. Each office is different.

My office is sort of a combination. A few of the interns are buddy-buddy with the staff, and joke with them and things like that. I don't. First of all, I'm a girl, and most of the staff are men, so it's hard to know how to balance it. Also, I want things to be professional, and I want to give an impression of professionalism. Not to say that I want to be standoffish - I just want to be seen as serious and hard-working. Also, I'm still trying to work out people's personalities, and who likes to be approached by the interns and who would prefer not to be talked to unless they speak to us first.

Because of all this uncertainty, at the beginning, I really was very unhappy. I was unhappy being the only girl intern (what would YOU talk about to a bunch of boys who spend their free time drinking and partying?), I couldn't tell if the staff thought I was intelligent or stupid (even though we're expected to make mistakes, you want to come off as mistake-proof as possible), and I wasn't thrilled with the commute. Now, thankfully, it's gotten better. As the days go on, my rapport with the other interns gets better, they understand me a little more (although they still don't know about shomer negiah, which can be awkward at times, as one of the boys is constantly brushing my arm), and they are more friendly to me. As far as the staff goes, I think I'm overall doing okay, but they may think that I'm still standoffish.

Above all, I really hope that I'm making a kiddush Hashem for everyone in my office. For a lot of them, I'm probably the only Orthodox Jew they ever came into contact with (and for some maybe the first Jew, but I know that for sure one of the staffers is Jewish). It's really important for me not to give them a negative impression of Orthodoxy and Judaism in general.

I tend to eat lunch in the office, just because since I have to bring my own lunch anyway, there's no point in going to the treif cafeterias. I bring a sandwich every day, which means that I have to wash and bentch. No one has asked me anything about that yet though. We'll see what they say if they do.

I haven't had a chance to explore DC at all. At the end of the day, I'm really tired - the schedule is very draining - and I don't have the energy to walk around. Also, I don't want to go alone - DC isn't the safest place, especially later in the day. At one point, I want to stay in DC at night and walk down from the Capitol to the Washington memorial. It's supposed to be beautiful.

That's basically a good summary of what it was like to adjust to the whole office atmosphere and Washington in general. I'll be adding little thoughtful tidbits as they come up and will try to be better about posting.



Chaya said...

Hey Apple,
I really enjoyed reading your posts about being an intern. The job sounds pretty cool to me. You didn't mention anything about your apartment or the other girls your with. What's that like? I'm very curious.
Anyway, have a great week, good luck, and enjoy!

Scraps said...

It sounds like it's a very intense job. Good luck negotiating office politics! :)

Ezzie said...

Really interesting insights, so far. Cool. :) Enjoy it! The negiah stuff never really stops, unless one person finds out and mentions it to the other. We have a few women in our office who will consistently touch your arm when talking to you, or men who put their hands on someone's back when leaning over to look at something being shown to them on a computer - both to men and women. Hopefully, it comes up in casual conversation with one person and then they explain it to the others.

To link to anything, when writing a post, highlight the word you want to make a link and then click the symbol on top of the compose editor that looks like an infinity sign or a chain. Then you paste in the link, hit ok, and voila!

the apple said...

Chaya - it's coming, it's coming. The experience is just so full that it's tiring just writing out a list of what I did.

Scraps - thanks!

Ezzie - yeah, people warned me about the touching. Maybe one day they'll ask me about it and then I can explain. Also, for some reason, the compose features don't show up on a Mac. Do you know how to link things using HTML?

Ezzie said...

Yeah, but it should come up on Mac also. At the top right, you should see "Edit HTML" and "Compose". Make sure you're in Compose mode.

If you still can't get it, it's

Words to be linked then .

Ezzie said...

Darn, thought that might happen.

$a href=""$words to be linked$/a$

Make the $ into < and >.

Ezzie said...

Then it'll look like this: Best blog ever! ;)

the apple said...

Thanks Ezzie!! You're the best!

Erachet said...

And I learned another cool trick with html! If you add after the URL (like, $a href="" target="_blank"$Not Far From the Tree$/a$)

So the target="_blank" means that the link will open in a new page! Isn't that neat? I just learned that yesterday.

Your internship sounds really cool!