Driving out of Reagan National Airport, over the Potomac, and into the muggy Washington city limits overwhelmed me with relief met immediately by the reality of taking on a new set of stressors but also a wave of excitement. I felt relieved to be off the plane and on my way to a nice hotel bed but I couldn’t help but feel like exiting the airport was the metaphorical gateway to the unknown adventure that will become of my summer as a Capital Scholar.
I chose to arrive in D.C. a few days prior to the start of the program to get acquainted with the city and to sight see with my brother. I have been to D.C. as tourist just one time before but that was nearly ten years ago so there was a lot to take in. In March of this year, I came to the area to visit the University of Maryland, College Park, as a prospective graduate student but my trip was focused mainly on familiarizing myself with the department and the direct College Park area. Despite the nature of my visit to the university, it did spark a unique interest in the Washington D.C area as a place, which would offer me much more than a few afternoons seeing museums and monuments. That feeling has proven to be true as I have navigated through monuments, museums, and my first week of my internship since my arrival. Although, my graduate school path has changed course away from the D.C. area, my trip served as an important milestone in my transition out of undergrad into a new era of professional and academic growth. I now see my time here in D.C. as a vital skill building opportunity particularly in academic research as well as in the art of networking.
Each nook and cranny of Washington is overflowing with culture, history, industry, and innovation. While I have experience working and living in a big city, D.C. definitely has some unique offerings that I’m excited to take advantage of during the summer. I am eager to continue to visit the plethora of cultural institutions and historic sites while also getting to taste my way around the city in its many vibrant food offerings.
One of the biggest differences to most of my other experiences is adjusting to the heightened level of security almost everywhere. I definitely feel a stronger security presence even outside of federal establishments and I experience it daily as an intern in a federal facility. Also being in Washington while the nation is in a tumultuous political state has amplified my personal response to the current state of the U.S. as well as giving me an unexpected perspective on the city, its inhabitants, and its visitors.
This summer will undoubtedly be filled with long hours of doing menial tasks in the collections like individually labeling thousands of potsherds but much more of my time will be spent absorbing, interacting, and engaging with my peers and the D.C. community. I look forward to learning from and among esteemed members of the anthropology community. I’m also excited to continue to make connections and foster friendships with other students and interns within the museum, Capital Scholars, and WISH housing.
This week in particular gave me some understanding of all the moving parts that make Washington a bustling and productive city. As a tourist, you often don’t get the chance to ride the metro at rush hour, speak in depth with locals about changes in demographics, or have the special privilege to walk the exhibits of the National Museum of Natural History hours before its open to the public.
I am interning at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian, in the Anthropology Department, working mostly with the archaeology collections. In regards to my starting my internship this week, it has been like many “firsts” in the sense that I’ve done some learning and unlearning. I’ve gotten fingerprinted for the first time, learned new collections protocols, met new people, and importantly let go of many of my preconceived ideas.
I feel very much empowered in this first week of my internship. I’ve really begun to grasp that I am working with the national collections and the work I am doing will forever be a part of one of the largest anthropological collections in the world. Also, I am incredibly grateful to have a supportive advisor who is dedicated to providing me access and assistance in the experiences and skills necessary for me to be successful in my work at the museum as well as in my pursuit of my long-term goals.