The legislative advisor from Senator Jeff Flake’s office gave a sneak preview in describing how federal government actually works compared to what I was taught in school. Congresswoman Krysten Sinema’s advisor gave us an even more in-depth view of the nitty gritty part of the political side of D.C. The tour guide at the Supreme Court gave a lot of insight on both past and current news related to controversial decisions and administrative processes that I had never heard of before. I also learned that while D.C. is full of a lot of intimidating, professional people, many of those same people would love to help college kids like us achieve our goals if we worked for it. Likely, I forgot the majority of what I learned, but I will take many people’s advice and begin journaling to keep track of the future lessons I learn. As an intern, you have to insert yourself into conversations about projects to get things assigned to you. However, I can tell you the Peace Corps really is the hippie part of the federal government. It’s also such a rare environment for the government because people like helping each other so things get done much faster (it doesn’t hurt that everyone is just slightly afraid of OIG). Another thing I learned is TO NEVER POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUT YOUR WORK (which makes doing this blog a little stressful). Outreach teams are constantly searching for words or phrases that are associated with their organization so chances are one of them will see it. Lunch conversations at Peace Corps are so different than most places. For instance, we have talked about the weirdest meats everyone in the office has eaten. There was a tie between a coworker that ate a giant rat from Ghana and another that had raw horse meat sushi. I get a global cultural lesson every day being at Peace Corps. It’s a lot of fun and very informational. Because of these stories and advice from my returned Peace Corps volunteer co workers, I am going to Uganda in December to visit my sister. Overall I am getting a new worldview that is a blend of American culture and the developing world’s culture. I’ve had a lot of realizations this summer. For instance, I have no idea what I want to do with my future or even what I’m interested in now because I’m too interested in too many things. I’ve learned other technical and conceptual things this summer too related to Excel, data reports, investigations/special agents and the justice system as a whole. It’s been an information overload from the beginning and a lot of facts I would have never even thought about or you can only get from experience and other people’s stories. I’m learning a lot and growing as a person during my time here. I learned Granite City has the best nachos and there’s a place called Founding Farmers that apparently has great food too. I learned about a great opportunity to do conduct research remotely (i.e. from Arizona) on Urban Planning and GIS stuff for agencies like the State Department, CIA, and USAID. While volunteering at the Folklife festival, I learned all paper products, including wax paper, are compostable. I learned about the struggles of technology modernization in the government. I’ve learned about FSA and FISMA requirements and contracts and a lot about excel this summer (i.e. how to create drop down lists and add up the number of times a string of characters occur in the spreadsheet). While walking home from work, I’ve explored the city and learned more about the sidewalk life, the layout and the people in it. Overall it’s been a very informative and life changing summer.
Trying to summarize everything I’ve learned into a significant overall statement is impossible. I don’t think one thing was necessarily more important than the other. The networking and technical skills I’ve learned are equally important because, without one, the other would be less significant. The global culture and office space culture I’ve been exposed to and have been navigating are important for my future domestic and abroad careers. The people I’ve met are the only thing I can say is more significant than anything else I’ve experienced. These people are the ones who taught me everything I’ve learned on this trip. This includes the nice Liberian man on the metro, the world travelers at Peace Corps, the RPCV from Uganda, my Nigerian uber driver, my fellow interns, peers in capital scholars, my coworker’s friends and everyone else I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. This experience would have been nothing without them and they are the ones who taught me about myself, my future career, nuances of government and everything in between.