You did it. You landed that dream internship in Washington, D.C. Now, you’ve finally arrived to spend your summer/semester/month in the nation’s capital. 

You know the history of this town.

You know you want to hit the museums.

Yes, you know you want to try and get on the Speaker’s balcony.

You’re obsessed with the idea of running into Mitt Romney at a restaurant.

Before you get there, there are a few things you need to tackle to really settle into your new home, your new internship, and your new city. 

There’s some big, fun things about being a D.C. intern, but there are unique challenges about living in D.C., especially for a short period of time, so before you start worrying about what to wear to an inaugural ball, make sure you’ve checked these five steps off your list. 

Tackle the metro

If you come from a smaller city, or a city where you’ve never taken public transit before, the metro can be a monster. Don’t expect to conquer it your first day, and don’t put off handling the pre-reqs for metro riding until the day you’re expected to be punctual at your new job. When you move to DC, download the metro map on your phone as an image. It’s a life-saver. If you have a lot of photos, star it so you can find it easily. Some people also use the metro app to time when the next bus or train is coming. Then, get your SmarTrip card at a station near you. 

Unlike the transit systems in some cities, the DC metro charges by distance and on and off-peak, so your morning commute may cost more than coming home. You can use this estimator to figure out about how long your commute should take, and how much it will cost you. I recommend registering your metro card online so you can easily add money at your convenience, instead of in a rush at the station. 

If you’re using the metro every day, it may be worthwhile to invest in a monthly unlimited pass. Essentially, you pay for 18-20 “rides” of your ideal amount (say $2.50 if that’s what your longest commute is) as one lump sum at the beginning of the month.For example, if your daily commute is $3.25 one way, you can buy a monthly unlimited pass for $117 a month. Then, you don’t have to worry about adding money throughout the month. I do this because I have a long daily commute. You can also ask your internship about commuter benefits

Sign up for the appropriate email lists

As a D.C. intern, the options are almost limitless on any day about how you want to spend your time. Happy hours abound, you’ll get invited to every lecture under the sun, and you’ll be stuffed on appetizers, trust me. A lot of that will come naturally through your internship, especially if it’s in the very small conservative movement. But if it’s not, or you’re an eager beaver, you’re going to want to get on the email lists of the following places that offer great summer activities for interns, including evening events, day-time talks, free food, great friendship, and mentoring opportunities

The Clare Booth Luce Center for Conservative Women

Heritage Foundation Young Leaders Program

Young America’s Foundation

Leadership Institute

America’s Future Foundation

As a reminder, have a professional email to use when you sign up–aka, your name. Gmail is free. You can also use your school email, but don’t use the email for your summer internship because you’ll likely lose access to that at the end of the term. 

Figure out how you’ll eat

This sounds very dumb, I’ll admit, but one of the biggest things I had to figure out when I got to D.C. for the first time during a college summer was where to buy groceries, how to get them home, and how to plan my lunches. Many college students are on meal plans and don’t have to think about these things. How far are you willing to walk with cans of food? Do you have storage for all those fruits and veggies you want? Can you microwave your food at work? I recommend finding a grocery store near you that actually sells what you eat. We all love Trader Joes, but I can’t shop for my entire meal there every day–for a few reasons. DC has some food deserts too–so if you find yourself living in one of those areas, consider a grocery delivery service, like Peapod by Giant, which operates in the city. Other things like produce, can be purchased by a service such as Hungry Harvest, which offers cheap produce that was overstocked locally.  I use a grocery delivery service because I live in a food desert, and because I have to buy cat food, which is heavy. When I lived closer to a grocery store, I would walk there. It’s all about knowing your neighborhood and your needs. 

Get a library card

Alright, I’m a little biased on this one, but getting a library card in D.C. is a must. Sure, there are some great book stores around, but you can’t pass up the great deals of a library card. The DC public library system has 26 branches all around town, so you’re never far from one. All you need to get a card if your government ID and proof you live in DC/the surrounding counties (aka, your summer lease.)  Sure, there are books and DVDs galore, but the DC library offers so much more. First, free public bathrooms when you’ve been touring monuments all day (you don’t need a card to pee, promise), but also free public computers (great for when your laptop is at the shop) and 20 free prints a day (ideal for printing out pesky required forms pre-internship). Plus, there’s a host of digital resources you can access even when you leave DC with your DCPL card–like Overdrive,, Universal Classes, etc. 

Get out in the city

I know that Instagram can make it seem like all the fun is on Capitol Hill, but I promise you that you’ll get more out of D.C. by exploring the city as a city. Try going to the theatre–DC has some great options, including the Kennedy Center–or exploring a new neighborhood. Go out on U Street. Try some of the off-beat museums. Join a book club in Kalorama or go to the mall at Tysons Corner. Be a local as much as you are a tourist, and you’ll get so much more out of the city–you’ll also get a feel for whether or not you want to live here long term.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member