Life as a Sponge: My First Impressions of DC and Interning at the American Red Cross

Washington, DC is known for many things: its politics, its cultural ties, its beautiful architecture, and, of course, its high density of interns per square foot. As a Midwestern college student studying International Studies and Political Science, it was a no-brainer that coming to DC and interning with the American Red Cross would be the next step in my professional development. Lucky to be a part of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) team at National Headquarters, I have spent the last three weeks learning from the professionals on the team and taking note of how they conduct their day-to-day schedules. After being here for just three short weeks, I can tell my mother that I have kept my promise to be a “sponge”, as I can say with full confidence that I have already absorbed a lot from the IHL team.

When I first arrived in DC, I was not quite sure what to make of this expansive and unique city. However, as I have slowly adjusted to DC life, I have come to realize that my taxi driver was right when he claimed that DC is the largest concentration of Type A personalities in one place. Jokes aside, the incredible thing about DC is that inspiration and motivation are not hard to find. Passionate professionals, groups, and citizens can be found in all sectors of the city. While the competitive nature of Washington can be overwhelming at first, the city’s infectious energy is what makes it work so well. The spectrum of workers in Washington– from Metro workers to coffee chain owners, and from bright-eyed interns to experienced senior directors– all link together to make the city what it is. I am starting to understand that the work being done here impacts lives on national and global scales, more so than in other metropolitan cities.

the IHL team at the 2015 Youth Leadership Summit

The IHL team at the 2015 Youth Leadership Summit

So far, working at the American Red Cross National Headquarters has been an incredible experience. At first, I was a little apprehensive; after all, I had heard the horror stories of those who have come to DC with hopes of changing the world and end up losing their passion because of the bureaucratic red tape found in some big organizations. However, in my luck, working with the IHL team here at NQ has been quite the opposite experience. What has intrigued me most about working for the American Red Cross, and specifically the IHL team, is the passion and impact of the work being done here. It has been an honor to be able to witness life changing work happening right before my eyes. On a daily basis, the team educates a variety of audiences about the core principles of IHL. As another example, I was in awe that this month’s Emerging Humanitarian Frontiers Conference produced a white paper to be sent to the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. It is hard to fully wrap my head around the fact that the team does important work like this every single day.

For the rest of my summer internship experience here, I hope to learn as much as I can. This summer, which has been chock-full of firsts for me (first 9-5 position, first look at how major international organizations function, first time navigating a new city alone, first time relying on Dunkin Donuts as a means of survival, etc.) has made me feel as inquisitive as a child.  While I think I am asking too many questions, I know I am not asking quite enough. I am very excited to continue learning from such an inspiring team in such a great city.

Author – Jessica Lach, IHL Youth Education Intern

One response to “Life as a Sponge: My First Impressions of DC and Interning at the American Red Cross

  1. Pingback: Weekly IHL Update – June 29, 2015 | Humanity in War·

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