Oberlin Blogs

The Winternship

January 16, 2016

I'm currently finishing up my second week of my Winter Term project, and it's been nothing short of awesome. For my project, I'm completing an internship in External Compliance with the Office of Civil Rights of the United States Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

I think I have a pretty good daily routine down, so I'll spell it out here:

  1. Wake up at sometime between 6:30 AM and 7:30 AM. (Haven't done this since August because I refused to take a class before 10 AM.)
  2. Go through morning freshness routine, skillfully manipulating soap and toothpaste without reservation.
  3. Get dressed, contemplate what to do about breakfast, and eventually make it outside to bear the D.C. chill.
  4. Walk to morning shuttle from my neighborhood to Metro Station.
  5. Arrive at Metro Station, and patiently wait (sometimes run in a panic to) for a train. Board train and head to Federal Triangle, home of the EPA. Sometimes if I get a seat, I'll read. (Just finished Between the World and Me, a truly incredible book.)
  6. Arrive at Federal Triangle and move towards either going into work or stopping for a hot breakfast.
  7. This step has changed a bit. When I first arrived for the internship, I hadn't been able to have my fingerprints taken, so I didn't have a badge. This meant that I had to have all my things scanned and walk through a metal detector every day. This week, fortunately, I received my badge and could gracefully enter the building without undoing step 3.
  8. Walk to and arrive at my desk (cubicle), log on to my computer, and check to see if my supervisor has sent me any emails with new tasks or delegations.
  9. Complete a day's worth of work.

Now imagine this routine in reverse, and you have a pretty thorough picture of what my workweek looks like.

"A day's worth of work?" you ask. Yes. There's a project that my division is working on, and its purpose is to help make sure that groups don't violate Federal civil rights laws (Title VI & VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, LEP Persons protections, etc.). I am serving as an editor, taking input from several agency-wide areas and synthesizing them into one coherent, concise, and easy-to-read piece. Outside of that, I take tasks as they're handed to me and try to actively seek out new ones. Fortunately, it's not just clerical and administrative work. I've had the privilege of sitting in on some meetings with top senior staff.

Many might see this as boring or futile (or both), but I find it extremely fascinating and rewarding. I'm able to work in a government agency exploring my interests in politics, while also working alongside lawyers and advancing my interests in jurisprudence. I have delved into my Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) concentration, observing how the OCR EPA handles dispute resolutions with complainants and the wider impacts that environmental justice (or a lack thereof) have on the American people.

All in all, I'm really appreciating my time spent away from campus during Winter Term. I'm exploring things that I might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore (an Obie alum helped me set this internship up), getting first-hand experience that's helping me discern where I want to take my career path, and getting to spend some time intensely exploring one of my favorite cities!

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