The hardest job you’ll ever love; this is the tagline used for the Peace Corps and I think it accurately describes my time there so far. While my internship is nothing close to serving in a rural village of Kenya, it has been demanding and exciting.
I didn’t start my internship until a week after I arrived in DC, so by the time Wednesday came around I was anxious to get started at the Peace Corps. The first day was slow going and consisted of a lot of training and waiting around. As part of my internship, I am working with databases, so I, along with my fellow interns, went through training on how to use those. Since the Peace Corps is a federal agency, everything is secure and needs to be accessed through a password, so we also worked on setting up those. A majority of my day was spent on the phone with the IT department getting access to the various programs and databases I need to do my work. Needless to say, by the end of the day I was frustrated and ready to get my hands on some real work.
Thankfully, on Thursday and Friday I was put right to work with a combination of administrative tasks and bigger projects. My dad asked me if I was making coffee at my internship and I was happy to tell him that the answer was definitely no. My internship is giving me a first hand look at an underfunded and understaffed federal agency. Before I leave in August, at least four people are leaving my department and chances are they won’t be replaced anytime soon. One of my tasks is to answer emails about the speakers match program which sets up returned peace corps volunteers to talk in classrooms and other venues about their experiences as a volunteer. Some of the emails were from weeks ago, telling me that no one has the time to keep up with them.
Much of my work will consist of work like this with the speaker’s match program. This will include registering new speaker’s and updating their contact information. However, on Friday we had our first staff meeting and myself and my fellow intern, Emily, were assigned two bigger projects. The office I am working at creates resources for teachers to use in teaching about foreign countries and cultural competence. We were put in charge of creating webpages for each country in which Peace Corps volunteers are serving and making them accessible for children. Since its beginning, Peace Corps volunteers have served in over 130 countries, so this is quite an undertaking. We are also completing the work of another intern who started a project about the history of the Peace Corps. The employees have already made me feel like a vital part of the office and acknowledge that I have significant insight to offer. Based on the work I have already done in this first week, this internship will be an incredible learning experience.
I’ve been thinking periodically about where I was last summer – Tanzania, and how different this summer is going to be. For one thing I lived in a rural village where time had no meaning and no one was in a hurry to get anywhere. My first day there I simply sat and talked with my students, without worrying about having someplace to be or something to do. I had to learn about a whole new way of life there and to some extent the same is true here. Here in DC it seems like everyone is in a hurry and walks with a purpose; I’m already getting caught up in that life. Whether it is learning to use the metro or introducing myself to a key contact, the professional world of DC is a whole new world to navigate.