By Zoe Sellers
This semester I have the opportunity to work and live in Washington, D.C. I moved here with no grasp of the city and no idea where my internship would be. I was honestly terrified and unconfident because I had not received any offers yet. I found out that D.C. operates on a different schedule than the rest of the country and was flushed with relief when my offers started coming in. I ultimately decided to accept an internship with the Council on Foreign Relations, and it has been one of the best choices I have made in my academic and professional career.
CFR has three functions: publisher, think tank, and membership organization. I work in the membership organization aspect with the D.C. Meetings team. From conception to execution, my team plans and organizes all of the meetings for Council members. CFR meetings offer a unique opportunity to share knowledge and blend ideas from various sectors in D.C. Speakers and presiders are a who’s who of D.C. professionals and policymakers, and members that attend the meetings come from a variety of government agencies, think tanks, corporations, and non-profit organizations.
Unlike my summer internship with the office of my state’s senator that required a lot of administrative and stereotypical intern tasks, my internship with CFR has offered me opportunities to do research, as well as connect with high-profile Council members.
I am currently doing research on several current events that could potentially become meetings: the future of the euro, security issues in Afghanistan, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the effect of cybersecurity on global markets.
It has benefitted me both academically and professionally to do relevant research that will be used to advance discussion on these topics. While staffing meetings, handing out nametags, passing around microphones, etc. can be seen as one of the more menial parts of my job, I really enjoy doing it. Unlike other staff who have to register for meetings, I am able to attend all of them because of my work. Something as simple as making and passing out name tags gives me a chance to learn names and network. The research and networking opportunities I have already had are only affirming how much I’m going to gain from this semester.
Living in D.C. is a change of pace from the New Jersey-New York scene. While it is the same fast-paced professional lifestyle of New York City, there is a very clear time when the work day is over. Washington, D.C. is truly a melting pot—in my house alone, no two of us are from the same state. Everyone I have had the opportunity to connect with in Washington, D.C. is well-educated and ambitious. Everyone comes here with an agenda, which can be overwhelming, but I think my experience in D.C. is ultimately helping me figure out where I want to go with my career. In a field of politicians, academics, and diplomats I am starting to realize where I fit in.