Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Feeling Welcome

Less than 24 hours before the start of my internship, I arrived in Washington, D.C. not sure where I would spend the night. At the last minute, two different leads on Craigslist had had to turn me away. My backup plan, a cousin's vacant condo in Virginia, would require a one-hour commute, with no Wi-Fi to come home to or roommate to look out for me. But one of the women I'd contacted via Craigslist called a close friend of hers who has taken in interns in the past, letting her know of my desperate situation. And that's how I met Patricia.

I called Patricia as my parents and I were driving across the Ohio-West Virginia border (they drove me here from Chicago). The next day, I was carrying luggage across H Street into her building.

The 700-mile trek from Chicago to D.C. was worth it. I already know this, 
despite not having had time to explore the city and take pictures yet!
The same level of hospitality I encountered in my housing search followed me into the office on Monday morning. A purple sticky note lay on the desk, displaying my computer login information. Even my password contains the word "welcome," representative of the friendly, open nature of both AARP and D.C.

I've already met dozens of editors and designers, as well as other members of AARP Media. In the coming weeks, I look forward to the magazine's "Facetime" sessions, in which I'll get to meet individually with different members of the staff. While I've mainly spent the last two days getting settled in and doing basic research, tomorrow I get to help staff a lobby event on Capitol Hill.

Just when I thought I couldn't feel more at home here, last night I headed to Chinatown Coffee for a cup to go. When the barista's tablet wouldn't scan my debit card, he didn't make me pay, even though I told him I had cash. Now, as I sit on Patricia's couch and contemplate my first couple of days in D.C., I wonder how I've been so lucky, and more importantly, I can't get over how welcoming the people have been. As a Midwestern girl, I've been programmed to think Middle America is where all the "nice" is, but the District is shaping up to be quite the rival. I'm not intimidated by what lies ahead: I'm ready to open the door to more new faces and experiences.

by Lydia Belanger, Northwestern University, AARP The Magazine
Edited by Em Maier, University of Pittsburgh, Inc.

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