Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Break Job Search

It's an interesting feeling to know that you're going to graduate in less than two months and student loan repayment will begin shortly thereafter. Perhaps "Panic" is a better word to describe the feeling. In my entire college career I've never done anything for spring break other than stay in town and work. This year was different. This year I decided to go to DC and look for work.

I've never been to DC before but the city has everything I want. The thing I'll miss most about the U of I is all of the access that I have to student resources along with all the lectures and the general academic atmosphere. What city in the country could offer a more intellectually stimulating environment than DC? Not only do the think tanks, agencies and nonprofits have regular debates and speakers, but there's also Congressional hearings, Supreme Court oral arguments, and Smithsonian exhibits. (Plus, the Newseum is opening in April! This place is like Disney World for a nerd like me!)

So, I made arrangements and went to DC last week to talk to a couple of prospective employers, look for apartments, and generally get acquainted with the city and try to find my way around. After I finalized the arrangements, I received a plethora of advice like, "I wouldn't want to live there." or "Don't walk by yourself late at night. Make sure you're with a group of people." and other random warnings of crime and potential danger. At first, it made an impression as I thought, "What am I getting myself into?" But those hesitations quickly vanished as I realized - I'd much rather take my chances on meeting up with pickpockets and con artists than to stay home, safe and afraid of the rest of the world. The thought of living my entire life in the Midwest is far too depressing.

I went out there and it turns out, I love DC. I didn't even need to use my pepper spray once! I found the people in DC to be really nice, and everyone was helpful. When I talked to potential employers, they gave me tips about where to look for an apartment; When I looked at apartments, I learned more about how to get around and what neighborhoods to avoid. I loved it.

Perhaps the most convincing thing for me was not how much I loved DC, but how unimpressed I was with the few touristy things I did. I think I learned more about U.S. history from watching the John Adams miniseries on HBO than I did from touring the capital. The best part of my tourist endeavors was actually a walk in front of the capital. The lady in front of me was walking her dog in front of the reflecting pool, and the dog just ran off and took a flying leap into the reflecting pool and started swimming around, happy as hell to be in the nation's capital.

I'm with you, pooch.


Jon Gold said...

That's pretty funny.

TravelGirlDC said...

DC is a beautiful city. Be sure to weigh all your options when job hunting. DC is a very expensive city. Assuming you will have an entry level job with a non profit, you will more than likely be living in a group house or sharing an apartment with several others just like yourself. Also realize that parking is usually NOT included in rent and can run up to $200 a month.

lacochran said...

Glad you left with a good impression. I love this town but many, many do not. There's always so much going on here and so much that's free! Pretty amazing.

Congrats on the listing, too. :)

dcpeg said...

As someone who grew up in northern Illinois, attended college in Iowa and now live in DC -- Welcome!! I know where you're coming from and you'll love it here. I've lived in the city since 1971 and can't imagine living anywhere else, though I've missed Lake Michigan the whole time. DO get a job before you come because it won't be easy to meet people, but being a friendly Midwesterner, you'll soon fit in and find some great friends if you give it time.

erin*carly said...

our town *is* pretty awesome. i've been here almost two years, an escapee of NYC, and i wouldn't want to be anywhere else. glad you liked it . . . and best of luck finding your little niché in the District!

(ps - don't let people talk you down on Virginia until you've seen it . . . there are some fantastic neighborhoods to live in that are less expensive and more convenient than some places within District lines.)