After quickly settling into my new abode in Maryland, I woke up early on Monday eager to walk through the doors of National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
I was both amazed and assaulted by my surroundings. Considering my rural roots, I found our nation’s capital to be a bustling city of busy professionals, all power walking or riding bikes to the workplace. The streets were lined with cafes ranging from sit-down, high-end organic types to mom-and-pop shops with a front counter. There was noise coming from so many places that their origins were unidentifiable. But the sidewalks were large and clean, I had a free newspaper in hand, and–after indulging myself at a nearby coffee shop–I felt unbelievably energized by the potential in the air.
I sat excitedly and impatiently inside the museum waiting for my friend-from-college-now-Nat Geo-employee to arrive and show me around. During the 10-minute wait, I cycled multiple times through the following sequence: smiling stupidly at everything around me, realizing I was being too intense and then fidgeting with my purse and phone, then thinking I picked a rockin’, Nat Geo-esque outfit for today.
When she arrived, I exhaled a sigh of relief that I had someone friendly and familiar to help me in this strange new world. The cool badge with my name on it didn’t come until the next day, and my computer and phone would not be set up for a couple of days, but I was immediately enveloped into the work flow.
My National Geographic internship began with a few simple tasks, such as taking inventory of frontlist and backlist titles in the book closet. However, I was quickly given assignments that were new and interesting to me, such as writing text for advertisements (also known as “copy”). I agonized over doing each previously foreign project perfectly in the hopes that I would make a good impression — luckily, my coworkers and fellow interns were extremely supportive.
I was happily surprised to discover that the managers and directors of the marketing department, while busy, were interested in getting to know me and making the internship a worthwhile endeavor. I was introduced to brand new concepts, trusted to provide accurate information, and asked to brainstorm creative ideas. The marketing assistants frequently came to check in on me and taught me step-by-step how to do everything from shipping packages to Portugal to creating a back ad for a book.
Eventually, approximately 39 other interns showed up in time for the official start of the summer internship program. Half of us were supporting various departments on the National Geographic Partners (NGP) side, while the rest were working for the National Geographic Society (NGS). However, all of us would gather on Tuesdays and Thursdays for sessions with the different National Geographic departments.
As I reviewed the schedule for the summer, I couldn’t believe that us interns were going to be alone in a room with the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, the engineers who create technology that make wildlife research possible, and the photographers who have some of the most admired portfolios in the world (among many others). We were valuable soundboards for the social media team and National Geographic Books; we chatted with the Travel department, and producers from the National Geographic Channel; we learned about National Geographic’s international products and reach and the work that goes into maintaining the website and up-and-coming multimedia projects. We even had a Q&A with the CEOs of both NGS and NGP. In two short months, we were offered an exclusive look into almost every facet of the company.
The two fellow interns in my department quickly became my close friends. We sat next to one another on the same floor, ready to help each other with tasks and answer questions. We shared lunches and laughs together in the Nat Geo cafeteria, and we attended several free events hosted by GoGeo: movie screenings, food festivals, and special guest appearances, to name a few.
Hands-down, my favorite experience that summer was the National Geographic Explorers Symposium. I can’t remember the last time something ignited such a spark in me, inspiring me to be better and to do better in this world. The Explorers came from very different walks of life, but each carried a strong passion to transform the world and the grit to make such change possible: studying declining lion populations, creating furniture out of trash, encouraging minorities to enter STEM fields, discovering the ancient remains of our human ancestors. Perhaps the most touching was the story of Wasfia Nazreen, a Bangladeshi mountaineer who proved that geographic location and being a woman would not stop her from becoming independent and educated.
The National Geographic internship was a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. Both the Society and Partners are undergoing a lot of changes since Fox bought National Geographic Partners, and we were there to see how the brand will continue evolving and fulfilling the mission of exploration and education. Working in such an incredibly inspiring environment with some of the most interesting people I have ever met opened my eyes beyond simply “adulting” after college–it showed me that I have the ability and the heart to be a part of something greater and to make a difference.
I was eventually offered a full-time temp position, but cutting it in D.C. and making the transition wasn’t all fun and games. Follow the adultingaftercollege.com series for true stories of financial hardship, chance friendships and love, and sketchy living situations.