This is the first in a series of weekly blog posts submitted by a team of Centre College students studying away or abroad throughout the spring semester. Learn more about Centre’s nation-leading study abroad program, a guarantee of the Centre Commitment.
Hesed Payocong (Louisville, Kentucky) is a junior economics and finance major at Centre. Throughout the semester, she will be providing a series of blog posts detailing her study-away experience in Washington, D.C., as an intern for the American Maritime Congress (AMC), a non-profit organization that advocates for the United States Maritime Industry. By the end of the semester, Payocong says she hopes this internship will have provided direction for her future career, along with experience in government advocacy and “informing others about the crucial role the maritime industry plays in our economy and national security.”
WASHINGTON, D.C.: WEEK 1
Prior to this internship in the nation’s capital, I studied abroad during CentreTerm in New Zealand, as well as a semester abroad in Mexico. On campus, I work for the Center for Global Citizenship, so I like to think of myself as a seasoned study abroad veteran.
My study abroad experiences were memorable, wonderful and one of the best aspects of my Centre career—I was going on adventures in foreign countries, having only to look left and right to see what I had been learning in class. Both were unforgettable opportunities for travel, self-discovery and meaningful hands-on learning. And, although it has only been three weeks since I have arrived here in D.C., I can already tell that this semester away will surely join them in the highlight reel.
As of this writing, I have completed a full week of my internship with the American Maritime Congress, a non-profit organization that advocates for the U.S. Maritime Industry. On my first day of work, I met two congressmen, John Garamendi and Sean Patrick Maloney, and on the following day, I sat in on meetings with the staff of Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. I’ve also attended a PR meeting, a fly-in planning and even a CSIS panel—and it’s just the first five days.
As for the academic aspect (since we’re technically still 15-credit hour, full-time students), we have gone on three neighborhood explorations and one guided museum exhibit. We saw a Van Gogh, a Mondrian—even the “The Exorcist” stairs in Georgetown.
Meanwhile, I’ve also embarked on several adventures of my own. I got my reading card at the Library of Congress; walked the Women’s March with my roommates; visited the Supreme Court and the Botanical Gardens; saw the Darth Vader Gargoyle at the National Cathedral; walked to all of the Mall’s monuments and memorials; and explored over a dozen museums in town. Sightseeing aside, my personal victories also include riding public transportation, learning how to cook, budgeting weekly, and hiking the Hill with three bags full of groceries.
Right now, I could say I’m quite settled. I’m starting to have a routine with my internship—I am comfortable with my living situation and commute, I am more familiar with the area, and I am secured and grateful to be where I am this spring semester. It feels so satisfying to say that, because it has not always been smooth sailing.
I admittedly had a rough beginning. We arrived amidst the longest government shutdown in history and received eight inches of snow on the first full day. In addition, I came to D.C. without an internship assignment, which made my first week here (as well as my winter break beforehand) long and restless. I was also quite discouraged, doubtful and had major “fear of missing out” syndrome (CentreTerm is a bummer to miss out on, especially when your squad is having fun on Snapchat). It’s strange, because I did not feel any of those issues in my semester abroad in Mexico, where it’s expected to be much more challenging. I was in a different country, with a different language, and a different culture with a host family, but for some reason, D.C. came with a lot more personal pressure that I did not see coming.
Thankfully, I was not alone in the waiting game, and even “the bad” wasn’t too bad. Ben Ray, our D.C. coordinator, has been an invaluable resource and eventually connected me with my internship supervisor. The two weeks without work gave me the perfect amount of time to settle in, familiarize myself with my surroundings, learn a few recipes and do a lot of exploring. As a temporary D.C. and permanent U.S. resident, the shutdown really made me think about our current politics and our relationship with our government. Living a block away from the Capitol, it’s impossible to be politically oblivious and ignore current events. As a tourist, well, it led me to explore a few hidden gems that I probably would not have visited had all the Smithsonians been open.
God, my family and Centre had my back during the limbo. And, finally, on the same, wonderful day that the government reopened, I secured my internship and the sun came out—warm and bright. When it rains, it pours here on my side of the globe, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Here’s to more stateside adventures.
by Hesed Payocong ’20
February 8, 2019