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Meet Aili in Washington DC!

Meet Aili in Washington DC!

“Be a sponge; absorb as much as you can.” - Aili arranged her J-1 Visa with Stage-USA and she shared some of her experiences with future students abroad in the US.

Where are you doing your internship?
I do my internship at an environmental organization who is encouraging companies and individuals to participate in the environmental movement. They are the company that organizes the biggest climate protest of the world. The company focuses on campaigns, toolkits and outreach. My first task was research on the effect of plastic on health and on the environment. After this, I helped with surveys on how to implement environmental literacy in school systems all over the world. My tasks change approximately every month.

Can you describe a typical day at your internship?
When I wake up, I get breakfast with coffee of course. I bought a bike, so after my breakfast I bike for 30 minutes to arrive at my internship. Washington DC is a bike city, you can do everything by bike which is so nice. I usually work until 4 or 5. After work I often go to an urban farm or I go play soccer. I also became a volunteer at farmer’s market, which means I provide people who have a lower income with cards which they can buy food with.

How do you feel about the working environment? Are there cultural differences?
I think that my internship is really interesting, I worked for a NGO before, it’s chaotic, but so cool. This company is located in Washington DC and has a very informal vibe. In Washington DC most people walk around in suits, but in my company that is not the case, it is very casual. When I just started here, it was kind of chaos, because several interns arrived at the same time close to one of their biggest and most important events. I am very pro active myself, so I found my own way around. Although in the beginning, everything was overwhelming because so much information comes your way it made me a little anxious. However, now I think my internship is super interesting; I learned so much.

What is your housing situation and how did you find housing?
I live in a house with four other girls. We have a yard, which is really nice. We live close to 8th street, this was a rough area, but they improved the conditions of the neighborhood. There is a lot of diversity, there are many restaurants and cafes. Where I work it is mostly formal white class. In my neighborhood there is a mix of old and young people with many different backgrounds. I live with four others, I got really lucky, they are super fun and we became really close friends in a short period. We are often together. Almost every weekend we go camping or make a trip. It is an old house, I pay relatively less, I mean it is still expensive, but for Washington DC it is not that bad.

Have you made any trips?
What I like about America is that many people are making trips during the weekend. People go out of the city, and travel 2 to 3 hours for this. In Belgium this is different. What I like about Washington DC is that it is also easy to get out of the city and be in nature. I have been camping in West-Virginia, and in Maryland on an island. I think it is funny that in the city everyone is really progressive, and if you go out of the city there is a completely different world. That is super interesting! I have also done some hiking in Virginia and Maryland. My housemates are also adventurous girls, so I made some trips with them. I have also been to New York State, this was a 7 hour drive. I like to make trips so I can get to know the real America.

How do you feel about your experience so far?
Intense! I have been in a bubble for a long time, because you arrive in a new city and country and you really need to adjust. However, everyday is an adventure since everything is different and I like how Washington DC is as a city. The people are really motivated. Here people look more to what you do than to who you are. For me it is really nice to be somewhere where people work hard, that is what makes you motivated too. There is a lot to do

What would you want to say to potential candidates for programs like this?
Craigslist for housing. Besides this, I am thinking now what was I so afraid for in the beginning? Everything will be alright. You have to live day to day. Be a sponge; absorb as much as you can. Be proactive, be open, the days can be a bit lonely in the beginning, but you have to keep your hobbies and interests from your home country and try to implement them in the USA, then you automatically find people to hang out with.

What are your future plans?
I love being here and I hope to stay longer. I am still researching on how to, I would not mind staying longer in the USA. I would like to go to the west coast. After my internship, I am going to Washington State to work on a farm, then I go to Canada to visit some friends, and then I will come back to the USA.

I want to gain as much experiences as possible, and completely immerse in all the different cultures. I went to a Baptists church and sang for 2 hours there. I am not religious, but lots of people here are. I am also going to participate with the Iftar, after vesting for a day with a Turkish diplomat.