Interning Virtually from Inside D.C.

Spring 2021 IIW Alum Anastaseya Kulikova lived in D.C. as the capital began to transition back to in-person life. Most of her work at the Advocacy Project was done virtually, but she was still able to explore the city with an IIW classmate and start her professional network.

Coming from the Windy City, my expectations for Washington, D.C. were high. After experiencing the historic monuments, the incredible restaurants, and the beautiful cherry blossoms, it is safe to say my expectations were met.

The move to D.C. was an anxious one. With COVID-19 shutting down major events, museums, and monuments in the momentous city and the recent capitol attacks keeping the city on edge, it was difficult to fall in love with the city. It was difficult to find activities that were COVID safe as well as accommodating the cold weather where outdoor activities were limited. I also couldn’t go to the office of my internship until later into the semester due to safety precautions of the pandemic.

As people began to get vaccinated and the weather started to warm up, I was able to explore the city and even stop by the office. Bailey and I were the only students from the [Spring IIW] program to have come down to D.C., so the two of us explored the monuments as well as other historical landmarks like Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate in Virginia, and the Arlington Cemetery, where JFK and RBG are buried.

My internship with the Advocacy Project was truly the most fulfilling aspect of the Illinois in Washington Program. The pandemic has made it difficult to secure an internship, as many internships were either remote or cancelled until further notice. It was frustrating after waiting months to hear back from the offices I applied for, but I managed to get a handful of interviews on Capitol Hill and around D.C. However, after researching the incredible work the non-profit organization does to help startups around the world, I was eager to work for Iain and the rest of the crew at the Advocacy Project.

[During her last week in the office, Iain (not pictures) and Anastaseya went to the office. The paintings behind Anastaseya are from Nepali women.]

Each intern was assigned a special project. My projects included helping Victoria, an activist in Uganda, to uplift sexual assault victims, and Pinky, an organizer in Nepal, to assist dishwashers who were making poverty wages and working in horrific conditions. Most of my work as an intern for the Advocacy Project included attending meeting, creating budgets, writing blogs for the AP website, editing project pages for the organization’s website, and assisting in fundraising efforts. The projects were divided into phases, in which the first phase occurred between January and May. My interest and leadership on the projects have excited me to extend my internship into phase 2, where I will virtually oversee the work that Victoria and Pinky do in Uganda and Nepal during the summer!

My time in D.C. was an eye-opening experience. I spent most of my time networking through LinkedIn and managed to fit several “coffee talks” within the semester. Talking to staff assistants at the Hill, lobbyists, and other interns throughout the city, I went back home with a better sense of what the city has to offer. Networking is one of the best ways to make the most out of your time in D.C. The political sector is so diverse, and informational interviews are a great way to narrow down your interests. I hope to come back sometime in the future and use my knowledge of the city to expand my political experience.