Students at the Department of Commerce

Melanie Francis: Post #3

It has been 12 weeks and there are only 5 weeks left! Time truly has flown by!

It takes time to adjust to change and now that I feel like I have adjusted – I will be heading back to Spokane! Knowing how time is running out I began questioning myself – what if?

What if all this time, through all the struggles, self-hate, doubts, limitations and changes has been leading to a new chapter in my life? At the end what if everything ends up working out, even if it seems like it doesn’t right now? What if all this hard work leads to amazing things? What if I replaced negativity with optimism? How can all this change my thoughts and behaviors now?

I have come to accept my struggles while “abroad.” But, to clarify – you can be happy, successful and thriving and still struggle! You have the power of manifestation in your everyday life just by being more mindful of who you are becoming and acknowledging your current self and your aspirations.

I want to begin with my internship, every day I would try to prove to them how good of an intern I was by working hard and studying a lot on their areas of interest. I was thinking about what makes a good candidate stand out? But, after my first few weeks, I found, it is not about how smart you are, what school you went to, or your grades. It is passion, perseverance, and grit. The more comfortable I got with my supervisors and other staff I have learned that as an intern it is about leaving a mark on the people in the office. Be kind to them, respect them, understand them and put yourself in their shoes. Do more than you are asked. Listen. Do not waste your time trying to prove to them how great you are because actions speak for themselves. Your behavior says everything about you.

I am saying all this because it is true! I have been helping out on the hiring process for future interns for when I am gone. And reading their resumes and cover letters, I got overwhelmed. These applicants have interned all over the world for big companies, speak at least 2-4 languages, have great GPAs, come from well-known schools and are very well rounded. Going through these applications I wondered how in the world did I get this internship? I asked my boss and she said out of everyone who she interviewed I was the only one who sent out a Thank you email. When I went to the office for the first time, she took note of how I interacted with people with more labor-intensive jobs such as the barista at Starbucks, the janitor, and the mailman. She mentioned how I was the only applicant who acknowledged others who are not just government officials or higher-ups. And that helped me realize how first, the government is watching! I did not know this would aid in my hiring. But second, actions do speak louder than words. I may have not been the smartest applicant, multi-language speaker, well-rounded person but it was humbling knowing that being myself and my actions are what helped me to get my internship.   

Being at the Department of Commerce has been a truly amazing journey. I have learned a lot of valuable skills such as my new proficiency with Salesforce data analysis and entries, doing market research with various government databases, creating marketing stuff such as Newsletters, flyers, PowerPoints, and emails that are sent to over 8,000 subscribers. I have learned business etiquette when dealing with clients for meetings that I would never have learned in class. I have learned a lot about the options of working with the DOC and other agencies. It has been an eye-opening and humbling experience. I am sad to say I only have 9 days left with my internship!

On a completely different note, I’ve had to accelerate the exploration of DC to make sure I fit everything in before the program ends. A big event was the parade after the Nationals won the World Series. I take pride in my lack of interest and love for baseball, but it was sweet how excited and supportive DC was for their team. Everyone from the DMV came to support, so, seeing the community come together was great! Especially since this had nothing to do with politics or business – this was for the shared pride that the Nationals won! This was my first time experiencing the excitement of a sports team winning and the sense of comradery that spreads through the city. It was really fun to get to be a part of it!

I also made a bigger effort to explore different neighborhoods in DC. As I began exploring areas where are not very touristy but instead more local such as; Union Market, Howard and Columbia Heights I realized a lot of things. Columbia Heights historically has been the epicenter of the District’s Latino community, there are amazing Central and South American cuisines. I was able to try Venezuelan, Cuban and Salvadorian foods. What I loved was the community aspect. I was greeted in Spanish and my entire service was done in Spanish. In Spokane I cannot experience moments like these at restaurants so, this felt a lot more like home in Mexico. I was also able to try Ethiopian food and amazing soul food by Howard University. Let me tell you, the food and service were also amazing!

Melanie and friends posing in front of artistic backdrop.

The sad part is that these places are not well known for tourists because everyone goes to the Hill or Georgetown. Also, I learned that DC is the most gentrified city in the US – gentrification that falls along racial lines. Infrastructure has been altered, the public property has been privatized, the will of voters has been rescinded, minority-owned businesses have been shuttered and the bodies of people of color have been stopped and frisked to accommodate and enhance the respective presence and comfort of newcomers. It’s important to look at gentrification as a cycle. That cycle begins with neglect — divestment in low-income communities that can result from lending discrimination and redlining, the practice of exclusionary housing opportunities. The next stage in the cycle is political. When city governments develop policies that encourage investment in neglected neighborhoods, money and resources start flowing in. As property values rise, so do rents. Before long, it becomes impossible for longtime residents to afford to stay. This has been an eye-opening, first-hand observation. There has been a lot of support for more affordable housing, and many local officials have been listening to community members, community-based development, more flexible housing vouchers and stronger enforcement of inclusionary zoning rules. As I went to a presentation by Sabihya Prince, a cultural anthropologist, and community organizer she said that “Change is inevitable. Change is a part of the culture. Change is within the definition of culture, frankly. My concern is how power implications are interwoven into this scenario…If you attend to the power piece, then you understand that the vulnerable people are being played right now.”topic other than gentrification I have been looking into has been the interest rates and the economy. I went to the Federal Reserve for class and had a meeting with Robert deV. Frierson (Bob), Secretary of the Federal Reserve Board. I learned much more about macroeconomics in the real world. Not going to lie, I found macro courses at GU tough and not very well thought so, I believed that I should drop Econ. But, getting experience first-hand and talking to Bob how the Fed does monetary policy, I have come to value and understand macro in the real world instead of in class and through textbooks. 

Overall, I have been exploring DC in a different non-touristy stance and have learned a lot about the current political state of the city which ultimately reflects the country. And my class visitations have allowed me to explore topics and have discussions with professionals that GU has limited me through just class, tests, and homework. Exploring my interest in social justice, politics and economics has allowed for new understandings. Awareness and intentionality allow us to fight despair and build hope. Awareness and intentionality allow us to hold each other and ourselves accountable for dismantling those systems that hold us separate.

As I started this blog with “what if?” I want to end the same way:

What if all this time, through all the struggles, self-hate, doubts, limitations and changes has been leading to a new chapter in my life? At the end what if everything ends up working out, even if it seems like it doesn’t right now? What if all this hard work leads to amazing things? What if I replaced negativity with optimism? How can all this change my thoughts and behaviors now?

Urban Art Depiction




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