Week 1: Life Lessons from an Internship

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Monday, June 15, 2015


Brean Prefontaine

So, school is over but finals are not. Which is okay but finals are stressful already but add the first week of an internship on of it and it is a recipe for disaster. Maybe that is sarcasm but it really was not fun trying to finish everything.

I came down for orientation in May with everyone else, but unfortunately I had to head back to Philadelphia because of being on the quarter system for school. The good news was that I was able to bring a fews things to Washington, DC and get somewhat settled in before I had to move here permanently. The bad news was that I had to head back to school and work hard for the last fews weeks of classes after a fun weekend. This was a bit tough but it all worked out and I finished up all my classes. However, focusing on classes was a small problem when faced with the prospect of moving. I have had people tell me that they hate moving and I have never really understood why. It did not seem that bad. Oh how I had lied to myself. Moving all of my things was rough. This summer is all about learning new things and let me tell you that I learned a life lesson before I even arrived in D.C. Life lesson #1: accumulating needless items will just lead to a painful moving experience. The summer was off to a great start.

So I arrived in D.C. on a delayed Amtrak train (I have just come to expect that Amtrak trains will be delayed) with three heavy pieces of luggage. It was late by the time that I got to the apartment and so getting things relatively organized and getting some sleep was priority. I was very excited for my first day of work the next morning!

There were many things to do on the first day of work. Both myself and a graduate student (Joanna) were starting work on the same day. This made Connor (the other SPS intern that I am working with) extremely happy because she was no longer alone in our little section of ACP (we work in the the American Center for Physics). First and foremost I had to get office supplies for my desk. I really only wanted some pens and paper but Stephanie (the History Center secretary) had everything that I could ever wish for. It was like walking into an office supply store in the middle of our floor at ACP. She had everything that I could ever need and even a catalogue that I could use on the off chance that she did not have what I was looking for.

After being completely stocked up on all of the office supplies I will ever need, I was able to get together with the team (Connor and Joanna) to talk about our goals for this summer and what we want to work on within the project. I was brought up to speed on the project. Basically interns have been working for the past fews summers on creating lesson plans about Women and African Americans in the history of physics. The goal is to expose more students to minority physicists that are not often heard of but can be seen as great role models and inspirational scientists. We decided that refining the lesson plans to become more teacher friendly, improving the content and activities associated with the lesson plans, and adding more lesson plans to the collection would be a great place to start for this summer. I am excited about being able to use what I learned about creating lesson plans from my education courses in order to recreate the lesson plans in this project.

This was all very important work, but the most exciting part of the day came at lunch time. Around noon all of the interns decided to play a game called “how fast will an intern move for free food.” Apparently there had been a meeting on Friday of the previous week and much of the food was left over and given to use for lunch. Now I know what you are thinking, “Leftover food is not the greatest. Why would the interns think this is so great?” Well, you my friend, are mistake on two points. Point #1: This leftover food consisted of different sorts of pasta, some beef, salad, and best of all fancy (and delicious) cake. I was a large assortment of leftover food. Point 2: You must forget that we are college interns. If you know nothing else, you must know that college students will eat almost anything that is free. Anything. Free food is the best food.

Lunch was great and my first day of work was also pretty great. The rest of the week proceeded in the same fashion. I worked on some lesson plans in our project, worked hard on finals and final project, and most importantly got free food almost every day of the week. And this led me to the realization of life lesson #2: If you are an intern, people are very willing to give you free food and you should never be ashamed of taking it. In fact, not packing a lunch can be fairly safe because there will almost always be food somewhere in the building. This also a good week for free food due to the fact that Wednesday was a retirement party for CEO Fred Dylla. This meant a short work day, refreshments, wine and champagne, and a brownie sundae bar. Friday was also an important day for food and fun because the executive board for SPS was visiting. All of the interns had the opportunity to have lunch with the executive council members. However, all of the fun really started after we were done with work for the day. An upscale restaurant in Chinatown was awaiting so the entire executive board, all of the SPS staff, and all of the interns headed off to a feast!

I know you are getting the impression that my first week revolved around free food, but there were some fun other adventures. Tuesday was my birthday (woohoo finally 20!) and the other interns in ACP helped me celebrate in style by singing happy birthday at my desk and making me a special birthday crown out of defraction glasses. On Thursday we went to the Conregressional Baseball game and rooted for the democrats. This was a great way to see a mediocore game of baseball played by congressmen and women at the Nationals' field. We all had a blast and President Obama made an apperance (he had impeccable timing because he came right when I went to bathroom and I missed his entire appearance).

Overall this week has been a great experience with many firsts and many life experiences. I look forward to my first full weekend in DC and I am sure that I will have many more stories to share. Everyday I feel blessed by this experience and opportunity and I plan on enjoying every minute of the experience. Ta-ta for now!


All interns at ACP with the free food on my first day
Birthday celebrations at work
Democrats team at the congressional baseball game
Rooting for the Democrats at the congressional baseball game
In the physics building at the University of Maryland for a talk on Women in Physics in the Netherlands

Brean Prefontaine