A city of paradoxes
Posted on: October 01
By Hannah Moody
Claire Sloan wears jeans to work. Particularly, a favored leopard print pair. Today she is wearing them with pink chucks. Her ensemble is a paradox. She works in one of the most powerful cities in the world, a world typically colored and dressed in the homogenous scheme of black, navy and gray power suits.
The pursuit of an internship in Washington, D.C. was something that came up in the after-class chatter between professors and students. It was a foreign concept for Sloan, a senior at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, Calif. (TMC), where she studies communications.
Sloan embodies the nonchalant spirit of California and is in love with big ideas, opinionated discussion and her pit bull. The small talk became a reality this August as Sloan arrived in D.C. to study for a semester and gain practical experience working as an intern. And while her relaxed persona seems contrary to the life of a D.C. intern, Sloan has found a place where she fits.
Thirteen-seventeen G. Street is home to Church of the Epiphany. The church houses Street Sense: a local paper written for the homeless population on their issues. The homeless buy the paper for a small fee and then sell it for a higher one. They also write some of the articles, using one of the seven computers in the paper’s office. All of this happens just north of the National Mall in Northwest Washington, D.C.
The bus is crowded and hot, a two-block long ride of no personal space. Once off the bus, Sloan is greeted with the harsher reality of private space as she reaches the cheery red door of the church. There are two security doors she needs to get through before reaching the little upstairs office.
“Security in D.C. is pretty on par,” Sloan said, even in a pretty old church in the nice area of town. Life upstairs is much more relaxed.
“We work with homeless people,” Sloan said. “We don’t turn anybody out.”
The office becomes steadily more crowded as Sloan paints in miniature the “mixed bag of people” that make up her co-workers. Ramanda is another intern who shares the same three days a week schedule as Sloan. Mary is their editor.
“She’s adorable,” Sloan nods her head in a characteristically emphatic way. “[She’s] a motherly figure, super sweet and very encouraging.”
Eric is the hipster graphics director. Toss in a few European students on their own study-abroad adventure, and this is the staff behind Street Sense.
After work, Sloan heads home to an apartment complex owned by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). It’s a multi-faceted building, with classrooms occupying the same amount of space as living quarters. The apartments are set up dorm-style with several large lounges that make it feel like a big house rather than an impersonal dormitory.
“I can watch TV on the big bean bag downstairs and then walk up three flights to my room,” Sloan said.
She shares her room with three other interns. One is a Biola student from Hawaii, pursuing the global development track and interning at an organization that works to stop human trafficking. Another one of Sloan’s roommates is from Cambodia, but grew up in Tennessee.
“She’s a very stereotypical journalist, curious, wants to jump in on all the conversations—Lois Lane, basically,” Sloan said.
She is making Cambodian food tonight for dinner. The last roommate, from West Virginia, is studying public policy with a feminist organization.
“We have a lot of political variety,” Sloan said, “Especially in our room.”
This variety, however, is a facet that Dr. John Stead believes is one of the program’s most beneficial.
“As I would see it, the opportunity to rub shoulders with students from 70 other Christian college students—obviously, they’ll be exposed to a broad breadth of theological perspectives ... in that sense, it can be very challenging,” Stead said
Stead is a professor in The Master’s College History Department, which has been putting students through the American Studies Program since the 1970’s, even before the school began to offer the popular IBEX and AMBEX programs. And though Washington, D.C. is in the same country, it dishes out its own fair share of culture shock.
“As an intern in D.C. you learn to be over prepared so you don’t get talked about on Gawker.” Sloan said when asked what all the interns know. She said they also know that Georgetown Cupcakes are really not the best cupcakes in her part of the capitol city.
“You learn to be very grateful that you have a car back home, because you have to take public transportation even to get groceries. You figure out that it’s OK to call really famous and important people and just act like you know what you’re talking about. You also hear the phrase that the city is run by interns and that gives you a sense of empowerment,” Sloan said. “But you’re not getting paid and you do everybody’s dirty work. They give us a lot of cute catch phrases like, ‘you fake it until you make it.’ Everyone is smarter that you. So you fake it and research the heck out of it and act like you’ve got it going on.”
She was admittedly living in the “fake it” stage of life. Yet as taxing as the intern life turned out to be, the benefits are immense.
“Exposure. You walk the halls of power. You suddenly understand things.” These are the benefits Dr. Jack Simons sees. The chair of The Master’s College Communications Department, Simons has a reputation for pushing students out of their bubbles to play at a different level.
“When you’re in Washington the competition causes competition ... and you learn what it’s like to play at the level of the professional,” Simons said.
As Sloan is discovering, though, playing at the level of professional in what has been called “the world’s biggest high school” is a whole new ball game. Free from most of the typical stereotypes of working in the capitol city, a la Charlie Young of the West Wing, Sloan came in fresh.
“It’s very much a city of paradoxes: there’s the powerful and powerless next to each other. A lot of beauty and brokenness,” she said. “It’s a very tight knit city. Everything is very interwoven, news travels fast.”
The conversation that seems to rapidly deplete the available oxygen on public transportation is “what’s going on” that morning.
“Everybody knows everything,” Sloan said. “I’m pretty sure the homeless people are smarter than me, or at least know more about politics.”
As you would expect, politics aren’t the only thing populating peoples’ news feeds.
“If you mess up at your internship it turns up on gawker, or your editor tweets it,” Sloan said.
Sloan finishes her day with a run. She takes her mace, because people have told her it’s dangerous to run alone at night. And she runs the mile to the Capitol building and up the stairs and down and back again. The next day she’ll wake up and do it all over again.
Hannah Moody is a TMC communications major.