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Hello again!

I'm finally here in DC and well, have been here for a few weeks!

The first time I set foot on DC soil, I knew it was time to start work to start the program that I had always dreamt about and am extremely thankful the University of Sydney has given me this opportunity to do this! Now, I don’t want to bore you but this is something that I have to say before I can launch into some of the weird, wild and plain amazing experiences I have had thus far.

Once in DC you can really feel it. Forget the lack of lights. Forget the lack of tall glaring glass buildings. Slightly monochromatic but nevertheless, they were magnificent stone structures that not only amaze you because of their façade but because of the rich history that unfolded behind those very walls. There is an atmosphere of grand austerity, the interplay between politics, law, business and society so palpable it’s raw.

To just walk past the White House, knowing that the President may be working there, to know that Congress is passing Bills right before my very nose and to know that this was the centre of global activity is exhilarating. When can you ever experience such proximity with the current affairs that shape this world? And to be working in a firm that is directly involved in economic policy and the creation of wealth for the communities in which Americans live is amazing. What more could I ask for, a mere intern dabbling in the intricate frameworks of a charged world.

The first day I stepped into the office, I just knew that I had to seize this chance to grow myself professionally and personally. It was time to fulfill those long awaited goals of augmenting my soft-skills and technical-skills, time to grow up I suppose!

Now, to start things off, I’ll tell you something that will forever be engrained in my memory. Before I do, think of the strangest place you’ve ever had a conversation and who it was with? Now, just imagine that the person is a prominent figure and someone you’ve only just met 5 minutes earlier. Still can’t conjure up a scenario? Well, I’ll tell you mine.

Think executive (keeping it vague!).
Toilet.
A necessary human function of excreting waste.

Yes, I spoke to someone very prominent as they carried out their "business" (excuse that terrible pun), awkwardly trying to make my escape, I was urged to keep taking about my impressions of the place and the tasks I was assigned with. The questions were almost endless! It was a minute that felt like an eternity. Best experience ever – odd but memorable. In fact it was really pulling me out of my comfort zone!

So to my first task – to be completely honest I’m extremely glad that the place I work for provides me with substantial work to do. There is no photocopying business, coffee making and the like that interns are usually associated with. Statistical metrics was the first thing I faced – in fact it was a 20 page semi-statistical, semi-analytical report which when I first saw thought was insanely difficult…Doing the introductory stats course…er…didn’t really help (perhaps I should accept that University invite to do the next stats course!).

Over the next few days though, I found the support from my supervisors extremely warm and helpful! They helped me with a lot of the really technical aspects of the project but were still patient enough to provide me the outlines of the basic and trust me with doing most of the writing and analysing.

This experience really showed me that as an intern, why should you be afraid of not knowing anything? In fact, that is the point of being an intern, to gain an understanding of what you lack knowledge in. To build yourself and grow in the areas utterly new and foreign to you. It is remaining open to these errs and challenges that will positively shape you. Upholding this mentality, I was able to grasp the gist of what I had to do in a few days and complete the report in less than a week.

Once fearful, it was delightful to observe how my knowledge had congealed and the new area of expertise I was gradually developing! Most excitingly, I was provided with the opportunity to write a case study for the firm’s journal! Recently it was published and I don’t know what to tell you…I felt enthralled and truly honoured that they would trust me with their content!

Well, these are the first few weeks of my internship in a nutshell!

Much more has been happening including my chance to meet some really amazing people at events I never would have thought I would get the chance to attend – a key member of Hilary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, a reception (with some of the best food!) at the home of the founder of a prominent publications company, Julie Bishop, Malcolm Turnbull and Kim Beazley at the Australain Embassy (again with amazing food!) and the Dalai Lama! Of course, you’ll also here about some interesting occurrences on my weekend trips!

Now that we’re half way through the program (which absolutely unbelievable – time does really fly when you’re having so much fun!), the next blog will be jam packed full of exciting tales!

Stay posted for more!

~ David Lai :)

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