When I came to the U.S., I thought I had the country already figured out. After all, a huge part of my popular culture consumption is made in America, whether it is in the form of movies, music or literature. Of course it was evident that I would be proved wrong, and I’m glad I was.
As I’m preparing to go back to Finland, I have only scratched the surface of the U.S. and its "mindset" or "nature". I doubt that anyone knows its nature even to this day completely, but a constant sense of wonder and amazement is perhaps the beauty of things. You see, I have a painstaking habit to try to understand the essence of things: what makes people do the things they do and so forth. To avoid the fast approaching pitfall of a philosophical monologue, I'll try to elaborate what my time in the U.S. has been like.
At the embassy I work as an intern in our external economic affairs team. The atmosphere during my first days at the embassy was extremely warm and welcoming, and I immediately felt very comfortable with the people and the actual work that I did. As to the specifics of my work as an intern, I mostly follow the news, write reports and do background research for the senior officials on specific matters. I also attend events that are usually public hearings at the congress or policy related events at the various think tanks in D.C. Then I compile memos that summarize the most important topics covered at the events. I've also had the privilege to write a couple of more in-depth memos, where I did a lot of research prior to the actual writing process. So you do get responsibility here, which is more than great for an intern.
During my three short months here in the United States, I've travelled mostly the D.C. - East Coast patch of the country. Even travelling this small patch has been rewarding, since it's interesting to see how things seem the same, but still feel different. In other words, you're in the same country, but things seem a little different (i.e. the "vibe" is different). Surely this isn't a novel insight to travelling, but maybe it is somehow amplified in a country as large as the U.S.
When it comes to living in D.C., I found the city surprisingly compact and green. I didn't expect to see so much lush nature in the city. Nor did I ever imagine encountering a deer in the middle of the city, and, as a side note, I was the more dumbstruck one of the two of us. The deer seemed actually quite disinterested in me based on the casual way it bounced past me. It probably snarled "tourist" at some point, can't be quite sure of that though.
I had the pleasure to live in Georgetown, which is in my opinion one of the most beautiful places in D.C. I'm perhaps biased, but I think it's an essential part of the D.C. experience. I would also encourage visiting the various museums in D.C., especially the Smithsonian museums that are free. Surely, you can read this same advice from various D.C. guide books, but that's exactly why I want to highlight them. People might think that the museums are dull simply because they are introduced in every single tourist guide. I'm not particularly into museums, but I enjoyed them a lot. Just avoid the peak hours if possible.
Lastly, I have been very fortunate to have this opportunity to visit the U.S. The people here are extremely friendly and always ready to help. I've also enjoyed immensely working at the embassy with people who are genuine, open, kind and friendly at all times.
Text: Niko Pagkratis