How to Survive an ADST Internship

freezing basementIt can be a cruel, relentless, merciless grind working as an ADST intern. That’s why most of them don’t last longer than 10 or 12 weeks. Thankfully, Rebecca, Caroline, Naomi, Kate & Anamaria, aka, the Survivors of the Summer 2014 Internship, have provided these Words of Wisdom.

And if you need advice on finding those Elusive Moments, look no further!

Return to Inside Foggy Bottom

Go to Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History


In General:

chris and treatsDon’t take ANYTHING too seriously.

–   If you need a break, take a break. Buzzfeed and Cracked were invented for a reason.

–  Headphones! Work is more fun with music!

– Don’t make hard decisions when you don’t have to. When Chris brings treats, eat them.

– Even if you’re going to be in the basement all day, bring a cardigan. It gets cold down here!

-When dressing for work, show class, not ass. You’re a professional and you should look like one. People at FSI do judge an intern by its cover.

– With that said, business CASUAL. You don’t have to be in full suit everyday. There’s a time and a place for that (State Department events – duh)

– If you can email Chris at least half as often as he emails you, you’re a champ. He gets lonely and has a strong attachment to email (especially on weekends). Feel free to send memes, Weird Al videos, and manatee pictures.


On Getting your Badge:

-Make sure you take all your paperwork with you when you go to pick up your badge.

-If they ask you to return to be re-fingerprinted, it does not mean your are a criminal mastermind or a serial killer. You do exist. You do have fingerprints. They just didn’t come out the first time.

– Do not shove your badge all the way into the holder at first. It will not come out and you will look stupid in front of the guards. Slide it in and out constantly for a while to loosen it.

– You have to put your badge in a different direction at the gates at the State Department. You might never figure out how to put it in right to get out of Main State and it’ll make scary red flashes every time.

– The side gate is very temperamental and won’t always work even when you put in the right code.

– Make sure you have your badge with you every day before you leave your housing. I had a 2-hour commute one day because I realized halfway to work that my badge was in my room, not my purse.


On writing for ADST:

i guarantee it– Write about something you’re interested in, but don’t be upset if you’re not in love with every piece.

–  The first piece will probably be the most difficult. Once you do a few, you will understand the format needed.

– If you can’t find something to write about, don’t take it personally, we promise you are working just as hard as everyone else! Try looking up fun words and phrases like ‘sex scandal,’ ‘torture,’ ‘coup,’ ‘assassin,’ and ‘drunk.’

– DCM means Deputy Chief of Mission, RSO –Regional Security Officer, USIA –U.S. Information Agency. HST = Harry S. Truman building = Main State. Other acronyms are common. Figure them out quickly.

– Be efficient with your work.

– Don’t be afraid to take your time and read through some of your interviews – you may find something you weren’t expecting.

– Copy and paste won’t work when there is a dash (-) at the end of a line on an ADST PDF. Call us crazy but it took us hours to figure out. Work around it.

– If you’re struggling to find a good story, ask Stu if he remembers anyone being specifically interesting. Then browse. There will be a story somewhere.

– Eventually looking up “interesting events in the month of ______” will run out of possibilities. Get creative!

– Some of the best pieces are about tiny places and events no one else knows they care about. Chris will kill me for saying that. Ask him about the time I tried to write 23 pages about Grenada.

goodluck finding anything in july– Good luck trying to find any other events in July. We got it covered.

– Try to do a handful of articles that are truly something you’re interested in. They don’t have to be associated with a specific date or person.

– If a piece doesn’t prove to work out, don’t freak out. You will inevitably throw out pieces you have worked on for hours. This is also true for life in general. It’s called ‘experience.’

– Sometimes, Chris will ask you to find something (like a picture or a topic) that literally doesn’t exist. It’s okay. You will get frustrated and get over it.

so many interviews– Check to make sure the story hasn’t been done before. You’ll be pissed if you work all day only to find that they story has already been written.

– Because our interviews are generally with retired FSOs, their stories rarely include anything that happened in the past ten years. Get creative.

– There is a good chance that Chris will want you to go in a different direction in at least one of your pieces. He’s your boss. That means his opinion is more important than yours.

– Finding pictures can be a pain in the ass. Do it anyway. You can usually find at least a few on the Wikipedia page. When it doubt, go for a map, pictures of key people mentioned, or as a last resort, the American embassy in the piece.


rejected pieceOn Commuting:

– Shuttles suck. Get there early. Some buses will allow standing room, others won’t. Still under investigation as to why. Also, if you’re leaving at a popular time in the afternoon (3:50-4:50ish) you’ll have better luck getting on a bus at the Visitor Center instead of the side gate, especially if you want Main State.

– ALL SHUTTLES GO TO ROSSLYN. Except Rosslyn 2. It doesn’t go to the Rosslyn you want. Don’t go to Rosslyn 2. Terrible things happen to interns who go to Rosslyn 2.

–  Talk to the people on the shuttles – everyone has a different story, but they’re all really interesting! Short of talking, eavesdrop.

– Commute in comfy shoes and leave flats in the office – no need for heels. Ever.

– Don’t be that asshole who talks on the phone for the entire shuttle ride. Those people are the first to be shot.


On food:

gazebo– Try the food trucks (you can sometimes find the schedule by searching #FSIFoodTruck on twitter.)

– The FSI Cafeteria is average at best – don’t get your hopes up. There is no shame in packing your lunch.

– Take advantage of having a full kitchen – most offices don’t!

– Eat lunch in the FSI gazebos at least once!

– Get lunch at the State Department cafeteria at least once. It’s way better.


main state lunchOn other cool things this internship offers:

–   Get lost in the State Department.

– Take any and every opportunity to see a speaker, sit in on a lecture or just hang out with other interns. Try subscribing to think tank event listservs and the State Department’s daily public schedule (

– Bug Chris about sitting in on an A-100 lecture; they’re awesome! Chris will always let you go to things. And always RSVP immediately when you find something you might be interested in! Events fill up.

– Hang out with the interns outside of FSI – you’re going to be spending a lot of time togetheinternsr, you might as well be friends.

– Get to know Chris, Marilyn, and Stu. They’re awesome and want to get to know you as an intern, a student and a future FSO (potentially!)

– Your ID will let you into lots of cool buildings and offices, but don’t forget: you’re still an intern.

– Chris will often encourage you to stay forever. Aka for a semester or just an extra hour here and there.

– When Chris lets you out of work early, take advantage of it. You’re living in our nation’s capital, be sure to be a tourist!


And if all else fails…

– Sometimes, you just have to say fuck it.

fuck it


  • Michael S

    Do you get to make all these memes? :P

  • Chris

    What can I say? Sometimes, we just have way too much fun here…