This summer I travelled to Washington D.C to work with the White House Historical Association for two months. My internship bridged two departments, meaning that I was able to spend time working with the historians and educators at the Rubenstein National Center for White House History and also with the team of the Office of the President of the Association. As a History undergraduate seeking international exposure, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to build upon skills from my degree and foster new skills while also working in an international hub.
I don’t think I can stress the value of my internship heavily enough. I had deliberately sought an internship that would allow for genuine growth and development. I wanted real responsibility and important projects to work on. My time at the White House Historical Association surpassed the parameters for personal and professional growth that I had set.
At the Rubenstein Center I wrote an article for the Virginia Magazine of History and Culture on the involvement of Scottish stonemasons in building the White House. A fascinating connection which I had not realised existed! This year the White House Historical Association will place a commemorative plaque on Queen’s Street celebrating the work of the very same stonemasons back in Edinburgh’s New Town.
I was exposed to a fast-paced and demanding work environment throughout my internship, but particularly in the run-up to our Presidential Sites Summit held at the end of August. The Summit hosted representatives from over 100 historic sites for a 4-day conference. The program of events offered panel discussions with experts on issues relevant to colleagues in historical sites. It also included an opening ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, an evening at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and a reception hosted by the White House Social Office.
The Association’s President, Stewart McLaurin, teaches WHHA staff not to come to him with a problem, but with a solution. My solution to the problem of being involved with such a prestigious event so early in my internship was to push my learning and personal development, hard, and therefore be equipped to come up with the most informed and appropriate creative problem thinking. To my delight, it worked. By the time the Presidential Sites Summit rolled around I felt capable of preforming at the same high-level as many of my colleagues.
Whether drafting letters to First Ladies or editing updates for our Board of Directors, all tasks at the Association required an incredible level of attention for detail. I loved having the opportunity to work at this level and prove to myself I was capable of preforming time sensitive tasks with a high level of accuracy.
Overall, I think the biggest impact of my internship was on my confidence. I proved to myself that I am able to travel to a completely new continent and preform at a high level in a demanding role, and thrive.