First full week is in the bag, and the constant feeling is gratitude towards my professors from this first year. I am continually using skills and tools that I learned or honed in Law, Org Theory, Research and Analysis, and Budgeting to complete small tasks and build a foundation for my larger project. Gradually, I am being immersed in the Division of Housing, meeting all the different teams, and trying to understand all their separate programs within the overall mission of the division, the context of my project, and my relationship to everyone as “the intern.” The only reason I’m coherently typing right now and not pulling a Howard Hughes surrounded by indecipherable scribblings, is because my paradigms from school have allowed me to make sense of a initially anarchic appearing organization.
This appreciation for the MPA program is an almost 180 from a low point last Fall, when I was completely unsure of what I was actually getting from school, and feeling anxiety and regret over my decision to attend UNC. For all the prospective and new students reading this post, just know that not only does the second semester cement the wealth of the program, but in your internship you immediately understand you were born a Tarheel, and you’ll die a Tarheel. When you’re looking up federal regulations, writing memos on which HUD funds can be used for which purposes, and struggling to untangle half a dozen funding sources from their corresponding programs, you’ll understand why you were slogging through all the theory in the first semester. Don’t be surprised by doubt, and don’t bury yourself in regret for feeling it, you probably can’t avoid it anyway. Just push through it.
In November, I was scrambling to finish projects for four classes, anxiously awaiting the Law final, and had no idea what my grades would be. Matter of fact, I submitted my HR final three weeks ago and agreed with my friends that we didn’t know if we had done High Pass quality work, or completely bombed it. Doubt is ingrained in school, it’s ingrained in learning, and it prepared me for the uncertainty of real public administration. But now, I have the mental models to confront that doubt, to make some sense of an organization that seems anything but organized. And I can email Chuck Szypszak about interpreting Federal code, or look up the housing experts at the School of Gov to ask what they know about federal funding for local government networks. It took me almost a year, but I am finally understanding the irreplaceable and incomparable experience of the UNC MPA program. You learn something new everyday.
I’ve not talked at all about my actual internship, but thus is my writing, and this rambling introspection has honestly been my experience of the past two weeks. It also may or may not reflect the fact that I still am not completely, 100%, absolutely sure about what I’m doing here… But I don’t doubt I’ll find out.
See you next week.