Andrea Webb was terrified the first time she rode the metro.
It was just one of many memorable experiences the Medicine Hat College visual communications student had while living in Washington D.C. last summer.
Webb, a native of Leader, Saskatchewan, was one of only 10 students selected to participate in the Alberta-Smithsonian Internship Program. Now in its 10th year, the program is an ongoing partnership between the Government of Alberta, University of Alberta, and Smithsonian Institute that offers students the opportunity to learn from Smithsonian scholars around the world.
Working at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in the Office of Programs and Strategic Initiatives, Webb’s team was responsible for delivering large scale educational programming to engage a millennial audience. From showcasing the museum’s extensive jazz collection to celebrating food history, Webb was thrown right into the experience, helping with event set up, dealing with performers and suppliers, and welcoming guests.
The biggest event – We the Party People – recreated the historic American political scene in a festive and social environment. The museum, contains 300,000 square feet of exhibition, programming and public space, was converted into a huge party space after hours and welcomed over 2,500 people to the tourist-free event. Guests partied like it was 1899 and were encouraged to remember the country’s political past and take an active interest in its future.
In addition to the excitement of these events, one of the highlights for Webb was receiving a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian’s pop culture collection that included props from the TV series, Breaking Bad, and Michael Jackson’s iconic hat.
But it wasn’t just her work at the Smithsonian that had a powerful impact on Webb. During her time in D.C., several significant cultural and social events were taking place in the United States including the Brock Turner rape case, the Orlando night club shooting, and the Black Lives Matter movement, not to mention the highly charged presidential race.
“It was a really intense, emotional time. It forced me to challenge myself and some preconceived notions,” recalls Webb. “I’m not the same person I was when I left. The experience was inspirational and life changing in the best way possible.”
The biggest surprise for her though, was the depth of the friendships she made.
“I went there thinking that I would meet cool people, but I did not expect to form the bonds that I did. It was devastating to say goodbye.”
She returned to Medicine Hat in August with amazing memories, fresh ideas, and professional tools to enhance her position as Medalta’s market manager and graphic designer.
“Going there was the first big step of bravery for me. I really was terrified for the first few weeks,” says Webb
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