Aaron Feng (Solar Electric Light Fund)

When I got out of the Dulles airport, the humidity and heat of DC in air gave me the first hug – I could not wait to start my internship adventure in this city. DC is the fourth capital city I have been in this summer, after Tokyo, Beijing, and Astana, and will be the one I stay for the longest time. I am grateful that I will spend my summer with VIEW, a group of young adults, most of whom are Hill interns, interns working for their Senators and House Representatives on the Capitol Hill.

Different from my fellow Hill interns who are occupied with the American politics, I am an intern at Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a non-profit organization dealing with energy poverty in the developing world. In the last 20 years, SELF has installed 550 solar energy systems in energy-impoverished areas in more than 20 Least Developed Countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa.It empowers women, children and indigenous people by renewable energy. SELF has three current projects in Haiti, Benin, and Columbia. People working at SELF travel around the world to assist local people and organizations with the installation of solar-powered drip irrigation and solar home system.

When I read the documents and reviewed pictures of rural electrification project SELF ran in China 20 years ago, I began to realize what “make a change” represents in real life. So I decided to write a series of blog posts to acknowledge SELF’s pioneer contribution to sustainability in rural China. My internship at SELF reminded me of the ninth Youth Forum at UNESCO I attended last October. During the Youth Forum in Paris, I was inspired by people I met, including an African entrepreneur promoting affordable soaps fighting against malaria and the Mexican feminist running career training for women. I appreciated what they did locally and globally and dreamed of being like them – making real changes to our world. Thanks for this summer, I feel that I am part of these amazing human beings. In addition, with my proficiency in Chinese, I am lucky to have my individual research project on China’s philanthropy and solar industry development. My internship at SELF is flexible and meaningful. Instead of doing some reception work, I devote most of my time to the projects and blog posts series I proposed to write.

Besides talking about my job as if I am a workaholic, I enjoy my social life at DC, a lively city always with something going on. However, the question is – how to look for all kinds of interesting social events other than hanging out around museums as a tourist? No offense, I am a huge fan of the National Gallery of Art and spent a whole afternoon there. But here is a tip for engaging in a more vibrant DC life like a local. People and social clubs post on some websites like “MeetUp”, which are more about social, hobby and cultural events. Other like “DC Linktank” have a list of professional events and speeches at all scales of think tanks. Personally, I enjoy cultural events at embassies with great receptions of free and amazing food. For one evening, I went to two embassy events – an opening reception of a joint art exhibition at Korean Embassy and the closing ceremony of Eurasia Shorts Film Festival at the Embassy of Italy. You are able to encounter many people of similar interests in these cultural events.

“Only people there, who don’t have real jobs, can afford to gather like this”, my utilitarian friend from Stockholm commented when I sent him a picture of Capital Pride Parade on Saturday. Let’s just enjoy our following two months as if we did not have real jobs, actually, we don’t – we are VIEW interns.


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