What does a Microsoft intern do for fun?
As I’ve written about previously, I’m constantly striving for the perfect work/life balance. For me, especially when I’m in a new place, it’s important to set aside my work and explore. Sticking to the 9-to-5 routine may be monotonous for most, but I wholly embrace it. It means that when I clock out, I clock out fully. I don’t check my work email. I don’t ping people on Microsoft Teams. I literally can’t do work from home because my work is 90% connected to my lab bench.
So if I’m not bringing my work home with me, what have I been doing for the past six weeks?
To put it bluntly, a metric butt ton.
I live in a house with a few other interns and I also know a bunch of people in Seattle for the summer. Not only is that a weird flex, but it’s also the main reason I’ve been able to explore so much of the city and its surrounding areas. I may seem like an extrovert, but I rarely go to events or visit places by myself. It’s hard for me to get out of my comfort zone (aka difficult for me to leave the couch and my laptop) without a friend inviting me somewhere or an opportunity popping up on my feed.
Thanks to all of my friends, both new and old, here’s what I’ve been up to so far:
Something that I’ve quickly learned here is that it’s physically impossible for anyone here to not be in love with nature. When we visited a coffee shop in Pike Place and brought up hiking Mt. Rainier to an employee, he said simply speaking about the various trails and views of the mountain would make him emotional. One of my housemates started legitimately crying when we saw mountains on San Juan Island.
Coming from someone who had been on maybe two or three hikes before this summer, saying I was skeptical was an understatement. I personally never felt pulled to climb a mountain or trek through a forest—I prefer the bustling streets and colorful buildings of cities. Thankfully, though, I’ve been overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Almost every weekend here has involved something stereotypically outdoorsy: climbing above Wallace Falls, walking up Poo Poo Point, and staring off of Rattlesnake Ledge. Though the climb is rarely easy (rip my knees and ankles, especially on the trip down), the payoff has always been worth it. I’ve started to really appreciate breathing fresh air, looking out at picturesque valleys, and listening to the sound of rushing water.
And a slight tangent, but eating a huge meal after hiking it the best feeling in the entire world. After Wallace Falls, I was craving meat and found the perfect burger and onion rings at Vick’s Burger Shack, and post-Poo Poo Point we grabbed the most filling breakfast-for-lunch of pancakes and eggs I’ve ever had at the Egg and Us. Nothing can compare to eating after successfully traversing a several mile path.
I’m definitely not going to be buying a pair of hiking boots anytime soon, but I’ve changed my mind about restricting my plans to the urban expanse.
Pike Place and Post Alley
This is one of the most recognizable parts of downtown Seattle. Pike Place has been open since 1907, housing dozens of vendors selling everything from incense and jewelry to fresh fish and lavender sugar. Stuff is a little pricey (there was a stand selling single avocados for $5!! and fish for $30 a pound!!) but the busy atmosphere reminded me a bit of Chelsea Market on steroids. I missed seeing large clumps of people walking past each other on a narrow street :)
Right near Pike Place is a street named Post Alley. There are a ton of cafes and restaurants and stores. I haven’t had enough time to dive deep into the area, but Rachel’s Ginger Beer was the best ginger beer I’ve ever had (considering I had never drank ginger beer before).
Combined, these areas have given me a whole range of foodstuffs that I gotta try.
Chihuly Garden and Glass (feat. the Space Needle)
Before visiting this art museum, I hadn’t really given glass a thought other than the phase where I bought a ton of glass paperweights. It’s one of those mediums that doesn’t seem to get much recognition, even though I look through it every day (glasses). This indoor and outdoor exhibit shook my expectations to the core. Dale Chihuly is a world-renowned living artist, most famous for his work with blown glass. His series use a variety of different techniques and inspiration, from using every single color in his studio to replicating the softness of blankets and baskets. Seeing these glass figures twisted and colored and contorted in so many fascinating ways was serene.
My personal favorite was the garden section of the museum. His use of color and shape made sculptures that were both hard to distinguish from actual flowers and fantastical in their appearance. These works of art, coupled with the fact that he’s been blind in one eye and had a hurt shoulder since the 1970s, made for a great stop in the city.
San Juan Island
We left Seattle last weekend and made the three hour (two hours driving, one hour ferry ride) trip to San Juan Island, one of the appropriately named San Juan islands. Despite only being there for a total of 28 hours, we covered a ton of ground.
Once the ferry docked, we hit the ground running by exploring Friday Harbor: a collection of streets housing small shops and restaurants along the water. I’ve been trying to eat more seafood while I’m here, so I had my very first oyster! 10 outta 10, *especially* with butter and caper sauce.
We then took a “sunset” boat ride around the islands. The word “sunset” is in quotes because this boat ride was nowhere close to sunset time, even though it was at 6:30pm. The sun sets at like 9:30pm here, messing up both my sleep cycle and my opportunity for photographing a live sunset.
The next day was spent hopping from spot to spot on the island:
Lime Kiln Point State Park, to gaze out at Canada, watch the sea ebb and flow, and try to spot whales—got two out of three there!
Roche Harbor, to kayak/paddle board around the islands and try to spot some wildlife (a few jellyfish, too many seagulls, and a ton of kelp/seaweed)
Pelindaba Lavender Farm, to smell some good smells
We didn’t get to see every island, let alone the entirety of San Juan Island, but we got a temporary escape from Seattle.
That and we were able to unintentionally make all of our friends think that we were in Puerto Rico.
I will defend NYC until the day I die, but Seattle is proving to be a pretty solid competitor. Let me give a few comparisons:
Every fall around Halloween/Thanksgiving time, my family will drive upstate to go pumpkin and apple picking. We’ll pick out reasonably-sized pumpkins to carve one night and forget on our terrace for two months, and stuff our bags, jackets, pockets, and faces with as many apples as we can. Around Seattle, berries are popular pickings, with strawberries being in season during June and cherries coming up right around the corner during July. Berry fields can’t compare to apple orchards, but being able to buy 15 pounds of strawberries for $30 will bring a smile to anyone’s face.
A typical hangout in the city centers around food. My friends and I will scope out the latest Instagrammable/famous/hole-in-the-wall food spot to try—some of my best friends keep lists of places to eat at from Facebook articles and Instagram explore posts. I’m lucky enough to have a ton of friends in Seattle, so you know that means a new Facebook group chat, a list of food options from Yelp, and a poll to choose the date/time/location. My mentor at Microsoft has shared dozens of suggestions both inside and outside of downtown Seattle, and that’s just given me more boxes to check off the summer eating list.
When I’m home for the summer, my family will take a few weekends to take the LIRR to Rockaway Beach, the Amtrak train to one of the beaches in Jersey, or the subway to Brighton Beach. They’re really into the beach: tanning, swimming, digging holes, eating boardwalk food. Seattle beaches so far are made more for bonfires and chilling than splashing around, but I don’t have a problem with roasting s’mores and watching the sun set over the water!
It’s strange to realize that the summer is halfway over. I came into this experience knowing that I was delving into new territory, not only with my work at Microsoft but also the terrain of Seattle.
Every day after work and every weekend has been a whirlwind of plans, spontaneous and in advance, taking me from place to place. I’ve tasted new foods, seen new views, made new friends, and cherished new memories.
I’m so incredibly grateful for my housemates, fellow interns, and longtime friends who have put up with me for the past six weeks and are ready to adventure me for six more.