While my average day at my internship is far from the luxurious image my friends back home have of me chatting with famous politicians or helping draft bills on the House floor; I have already learned far more about the American political system than I could have expected in two months. As a politics major as well as someone who routinely keeps up with current events pertaining to the US government, before I moved to Washington DC I was pretty confident in my knowledge and understanding of the way things worked and what I would be doing in my internship. Since I have started my internship on Capitol Hill working for Representative Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts, I have far surpassed my previous understanding of the way Congress works. My duties are not always ideal, however one of the most important lessons I have learned through working on the Hill is that experience is essential and you need to earn the respect from your coworkers doing seemingly mundane tasks in order to prove you are determined to advance in your career for the future.
Surprisingly, one of the most difficult aspects of my internship thus far has been with the clerical work I am expected to do in my office. Congressional interns are responsible for answering phones, sorting through and answering constituent and legislative mail, as well as maintaining an efficient work environment in regards to greeting visitors, coordinating staffer’s meetings and their daily schedules, and acting as an overall representation of the Representative’s office to the public. I entered the internship without this type of experience, and while I am skilled in customer service from being a waitress for five years, the computer, phone, and mail systems were entirely new to me. My initial frustration with my internship was a result of my disappointment that I was not adequately showcasing my political knowledge or willingness to learn as I was busy acting as a secretary; however now that those tasks have become simple and secondary, I have been trusted with more challenging and interesting jobs. I have been able to attend congressional hearings on some of the most controversial and prevalent issues facing our nation such as gun control in the wake of the Newtown shootings, budget planning in preparation for the sequester debate, and even social issues such as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. I have helped draft Member Cosponsorship bills in which I have grasped a strong hold on the mechanics of legislative bill circulation. Working alongside legislative assistants who focus on specific areas of legislation on everything from healthcare to veterans affairs, I have also come to the conclusion that I do not need to specialize in all areas of politics in the future and that it is entirely plausible to carry my personal interests into the professional world of Capitol Hill. The more I have developed relationships with my coworkers and proven my ability to complete tasks promptly and to my best ability, I have noticed a change my attitude towards being “low on the totem pole.” Just like all aspects of life, you must start small and even answering a phone call from a concerned constituent has the power to broaden my professional perceptive on political science and my future career.
The overall environment of Capitol Hill is so energizing and everyone seems to have a purpose and a goal that drives their every action. Simply being a part of our nation’s capital and going to work surrounded by our nation’s leading political voices not only has inspired me to work hard in order to make my own voice heard, but also has reaffirmed my interest in this field for my career. So while my everyday varies from what seems like busy work to the exciting occasion to attend hearings or do research, I am not in an everyday environment and for that I am extremely lucky for this opportunity.