Here is what I learned in 60 hours and what I wish I knew before.
The second semester of freshmen year was in full swing and my older friends were frantically looking for summer jobs and opportunities. Caught up in the buzz, I too began to look for something interesting. And spoiler alert - the search was not easy - I spent an entire month staring at my computer screen having absolutely no idea what I was looking for.
Eventually, I began to ask some of my older friends that I had met through debate. I realized that many of them had worked on political campaigns or in their Senators’ and Representatives’ local state offices as summer interns. And that’s when I visited my Senator’s website page and looked for internship
opportunities. I ended up going through the applying process and was fortunate enough to be accepted by the office’s staffers.
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And that’s where my first tip comes from. Looking for job and internship opportunities is undoubtedly a frustrating process. To somewhat lessen that pain, ask some of your older friends who have similar interests. Having an idea of how they had spent their past summers might help you pin down your interests and give you a place to start looking.
I received my acceptance letter late May and I spent the next three months in restlessness (my internship would begin in August). And finally, August arrived. Before I knew it, I was walking into the office. My first real job.
The next three weeks flew by. The internship had high demand, so the office split the interns into two groups, with each group working at the office for half of the working week. I was randomly selected to work 3 hours on Wednesday, and then full time on Thursday and Friday.
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I spent my time listening to voicemails, taking notes, entering information into the system, and answering phone calls. Towards the end of the internship, I also spent some time working on a briefing report for some of the staffers.
Constituents that called the office would often be angry at the situations that they were going through and frustrated by the lack of action that the government was demonstrating regarding that specific problem.
Though listening to people shout was painful at first, I began to develop empathy towards the situations that they were going through. I began to understand that calling their Senator’s office was the last option for a lot of people. I got an up close and personal look at the situations that regular American citizens went through every day - whether it be having consistent medical care access or immigration troubles, I got to know peoples’ stories.
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I found myself connecting these stories with legislation from Congressional Debate, an extracurricular activity that consumes a lot of my time outside of school. As I responded to constituents’ concerns, I would often find myself noting down impacts that could help me formulate arguments in the student chamber.
Which is another tip: connect the lessons you learn in your job to other aspects of your life, whether it be a class you are taking at school or an extracurricular activity that interests you.
Perhaps the biggest impact that any internship or job
can have on you in the long-term is the people that you meet and become friends with. And that’s my next tip - be open to meeting new people.
My intern group and I still keep in touch. In fact, soon after the internship ended, we worked together to found an organization dedicated to bridge the gap between politicians and their constituents. Though the organization is still in its developing stages, the idea was able to spark in the first place because as interns, we were open to creating long-lasting friendships and we were all hoping to create meaningful change.
At the end of the day, I didn’t earn a single cent during the internship. Instead, I listened to meaningful stories, understood policy at a deeper level, and found an amazing group of talented friends. I walked away with three weeks worth of stories that I’ll cherish for a lifetime.