One phrase became a kind of mantra during the first week of internship at Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Fla.) office: “Hill internships are hit or miss.” The office was overstaffed, with more than 20 interns. We were literally sitting in the boss’s office — all the cubicles, stools and couches were occupied — gazing at each other in awkwardness, hoping that things would get better in time. Thankfully, things turned out as we hoped, and for me at least, increasingly and magnificently better, making my Capitol Hill internship another memorable chapter of my life.
Soon after I started, I found myself at the positive end of the Hill internship spectrum. Every day was filled with surprises, whether it was small progress made in the strenuous debt ceiling debate or a visit from the Israeli ambassador.
I can see how Hill internships could be dreadful for some, I saw some of my fellow interns dropping out after few weeks of repetitive work. However, I dare say such misfortunes were due to their own lack of enthusiasm to seek adventures for themselves. Congressional offices are busy enough with legislative issues that they cannot guarantee each and every intern a valuable experience. Rather, the interns must augment their time in the office by demanding extra projects, attending hearings of their interest or setting up appointments with their favorite politicians.
I hardly recall being bored or worn down, even though I took a class for the first half of the summer and worked until midnight in the Residence Hall Office every day. I simply could not stop showing up every morning and staying well past 5 p.m. in the office, because I did not want to miss all the incredible moments on Capitol Hill.
Apart from the surprises, the Hill internship has proven to be incredibly useful and meaningful for me in many ways. First, it taught me how to work in office environments. I was also able to interact frequently with other staffs, which provided me with a better understanding of office work.
The internship also stirred up a sense of pride in me as both a Georgetown student and a green card holder. As a proud student, I would receive flattering amounts of attention when I mentioned Georgetown. Being noticed and admired just for being a part of the Hilltop community made me proud and equally modest, as I felt that I should live up to that expectation.
Initially, I was concerned that I would be disappointed to see the inefficient side of this nation’s government, and frankly, I did witness some disheartening aspects as seemingly never-ending debates carried on and some politicians were ousted for their misbehaviors. Nonetheless, I saw hardworking people. I saw my congresswoman chair the committee literally all day long and still take the moment to chat with us interns. Moreover, I wondered at the greatness of this nation as I gave Capitol tours and reviewed how this nation came into place and has stood for justice and democracy. Even as a foreigner, I was captivated by the grandeur and persistence of this nation’s enduring mission and was grateful to have been a small part of it.
The brief period I spent on the Hill as an insider gave me the chance to train and reflect upon myself. I got to rediscover my flaws and work toward improving some of my weaknesses. Through my internship, I gained realistic experience of any future career I might enter.
I enjoyed every single moment of my Capitol Hill internship. With a constant effort to reach out and grasp the opportunities for myself, I was able to sublimate the internship into another milestone in my life. I believe any one of us Georgetown students can and should take advantage of such a priceless experience that is just a metro ride away.
RACHEL PARK is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. She is an Executive Member of the Honor Council and the Programs Director of the Georgetown Conservative Corporation.