I for sure thought the most surprising thing about coming to DC was going to be the cultural shock. Throughout my entire life I was raised in an extremely small town in Florida. In a small town everyone knows everyone, you say high to almost anybody you see in a grocery store, and you do things that people in larger parts of the country do not – like pull over to the side of the road to remove a turtle from SR-48. I knew in DC I would not know everyone (>700,000 people), although I may say hi it was unlikely that strangers would say hi back to me, and I surely was not going to be pulling over to remove a turtle off of Pennsylvania Avenue. However, when I got here it was a much more positive aspect that surprised me.
I knew as I was applying for Congressional Internships it was likely that I would be tasked with many clerical skills that many might consider boring, like answering phones, logging mail, going to get coffee, etc. I knew I would have tasks that were important and valuable to my experience as well, but the shock truly came from the immersion I had into the workings of politics as soon as I entered into my new office.
Day one was no “normal” introduction day. Well not in its entirety. While I did have to do important things like an office protocol meeting and going to get my ID, I was very quickly thrown into the action. I was first tasked with logging voicemails from the recently hosted telephone townhall. This is important because questions that are unable to be answered during the event get logged and answered via a phone call, mail, or email.
As the weeks progressed, I was learning how to write memos for the Congressman, attending meetings with staff and the Congressman, attending briefings, answering phones, logging mail, responding to constituent correspondence, writing speeches, letters, and weekly columns, preparing correspondence with the press, and more.
While ultimately every intern will have to do some of the “normal” tasks, I was surprised to see how much my current office cared about giving their interns a well-rounded learning experience. Ultimately, this experience will one day be beneficial as I prepare to enter into this career area full time.