Before a friend in a psychology class told me about the internships in D.C., I had not considered doing an internship, much less a political internship in D.C. Three weeks after hearing about the internship, I accepted an offer to intern in Senator Mike Lee’s Washington D.C. office in the Fall of 2014. I am glad I did. I learned from some of the nation’s most intelligent and talented individuals, gained a greater appreciation for politics, witnessed the writing process in the U.S. Senate, and improved my written and oral communication skills.
I wasn’t the typical congressional intern. A large portion of the interns I met in D. C. studied things like political science or criminal justice, and they wanted to eventually work as lawyers or as staff members of government offices or agencies. I am studying Psychology and English with the intent to get a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition or in Educational Psychology, both degrees will land me in higher education as a professor. Do I ever see myself working in politics? No. But, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to work in the Senator Lee’s office as a congressional intern. It has been one of the most beneficial things I have done for my education thus far.
Over the course of my four month internship, I worked closely with Senator Lee’s Legislative Assistant (LA) over issues regarding education, religious liberty, and social and welfare issues. I attended meetings and forums and learned from some of the nation’s top thought leaders in various areas. Where I may have been unfamiliar with politics and our government system prior to my internship, I gained a greater appreciation and understanding for how our government works and for the important issues that call for and require productive discussion.
I watched a congressional bill go through the process of developing from an idea to a physical draft. When I started in Senator Lee’s office, the LA had just started talking to Senator Lee about an idea for a bill on higher education reform. I researched financial data from colleges and universities across the country and communicated with Financial Aid Directors from higher education institutions in Utah. In addition to researching necessary information for the bill, I met with the LA regularly to tweak the ideas of this piece of legislation. Before finishing my internship, we had reviewed a couple drafts of the bill. It was an awesome experience to watch this bill develop and grow. With my particular interest in writing, it was incredibly interesting to watch the writing process in a workplace situation outside of the classroom essays and reports. Through this experience and the other meetings I attended regarding higher education, my understanding of the higher education system, the system in which I will eventually work, vastly increased.
I also gained written and oral communication skills. As an intern, I talked with many people from around the United States, and even some from other countries. I had opportunities to hone these skills through phone calls, emails, letters, tours of the Nation’s Capital Building, and by providing analytical memorandums for legislative assistants about various bills and legislative topics. These skills and experiences will help me communicate in my family, academic, and community circles.
The bottom line is that my internship in Washington D.C. is one my most treasured experiences in my life. I learned things in Senator Lee’s office that I could not have learned anywhere else. I rubbed shoulders with highly intelligent and successful men and women, and I interacted with individuals who view the world entirely different from me. With financial support from the Leavitt Center and a small stipend from the U.S. Senate, I was able to pay for food, housing, transportation, and play. I would recommend an internship in D.C. to any student, no matter what your major or career path is.