By Tara McFarland '12
Clocks calling to quorum, hurried trolley rides, and press conferences... I experienced it all in a typical day at my internship on Capitol Hill. During the spring 2011 semester, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to intern in a Congressional office in Washington, D.C., where I experienced firsthand how the Federal government operates, working alongside the nation's policymakers. As a participant in the Maxwell in Washington Undergraduate Semester, I lived in D.C. while taking classes and interning for credit. Early on in my search for an internship, I took a keen interest in Capitol Hill and was fortunate to find an internship that would allow me to serve my home state, Massachusetts. Soon after the start of the 112th Session of Congress, I began my internship in the office of Massachusetts Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, who represents the state's ninth district.
I quickly learned that the schedule of votes on the House Floor dictates the agenda of the Hill, and all of Washington. During the first week at my internship, I hit the ground running − answering phones, researching bills and votes for the upcoming week, and learning the basics of the office's constitutent services and outreach programs. I was soon engrossed daily in Politico, and checked Congressional Quarterly each morning for the day's agenda. The culture of Capitol Hill was fascinating and I found myself intellectually stimulated on a daily basis.
My internship revolved around office life with tasks that included leading Capitol Complex tours, reading e-mails, and sorting mail, but it was often punctuated by the exciting aspects of the Federal government and Congress. The imminent threat of a government shutdown loomed over my first few months, with meetings regarding the budget impasse and plans of action if the government came to a standstill. I sat in on a Joint Session of Congress to hear Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia speak during her visit to the U.S., and watched as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave a press conference after the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death.
I have already benefitted from my internship on Capitol Hill in ways I never anticipated. One day while sorting the mail, I found a letter describing the U.S. Congress-Korean National Assembly Exchange Program, an annual program geared toward youths interested in foreign diplomacy and U.S.-Korean bilateral relations. I applied, was accepted, and spent part of my summer hosting Korean exchange students in D.C. I also traveled to South Korea to learn and participate in discussions there. Because of my internship in Congressman Lynch's office, I was able to host a Korean student on Capitol Hill and introduce her to American government and culture.
My crash course in government, politics, and life in D.C. left me thirsting for more, and intrigued by the possibilities of a career inside the Beltway. After experiencing the fast pace and exciting atmosphere on Capitol Hill, I hope to return to D.C. after graduation to work in our nation's capital.
Tara McFarland is a senior International Relations and English major. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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