Internship: Capitol Hill
December 2 | Hello and welcome to my last blog post here in Washington, D.C. In exactly 26 days, I’ll be on a plane flying back home to California (Paul and I unintentionally booked the same flight home and I can’t think of a better way to end this semester--full circle!). My semester here at American has been so incredible. With every blog post it’s become increasingly difficult to capture everything that I’m feeling into words. The initial flurry of nerves and fears subsided and were quickly replaced with excitement and wonder at all of the new opportunities I encountered, both at work at Congresswoman Eshoo’s Office and in class during field trips. And as the weeks went on, this too was replaced by a surprising level of comfort and ease when navigating the streets of D.C. and the responsibilities of my internship. While at first it seemed that I would never get used to the atmosphere here in Washington, it’s now difficult to imagine returning to my everyday life back at SCU.
I realized I haven’t provided much detail on my internship experience in my previous blog posts (which is largely due to the fact that I honestly don’t know where to begin). I am beyond thankful for the group of interns I worked with this semester--Zoe (a fellow WSP student), Tom, Robert, and Janani made the office environment fun and light-hearted, even as we were researching heavy issues and answering calls from concerned constituents in the constantly evolving political world that is Capitol Hill. One of my favorite memories from my time with Congresswoman Eshoo’s Office is drafting a memorandum for a staff member about the College Affordability Act and hearing that the Congresswoman decided to cosponsor the legislation (which is...probably one of the coolest things I’ve done here in D.C.). The office atmosphere has been so welcoming and our supervisor Andrew has been incredibly patient with us throughout the semester as we learned the ins-and-outs of policy research and legislative work. He has probably explained to us how to get to the House Floor more times than I can count (and I can now confidently say that, even while blindfolded, I would be able to find my way).
Advice For Future WSP Students
While on the topic of internships, one thing I really want to emphasize is that, no matter what organization you are working with while in D.C., I guarantee that you will have opportunities to interact with amazing and influential people in nearly every field. Use that to your advantage! As a college senior quickly approaching graduation, I realized early on how lucky I am to be here in this space during such an important and pivotal moment in my life. The speakers that come to your classes, your internship supervisor, other staff members of your office, and your professors are all important resources that can provide you with advice on how to navigate your professional career and connect you with people that share your interests.
After noticing the lack of diversity on Capitol Hill among Representatives and senior staff members, I spoke with my supervisor who connected me with Krystal Ka’ai, the Executive Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (APAC). I reached out to Krystal via email and was able to arrange an informational interview with her that shed some light on the various issues that the APAC has been focusing on. I was excited to see that there was a lot of collaboration between the APAC, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (they’re known as the Tri-Caucus!).
Another important piece of advice: remember to prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing while you’re here! While it’s important to take part in advocacy and educate yourself on issues, the reality is that doing so requires not only physical and mental energy, but also emotional energy that can leave you feeling drained or overwhelmed. The beauty of living in D.C. and working on Capitol Hill is that you are constantly surrounded by real and impactful political work: advocacy groups visit offices daily, constituents call to share their opinions about important issues within their communities, members of Congress are constantly drafting and cosponsoring legislation to address national concerns, and so on. During my time in D.C., there have definitely been moments where I’ve been overcome by a feeling of hopelessness (for lack of a better word) at the face of everything going on in our world today, both nationally and globally. But in those moments, I’ve learned the importance of recognizing how I’m feeling and taking a step back to recharge and recenter so that I am able to continue to take part in this important political experience.
This experience would not have been the same without my wonderful roommate Emily (thank you AU for the perfect random pairing), my friends Chris, Petter, Josue, Nick, Wanda, Zoe, Larissa, Abby, Josh, Zaliah, Erin, Kenna, and so many more!
D.C., I’ll definitely be back!
November 11 | Crisp Fall weather and adventuring with friends. Name a better duo--I’ll wait.
I can’t remember the last time I experienced a real Fall. Emily told me during my first week at AU that Fall in D.C. was beautiful. And before I knew it, it was here. The leaves changed seemingly overnight and my caffeine consumption once again skyrocketed thanks to the pumpkin cold brew at Compass Coffee near Spring Valley. I imagined I would be freezing and miserable once the temperature dropped, but I’ve actually grown to enjoy the cold breeze during my walk to class and I think...I may miss it (shocking!).
These past two weeks we’ve had a wide range of speakers, from Mark Murray (Senior Political Editor at NBC News) to Dr. Thomas Snitch (an International security consultant who has been speaking to WSP students for many years throughout his career). The depth of knowledge that these speakers have in their respective fields is incredible. Guest like Dr. Snitch and Mr. Murray have worked in a variety of capacities under many different administrations and are able to describe to us the similarities and differences they have noticed throughout their careers with ease. Mr. Murray encouraged us to pursue our interests in politics as it is something that is near and dear to his heart. It was inspiring to see that even after many years in his career, he still has that same love for the work that he does. At the end of every seminar, our speakers make it a point to offer their contact information to students that wish to ask more questions or receive career advice. Their willingness to speak with students is something that I’ve really appreciated throughout my time in DC.
This semester is slowly winding down. It’s wild to think that in just 6 short weeks I’ll be flying back home. It feels like just yesterday I was getting lost in the tunnels of the Capitol and roaming AU’s campus for a cozy study spot. With the program coming to an end, I have made it my mission to make the most of the time I have left and continue to explore the city whenever I get the chance. Despite not being the greatest baseball fan (please refer to my first blog post), I was so excited to attend the parade this past weekend celebrating the Nats and their first World Series win. The turnout was incredible! It’s times like these that I wish I was a few inches taller (but don’t worry, I caught glimpses of the players through the crowd’s shoulders). The experience was definitely something I’ll remember for a long time and I’m glad I got to share it with my friends Josh, Larissa, and Abby. I can’t wait to make more memories during our last days in D.C.! Stay tuned for my last blog post!
October 21 | Week 8, let’s go! Welcome back to my blog. Things have been pretty exciting around here these past few weeks, so let’s jump right into it.
Last weekend, my friends and I attended a Venetian Ball at the Italian Embassy. Imagine prom, but replace awkward slow-dancing and parent chaperones with assorted Italian desserts and terrible ballroom dancing by yours truly. It truly was a night to remember. Shout out to Wanda, Lorraine, Chris, and Kelsey for an awesome pre-ball dinner at Bul in Adams Morgan (we had super good kimchi fried rice and that means a lot coming from me because my dad makes the absolute best kimchi fried rice, don’t try to fight me on that).
After an eventful night, my friend Nick and I spent the rest of the weekend working on our first memorandum assignment for Professor Semiatin’s class. This assignment was very fun for me, as it was my first experience writing in such a professional, political tone. I love that Professor Semiatin gives students the ability to choose the senator or congressman/woman they wish to address. I wrote my memorandum to Congressman Bennie Thomson of Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district. The memo itself was about American infrastructure and funding potential, a topic that I do not have a lot of experience writing about. By writing about a district, state, and topic I do not know much about, I was pushed to conduct thorough research and ultimately I am super excited about the resulting product.
Fast-forward to this weekend: Emily and I made our way up to New York City for a spontaneous weekend get-away. The journey there was a little rough but 1 season of Big Mouth later, we arrived, ready to explore all that the city had to offer. We explored Chinatown, had hand-pulled noodles that I’ve been dreaming about ever since, walked the Brooklyn Bridge and took plenty of photos, roamed DUMBO, and feasted on Moroccan food on the Upper East Side. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful trip (and much more affordable than I had anticipated). I would definitely recommend traveling up there with a group and making the most of your time on the East Coast. I plan on making going back in the future. One day just doesn’t do it justice!
With the Supreme Court back in session and the issue of impeachment continuing to develop, I expect that the streets of Capitol Hill will be quite active in the weeks to come. Hopefully I have the chance to observe oral arguments for some of the historic cases to come (although I was told that if I want to make it into a congressional hearing or hear Supreme Court oral arguments, I will most likely need to camp out overnight or wake up around 3AM, so we’ll see!).
Well, that’s it for now. Chris and I are studying hard for our first midterm exam this Thursday, so I should probably join him. Wish us luck! See y’all in the next blog post.
October 7 | It’s easy for me to get lost in the hustle and bustle of D.C., with classes and my internship taking up a majority of my time. These blog posts have been a great way for me to slow down and take in all that’s happening around me. Every once in a while, I’m struck with the realization that I am at the center of national politics during a time where it seems like every day a new political development is brewing. A few days ago, I was watching the live stream of DNI Joseph Maguire’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee and noticed that the hearing was taking place in the Rayburn House Office Building, which neighbors my office building. It’s so cool to be able to see the physical manifestations of stories and policies that we read about in articles and textbooks. To say I’m excited to go to work these days would be an understatement. The events that take place during our time here will likely be discussed by future generations and when that time comes I can say that I was there.
My internship with Congresswoman Eshoo’s office has given me so many incredible opportunities to learn more about public health and policymaking. I made my C-Span debut during a House Committee on Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Hearing (which was described to me as a rite of passage in Washington D.C.). The legislative assistants and my supervisor encourage interns to attend hearings and briefings that pique our interest and I have been taking full advantage of that privilege. The hearing itself was about prescription drug pricing and a newly proposed bill (H.R.3) that aims to tackle rising drug prices. This hearing was a continuation of what I learned in public health courses back at Santa Clara University, as well as a discussion I took part in at the drug pricing briefing I mentioned in my last post. I’m so thankful that I had the chance to observe the hearing process and to hear both sides of this important issue.
I had heard from a friend that attended the Washington Semester Program last fall that the American Politics emphasis had incredible speakers. I can confidently say that my classes have delivered on this promise. Each week we’ve had the chance to hear from extremely influential people with diverse backgrounds and extensive experience in their respective fields--from Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) to Lissa Muscatine who wrote speeches for both Bill and Hilary Clinton. I’ve appreciated every second of these seminars and the open and honest moments our class has had with our speakers. Definitely one of my favorite parts of the program.
One thing I really appreciate about D.C. is that there always seems to be something fun, interactive, ~free~ going on somewhere in the city. Last weekend, my roommate Emily and I ventured out to the H Street Festival. We spent hours roaming the streets, stopping by the colorful displays at booths, trying very hard to stop ourselves from buying all of the handmade jewelry, soaps, food, and art we could carry.
Tune in next time for updates on the Venetian Ball at the Italian Embassy, fall break adventures, and more!
Kimberley DongAmerican Politics
September 23 | Hello everyone! My name is Kimmy and I’m a senior at Santa Clara University majoring in Political Science and minoring in Public Health. Welcome to this small but hopefully entertaining and informative look into my time here in Washington, DC.
I remember reading the Student Ambassador blogs as I was contemplating applying for the Washington Semester Program. Reading about their experiences calmed my nerves and filled me with excitement at the prospect of being in their shoes. I’m excited to be able to do the same for current and prospective students!
I’m writing this blog post from the comfort of my favorite corner at the Bridge while sipping on a cold brew. My caffeine consumption has skyrocketed due to the fact that my dorm is conveniently located by both Starbucks and the Bridge—a luxury that I will definitely miss once I’m back home.
California has been my home for much of my life and, if I’m being completely honest, the thought of living on the opposite side of the country scared me quite a bit. Having never left the Bay Area, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
From the moment I landed, DC has not ceased to amaze me. I remember stepping out of the airport with my friend Paul (shout out to Paul for taking the lead and making sure we made it to AU in one piece with all of our luggage) and experiencing humidity that shook my Californian self to its core. The drive to campus was filled with ooh’s and ah’s as I saw lightning and clouds looming over the Potomac, with countless monuments and museums illuminated in the background. I’ve truly never seen anything like it.
Since then, I like to think that I’ve slowly become acclimated to the enigma that is Washington, DC. My bug bite count has decreased significantly after my roommate taught me about “peak-biting hours” (thanks, Emily). I ride the metro with ease (although I did get lost after hopping on the wrong metrobus last week...but let’s not talk about that). And neighborhoods are no longer just names on a map but rather home to my favorite restaurants, cafés, and museums.
I could go on forever about the experiences I’ve had these past few weeks. To make things a little easier, I’ve compiled a quick list of some of my favorite memories thus far:
- Winning first place tickets to the Venetian Ball at the Italian Embassy in October (shout out to the lovely members of Team Two)
- Going to my first baseball game with new friends and pretending to understand the rules of the game (I’m working on it, I promise)
- Spontaneously hopping on the metro to Chinatown with my friend Chris to satisfy our peking duck and char siu bao cravings
- Consuming an obscene number of late-night subway sandwiches (it is both a blessing and a curse that the Subway on campus is open until 2AM)
- Exploring the Newseum with my classmates and going on seminar field trips
- Spending late nights with the students in my program, discussing our diverse political and cultural backgrounds and sharing our hopes for the semester
- Formally introducing myself to the Wonk Cat herself despite my apparent cat allergy
I also began my internship with the Office of Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo, who is the representative for my home district. It’s been eye-opening to see how local politics play a role in Washington, DC. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed speaking directly with constituents in my own district and hearing about the issues that are important to them and their communities. I’ve also had several opportunities to learn more about my areas of interest by attending briefings and panel discussions. Last week, I attended an interactive briefing on the process of drug pricing that added a new perspective to my understanding of the pharmaceutical industry.
It’s crazy to think that I’ve only been here for four short weeks but I can’t wait to see what’s in store. Here’s to a great semester!