Students say D.C. internship is challenging, rewarding

Sara Macho

Not everyone enjoys high-pressure days of deadlines, meetings and run-ins with high-powered political figures. But some welcome the challenge.

Students who participate in the Washington Program in National Issues, a 15-week academic program offered each spring semester in Washington, D.C., have the opportunity to intern at many different locations such as the White House, Amnesty International, Congress and numerous government offices.

Participants in the program not only grow as individuals, but gain political knowledge as well, said Bill Somerville, senior political science major and past intern in the office of congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Somerville performed standard office operations such as data entry, answering telephones, running errands and researching current issues. While these tasks may seem routine, Somerville said it was the opposite.

“Every day was different,” he said. “It was always different.”

And different days bring new ways to make mistakes.

Somerville remembers a day last spring when he accidentally hung up on Kucinich.

“I transferred the call wrong and ended up disconnecting my boss,” he said. “Kucinich is not too up on technology himself, so he wasn’t upset.”

Intern Adam Sage, a graduate student of sociology, worked in the office of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, attending hearings and writing memos. Sage said Clinton was down-to-earth and personable.

“She made a point to meet every intern in the office at least once,” he said.

Participants usually work three days a week at their internship and attend briefings two days a week, according to a program brochure.

It’s not always all work and no play, though.

Alexis Reed, senior general studies major and intern in the office of Sherrod Brown, said all the participants usually met up after work and went out for dinner. Other group activities included museum trips to The National Gallery and The American Indian Museum.

While it was challenging to leave behind her small Virginia town of 3,000, Reed said it was a chance for her to grow up and become more professional.

“You learn something that can’t be taught in the classroom,” Sage said. “You have to live it to know it.”

Contact student politics reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].