The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This semester, I had the opportunity to work as a hilltern (that’s Capitol Hill Intern for those of you not familiar with this ‘local lingo’). As a politics major, this was a dream come true – spending days running around the Capitol building and working with a team on legislation and constituent services. When I got the email that I received the position with a Hawaiian Congressional office, I was thrilled but nervous. I had worked in an office setting before, but an office in the United States Capitol? I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know the adventure I was about to embark on for the next few months.
My first day on the job gave me a glimpse into the office I was stepping into. After setting me up at my computer, the Staff Assistant gave me a sheet of paper, set a two-hour timer, and sent me on a scavenger hunt. I was given the task of finding various statues, paintings, and pieces of architecture around all of the House of Representative buildings and the Capitol. Instead of running outside and crossing the streets like I thought I would need to do, I was told about the underground tunnels that staffers and members use to get from building to building. It reminded me of the tunnels people say that cast members use at Disneyland (except there are way more people in suits). To enter the tunnels, I needed to show my new badge, and I felt exceptionally important as I flashed it to the security guards before entering each new area. I explored the building I worked in (Longworth), along with the other House of Representatives office buildings (Cannon and Rayburn). I then had to go to the Capitol itself and got very lost underground in all of the tunnels. Thankfully, there were many nice staffers who pitied me and helped – they too had to do the scavenger hunt when they were an intern, so a few helped me get to the most important spots. It was so fun to get a glimpse of the bustling life of a Hill staffer and see these famous historical buildings up close.
The fun I had in my internship did not end after that first day, though. I had a unique opportunity in my office because the Congressman I was working for was leaving office once his term was up in January, so I was one of the last interns this office would have. Because of thi, I had the chance to do a lot of different things than I would have done as an intern in an office with a returning congressman. . One day, I was asked by our Communications Director to help co-write a speech for the Congressman to deliver at a conference. A few weeks later, I was asked by the Congressman himself to sit in on a meeting with constituents and take notes. One of the coolest experiences I had was when I had to go to the House floor and take the Congressman from voting to a meeting across the Capitol. I stood right outside of the very spot where some of the most important decisions for our country are made! The politics major in me was geeking out. And then, as if that wasn’t already cool enough, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walked right past me! It was so weird and cool to see such a major political figure in person and it was one of the highlights of the entire internship.
Another memorable thing I had to do for my internship was to participate in a policy project. Throughout our entire time working in the office, we needed to brainstorm and research a new policy idea based on something we were passionate about. I decided to do my project on period poverty in prisons and suggested adding an amendment to the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021. The amendment would require prisons to supply menstrual products in communal locations so that inmates could take as many as they needed, whenever they needed. I was extremely nervous leading up to the presentation because I would have to give it to everyone on the staff, including the Congressman. But it was an immense success! Everyone was impressed with my presentation and they wanted me to write a memo to send my idea to the Congresswoman who sponsored the bill. I was so proud of myself and I can’t believe that there was a chance that an idea I have could make its way into a real bill that people vote on! This was just one of the many really cool experiences that made me proud and excited about the career field that I’m entering.
Working on the Hill was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Having the chance to just be near and surrounded by so many influential and passionate people who want to help their constituents was so inspiring. Every day on my commute home, I’d walk by the Capitol building and just revel in the thought that I was standing on the same ground that so many changemakers have. DC college students – even if you aren’t a politics junkie like me, I thoroughly recommend an internship in a congressional office. If you have a passion for serving others and the self-diligence to work hard, then you’d be a great fit.