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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

At Penn State, there’s a program that is offered through The Bellisario College of Communications that gives students an opportunity to intern and take classes in Washington DC. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, so I went the fall semester of my sophomore year. I was hesitant about going so early on in my college career, but I felt that I would have regretted it, looking back, I 100% would have.


Finding an internship wasn’t extremely difficult because of my background and previous internships I had, however this wasn’t the case for everyone in my program. I always say that DC runs on free labor because there’s a plethora of unpaid internships. Before going into the program, I knew I wanted to work on Capitol Hill. It almost seemed like an unrealistic and unimaginable goal for me, but when I ended up getting the email, I knew I had to take it. 


At least five other students in my program were also doing an internship on Capitol Hill, but all of our experiences were very different. I learned that the office culture and tasks assigned vary from office to office. In my experience, I got to write memos on bills for the Congressman, attend meetings for staffers, attend briefings, as well as answer constituent phone calls and give tours of the capitol. Most of the other interns did specifically constituent based work, so you never know what you will be doing in each office. 


I interned for a Democratic Congressman that was placed on the Intelligence Committee, which dealt with the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. At times, the office could be quite tough and tense, due to the amount of work and pressure the staffers were under. In Representatives offices, there’s about 10 staffers with 1-3 interns, so during times like that, everyone has to constantly be on their A game. In my experience, the staffers also placed a lot of pressure on the interns to finish their work and try to get as much done as possible. There would be days, where I felt so exhausted and questioned my participation in the program in the first place. Taking classes and managing a 9-6 job is a lot, but in the end it was all worth it. 


Office culture can really make or break your experience. In all honesty, mine almost broke me. With such a big transition, a lot of pressure and anxiety already came with that. Additionally, I felt that my office underappreciated me and made me question my skills. People that work on the hill are a certain type and can be always trying to one up or make you feel less. I expected to face this from past stereotypes about hill staffers, but some things I got in trouble for were ridiculous. I was trained by the previous intern, so I would mess up very small things because I didn’t know it was protocol. For example, I got yelled at for not asking why this person was calling a certain staffer. The way the interns are treated varies from office to office, just like the work.


Additionally, I did this internship at 19 and I did face being underestimated by my age, not only by the office, but the other two interns at the time. The other interns were both 25 and out of college, which gave them a superiority complex over me, even though we all did the same job. They would consistently work together without me and make me feel unwanted. It took me a while to not let it bother me, but I continued to work very hard and prove myself to the staff. 


Although I struggled at times, I learned so much and it taught me not only about how politics works, but my work ethic and what my passions are. If you are considering doing an internship on the hill, I recommend it. Even though it’s a challenging place to work, the payoffs are worth it and I would never want to trade my experience for anything.

Bailey McBride is a Senior at Penn State University pursuing a Broadcast Journalism degree with minors in Political Science and Digital Media Trends & Analytics. She is a sister of Delta Gamma. She enjoys making hyper-organizational lists and looking at future pups to adopt. Her dream job is to be Press Secretary of the White House.