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Letter: My Experience In Washington D.C.

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Kathleen Haugen

Contributor

Political Science majors have all heard Dr. Peppers from one time to another mention the Washington Semester. I shrugged it off almost soon as it was brought to my attention. I am an athlete and besides my friends are here and I don’t want to mess up my chances at graduating on time. However, I soon realized that while going to D.C would be outside of my comfort zone, I wanted to test out the Political Mecca of the United States and see what it had to offer.

   After many applications, I choose to work in Senator Al Franken of Minnesota’s office. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary committee, which is a big plus for me since I am interesting in Law School and potentially becoming a judge.  He was also one of the original writers of Saturday Night Live, and who could pass up working for a Senator with a sense of humor?

 My first day in the office I truly had no idea what to expect, but I was luck that the staffers were so helpful in getting me settled. However, after the brief intro to the office the mentality was that its best to throw me right into the mix and let me work out the kinks on my own.  It was an awkward first day to say the least. It did get better the next day and now I look forward going into the office. I even look forward to talking with constituents, who can at times have rather interesting comments. It is also nice to hear them tell me they pay my salary, little do they know I go unpaid.

Interning is not glorious work and it can be disheartening to realize that you more than likely aren’t going to be a part of the important legislative staff that researches the important issues or deals directly with the senator. In fact there are very few instances where we get to talk to the Senator.  However, when the staff needs interns to look up something up or run a menial task, that willingness and commitment to work without pay speaks volumes to your dedication. The new entry-level position is an internship, and one of the best whys to get a job in D.C. is to start out as an intern. I have learned more about how the Senate and House than I could have in any other setting. I am also in the very thicket of policy making and surrounded by current events. It is always surprising to see a CNN correspondent to walk through the door of the office or a Senator on the elevator on the way to the Senate cafeteria.  

The best part of being in D.C. is all the museums, clubs, and interesting exhibits are here. Salem is a sleepy, quiet place, but D.C. never sleeps. It is an opportunity to see concerts, Supreme Court Justices, the Cherry Blossom festival, live in a high rise apartment with great views of D.C., take a few classes, and make real world contacts.  I suppose that listening to Dr. Peppers paid off in the end.

 *For more information about LCWS, go to www.washingtonsemester.org or see Dr. Todd Peppers.

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