by Annie Hughes
In February of my freshman year of college, I received a surprising offer for the summer. I had a phone call from Washington, D.C. come in while I was sitting and eating lunch at my sorority house, and I was pretty caught off guard. It was an offer to intern at the United States Senate with Senator Luther Strange. I was anxious and thrilled at the opportunity at hand.
I was only nineteen at the time, so it was a huge step for me to move, live and work in a city that was foreign to me. You see constant videos and pictures of Washington, D.C. all of the time. When flying into the city and noticing the Washington Monument’s peak in the clouds, I had to pinch myself. The city, although the powerhouse of the United States, was not nearly as intimidating as one would envision. The city imposes height restrictions so the buildings cannot be taller than the monuments. Because of that, in the evenings, it is beautiful to see the sunsets over the city with the monuments skimming the sky.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to take on! The environment was so fun, yet incredibly fast paced. My days were filled with corresponding with constituents, attending Senate and House votes, as well as being fully engaged in the “underground world” of the Senate. You could never be prepared for what you would see that day. It might be sitting and getting a haircut next to John McCain in the Senate hair salon, getting in the midst of a news crew following the 6’8” former FBI Director Comey, or partaking in the behind-the-scenes of a CNN interview. My days mainly consisted of manning the phones in the front office, and while you expect your fellow constituents to be incredibly kind, most of the time I was left shaken after being grilled over various different issues!
In the office, I was fascinated at how different legislative advisors concentrated on the most peculiar things that were relevant to the State of Alabama. One seemed to know everything about land development, while one was an expert on the favorite fish of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Through the experience, I was able to meet people and befriend fellow classmates at Alabama that I otherwise would have never met. I also appreciated getting to know former Senator Strange. He stood much taller than I would have imagined which was intimidating, but he genuinely wanted to get to know us each on a personal level and understand our interests.
In having the internship, I took advantage of the opportunities that were available to me while I had that Senate badge. I was able to go behind the “no guests/tours allowed” signs and get literally lost in the U.S. Capitol. I passed by rooms filled with records, went up onto the Speaker of the House’s balcony, and even got down into the tomb which lies under the Capitol that was originally created for George Washington. Washington is an incredible place filled with young professionals who thrive in a fast-paced environment, and I enjoyed being completely immersed in the culture through this experience.
I encourage anyone presented with the opportunity of an internship similar to mine, to take it. Many students choose to pass on taking a Hill internship because of no pay, the living expenses, etc. However, the experience is invaluable if you are able to make the financial sacrifice.
Not only can you experience the inner-workings of the most incredible country, but you are given the tools, experience, and connections that will be with you for forever. I know that when I eventually graduate, those connections will be able to push me forward in the job market, the experience will prove to be beneficial in my post-graduate work, and the tools and skills provided to me will aid in my future endeavor. I dare you to get out there and apply for internships that may be out of reach, because the reward far outweighs the risk.