Interning on The Hill: A Series

Donald Cortez ’13

On my first morning of work I’m wide awake on the Metro, nervous being somewhere completely alien to me. As I step out onto the Union Station platform, after my twenty minute metro ride, I find my way to the Hart Senate Building, glued to my iPhone’s Google maps feature. I’m wondering how my first day will go and whether or not I will even be able to locate my office. Much to my surprise I find the office and I’m warmly greeted by the front secretary and immediately shuffled away to begin processing my paperwork. 

Let me begin by acknowledging that yes, working on the Hill can seem like quite an intimidating prospect. You want to do well, you want to meet people, and you may even want to parlay the experience into a job soon after completing your undergraduate degree. You have no idea what an internship is going to be like so you’re understandably nervous about what to expect. When you begin feeling comfortable with your co-workers and start learning how to navigate around the mazes underneath the government buildings, these worries all start to fade away.

I’ve been working on the Hill for a couple weeks now and the first thing I’d assure anyone wanting to work on the Hill is that you’re not going to be alone. One of my favorite parts about working in the Senate is the great number of interns working in the government buildings. Everyone is concentrated in 4 interconnected buildings that make up the Senate and the House of Representatives. I’ve found that most interns are eager to know what office you work in, where you’re from, why you’re here. My theory for this amazing friendliness is that, all these interns are just as lost and uncomfortable being somewhere new, they just want people to talk to without feeling intimidated by fancy titles or anything. You develop a bond with all the people you meet running around doing errands and with INTERN proudly displayed on their ID badges.

Another big question I had before I came to DC, and I’m sure most people will have, is where to live. I first began looking at spaces to live in DC and thanks to all the universities in the area you have several options. A lot of interns live on the George Washington Campus, American University campus, and the Georgetown campus. The obvious benefit of living on these school campuses is that most people in your hall will be interns who you will see roaming the halls of the Senate and Congressional buildings. It’s nice to start seeing familiar faces.  There are other alternatives to living fulltime in DC and it’s really a matter of looking for them. This means taking advantage of the networking Gettysburg offers and discussing your interests with anyone you know may be willing to lend a hand.

Stay tuned for next week’s post featuring: what there is to do after work as well as stories about brushing into some of the most important people in our country as a lowly intern.