• Congressional Internship Program 2012

    15. März 2012

    Posted in: Allgemein

    Being chosen for an Internship at the congress is something special, but even more if you are a foreign student. I had the honor to participate such an Internship at Representative Carnahan’s office from the 3rd congressional district of Missouri.

    The 6 weeks I spend in Washington, D.C. were one of the most amazing weeks from of the CBYX Program and in my life. I will never forget them, not only, because I learned something about politics, networking, America’s city life and thanks to the countless Washington Museums something about American History, but also because I met impressing people and got an eye behind the scenes of how congress is working.  However, the most important thing I learned was something else: don’t run away from challenges but accept and grow on them!

    The biggest challenge for me was giving tours through the United States Capitol. First, we got a 3 hour class how to give tours (I was lucky, that I could attend that class, because lots of interns give tours without any professional preparation) which teached us how to walk through the Capitol and they gave us a small book that contained basic facts about the rooms  in the Capitol and the building itself. Then, I had to learn the basic facts about the old Supreme Court, the crypt, the rotunda and the national statuary hall. And as soon as my office scheduled any tour, they sent me to give them.  It was really challenging to give tours through the political building of the USA to Americans, when you are foreign student. Fortunately, after the first tour it got easier because I knew what to expect and learned from my former mistakes.

    Another thing I learned in the congressional office was how to communicate on a professional way with Constituents and how the people in the country can affect the votes and bills in congress. When Wikipedia shut down, it seemed like everybody was calling Washington to complain about SOPA and PIPA. As an intern, my job was it to take calls and talk to the concerned constituents and pass their opinion along to the congressman. This bill showed me that if enough people care and call their offices, they make the choice if a bill gets passed or fails. This fact is definitely something that I will take home to Germany, to know, that everybody is responsible for decision the government makes and everybody can change something!

    Another fact about congressional offices in DC is that they have principal too many interns. At the beginning, I was smiling when I read, that interns are fighting about who takes the first phone call, but after the first week, I knew that it was true. Fortunately, thanks to SOPA, PIPA and the abortion week, we had enough phone calls and pro-life roses which we had to put in our system. But the office really got busy only once when a bill from congressman Carnahan was read to the transportation committee. On this day, we were all involved in bringing organization to another House Office Building, were the committee was located.

    Normally, Congressmen are only around when the congress is in session, but even then, they are not really in their office, but I was lucky. Congressman Carnahan and his wife were quite often in the office and every now and then, he took time to talk a little with his employees and interns. After spending a few days in the house office buildings I even realized, that politicians are normal people. The best example of my experience was on my last day at congress, a congresswoman and me were waiting for the elevator and she started small talk with me and said she likes my shoes (which I bought on sale for $10).

    My highlight of the 6 week long internship was when Congressman Carnahan offered me to join a breakfast meeting of the study group on Germany with the deputy foreign minister of Germany, Emily Haber. I was the only intern attending that meeting and at one point, in the middle of the discussion, Congressman Carnahan had to leave, but he didn’t left without introducing me and the CBYX program to the whole meeting. I was stunned and proud at the same time.

    What I should have known before I went to Washington, D.C.: ALWAYS HAVE COMFTORTABLE SHOES WITH YOU!!!! Even though, interns spending most of their time in an office building, they often have to walk to other office buildings or the capitol. You can were high heels in the first week, but as soon as the second week starts, you are more than happy when you have flats that you can were at work. Another fact that I didn’t know before is, that the congressional employees are pretty casual when the congress is not in session. Then, almost everybody (including some congressmen) is wearing jeans and normal shirts.

    Outside of the congress, the city offers a lot, too. There are several museums and most of them don’t even charge entrance. You can spend weeks in them and still haven’t seen everything. In Washington, D.C., pretty much every political building can be toured, we even got the chance to tour parts of the white house. You can only book that tour through a congressional office, at least three weeks in advance and you have to give them your social security number and as a foreign student your passport information. In the white house we toured a small selection of rooms (unfortunately, we didn’t saw the president and the oval office).

    I stayed directly in D.C. with a lovely host family.  My room was in the basement and I had my own bathroom. Though, it was only a 20 minutes car drive away from Capitol Hill, my commute with the public transfers (I had to take bus and metro) could last up to an hour each way. After work we spent time with each other and talked about recent political issues or news. In Washington, everybody seems to be interesting in politics or at least knows what is going on at the moment.  I really enjoyed my stay with the Binsner family and would recommend them 100% to the next CIP participants.

    The time in Washington, D.C. was unforgettable for me and I now even wished that it would be longer than just the 6 weeks. I took home with me beautiful memories and the knowledge that I can be proud of myself for getting the internship and most important successfully complete it. I not only gained political experience, but also met interesting people and became friends with them.















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