Before starting the program, I found that reading the blogs of previous students was very helpful in preparing me for the experience, however I would have liked it if there were more posts describing the type of work involved in the internships to give me a better idea of which ones to preference. With that in mind, I thought I would write a little bit about my internship to give a general overview for future students.
On Tuesday the 8th of January, Becky and I started our internship at the Council of the District of Columbia in the Office of Councilmember Tommy Wells, and most of the other students also began their respective internships with congress members, think tanks and non-profits. After the first few days of settling in to DC and getting to know the streets, I think we were all pretty excited to start doing some actual work. In terms of how far the internships are away from college, it’s a bit of a lucky dip. Obviously the interns on Capitol Hill have a long trip to work everyday so they normally catch the metro, but others are less than a block down the road, so getting into the gym before work in the mornings is standard procedure. Unfortunately the metro doesn’t really speed up our journey (it takes us about half an hour) so we usually just walk. Temperatures are starting to get below freezing on a daily basis, however, so that philosophy may be out the window in the next few week or so.
To give a brief description of how the DC Council works, it’s first important to understand that the District itself is broken up into eight areas called ‘wards’. Sitting on the DC Council are thirteen councilmembers. To begin with, there is a Chairperson and four ‘at-large’ members who don’t represent any of the individual wards, but rather the interests of the entire District. The remaining eight members of the council each represent one of the wards. Councilmember Wells represents Ward 6. Together, all thirteen of them (and the staff in their committees) will introduce, draft and edit pieces of legislation affecting the District. These thirteen members will then vote upon the legislation. In essence, this Council acts as an effective local and state government for the district. Below is a picture of the building where all of this takes place.
So far I have felt incredibly lucky to be working in this office. The work Becky and I do on a daily basis begins with reading through pieces of legislation passed by the council concerning a particular area – for example, the rights of ex-offenders to seek employment without being discriminated against based upon their criminal records. We then compare the existing legislation to the provisions of a newly introduced bill that seeks to make amendments. From there, we draft a summary of the existing and proposed legislation, write an overview of how similar laws work in other American states, and then conclude with an analysis of the proposed legislation based upon these findings. The best part for me is that, due to its nature as a local/state government hybrid, the issues aren’t necessarily as big as federal issues like Obamacare, gun control or abortion, but for that very same reason, it feels as though the work that Becky and I do actually makes a tangible contribution to the direction that Councilmen Wells’ staff take on certain pieces of legislation.
Also the staff members are all incredibly nice: when things aren’t too busy they take us out for lunch to this awesome taco place (three tacos for $7 is hard to beat). I also fist bump the security guard every morning on the way in to work, which is usually the highlight of my day. And just yesterday, Councilman Wells gave Becky and I each seven box-seat NBA tickets to the upcoming Washington Wizards games. I feel bad now because all I’ve got for him in return are some Koala pins from the $2 shop…
Anyway, I hope that helps any future students to get an idea of what goes on in these internships.
Bye for now.