An internship in public service is eye-opening

By Lauren Anders

As an International Affairs student, summer and the months leading up to it are full of anticipation. The community of School of International and Public Affair students is engrossed in applications, whether they be for volunteer work, internships, or study abroad programs. I was no different. I was applying left and right to various programs but was struggling with the competitive nature of these programs. I felt behind and inadequate compared to my peers. However, these feelings, though normal and expected, are unfounded. I, just like my peers, have my own talents, and skills, and also shortcomings. As I progressed through various application processes, I found myself particularly excited for an internship with a Congressman from the United States House of Representatives. Therefore, when I received notification that I was selected for the internship, I was not only elated and excited but validated. These feelings of anticipation and eagerness endured throughout the summer. Each morning, I woke up eager to start my day.

As with any potential career path, I was excited to gain hands-on experience in the field of policy and public service. I wanted to use this opportunity to accomplish multiple objectives. First, I wanted to learn and absorb as much as I could about the operations of the Congressman’s district office. Second, I wanted to analyze how I felt in this role. Was this a career path with a potential future? Do I enjoy the requirements and duties of the role? Is a life in politics something I want to pursue? By the end of the internship program, I had gained real insight and answers to these questions.

For the duration of the internship, I was placed in the Congressman’s district office, which happened to be my hometown. The location of the internship was an additional bonus, because it allowed me the opportunity to have an impact on my own community and neighbors. In the district office, our overall task was to communicate effectively with the community, address concerns, and aid in their discourse with Federal Agencies. In the office, there were six permanent staff members, each of whom had their own responsibilities. Two were responsible for handling Veteran’s Affairs issues ranging from benefits to claims to resources. One woman was charged with handling cases dealing with Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service. Another woman handled every other federal agency not addressed by the three other permanent staff members ranging from the U.S. Postal Service to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Another team member was responsible for community outreach, where he attended various events to express the Congressman’s support. The final team member acted as the senior office manager. As an intern, my role was to support the operations of the permanent staff. My daily tasks included informing constituents of updates in their cases, attending various community events, intaking constituent cases, documenting constituent grievances and policy opinions, and connecting constituents with state resources. My tasks were broad and allowed me to really experience each aspect of the office’s operations. The staff were always so helpful, kind, and accepting of me, which I really appreciated.

I truly miss this summer. I had a wonderful time supporting the Congressman in his effort to represent Georgians in Congress. There was never a dull moment, as constituents never failed to surprise me, even when I thought I had heard it all!