This semester I am working in the House of Representatives for Congresswoman Mary Fallin of the 5th district of Oklahoma. I know it seems like a random state because I am a proud New Englander but the Congresswoman is a solid conservative and a pretty great person to work for. Although I have only been working for a little over a month I have found it to be a really interesting experience, and it definitely provides a nice change of scenery on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the building was the amount of people glued to their Blackberries. Although I too am guilty of sometimes walking and bbming I have never seen a place where this was the norm and not the exception. Walking around Longworth is really an education in dodging staffers who are responding to e-mail.
Something else that surprised me was the average age of the people working in the Members Offices. I could not believe that the vast majority of Rep. Fallin's staff is under twenty-six and even the DC Chief of Staff couldn't be more than thirty-five. As, arguably, the seat of power for the free world the United States Capitol is not on first glance a workplace where young professionals straight out of college would go for a first job. However, the Hill is an attractive option for recent college graduates with an interest in public policy. Where better to gain first hand experience about how the law is made in the United States of America? In addition to the obvious educational and networking benefits the House of Representatives also has an aggressive loan repayment program. The 9-5 work hours also allow for further educational opportunities at night. As a result of the large proportion of young people the House Office Buildings (Longworth, Cannon, Rayburn) are really lively places with people enjoying their time on and off the clock.
So what exactly does an intern do? Well helping the office is the main tast and this often entails running errands, sorting the mail, responding to constituents, and picking up any additional jobs that the staff has. I know it doesn't sound glamourous but working on Capitol Hill seems to elevate even the most mundane tasks (well maybe not all of them), regardless it is undeniable that working in the shadow of the Capitol dome has a rejuvenating effect upon the day-to-day routine. I will admit when I am giving a tour I really step it up if a Congressional power player happens to be passing by(for the record I am working until Dec. let me know if you need a tour!).
One of the most pleasant surprises I have found in my five or so weeks in the Congresswoman's Office is the quality of the food in the cafeterias. Granted it is slightly expensive, but I have yet to have a bad meal in the Longworth Caf. This food court style dining is located in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building along with a bank, a FEDEX, and pretty much every other amenity you could possibly need. The basement of Longworth is connected to both the other House Office Buildings and the US Capitol Visitor Center. The underground network is massive in scope and I have seen most of it while wandering around lost.
I am really looking forward to continuing my work with Rep. Fallin and maybe even imparting some New Media knowledge on them.