A Tale of Summer Dreams and Quests

My Hillternship Featuring Occasional Fun Stuff

Month: June 2017

Memos and letters and more memos and more letters

So I guess I’ve reached the less exciting stage of my internship. Now that I’ve become familiar with most elements of my internship, I’m now fully equipped to fulfill my many important tasks as an intern of the Office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas.

Just kidding. I’m not bored yet. While most things I do seem repetitive, I still genuinely enjoy doing all of them exactly as how I felt when I was first introduced to them. I’ve written nine letters responding to students from our district and, during the composition of each letter, I was surprised by the level of intellectual curiosity that these students demonstrated throughout their words. Why didn’t I write to Niki when I was in high school?

I wrote a decision memo on the Anti-lunch Shaming Act of 2017, which outlaws four common lunch-shaming techniques prevalent across America used by school cafeteria staff toward students enrolled in free lunch programs or have negative lunch account balance. I was not even aware that this practice exists in America! Reading about the details of how these practices take place and the interviews with children and their parents almost moved me to tears. Participating in the process of pushing through this act makes me feel like I was making a difference using the little power I have right now.

I’m very content about my internship. I think I’m living exactly as I want my 20-year-old self to live.

I don’t really have a picture for this post so here’s a picture that I took at Hirshborn two weekends ago.

 

My first Pride

I went my first Pride last weekend with my friend, Amara, from Dickinson and her high school friend, Bradley.

Coming from Boston, I have always wanted to go to a Pride knowing both social significance and the general fun of the event. I used to think that Pride was simply an event calling for support and awareness for the LGBTQ community. Of course, that was its original intention. Nowadays, Pride has expanded beyond its original agenda and become a celebration of all beauty in life: What we love and who we are.

Dress in whatever clothes that you want, sing whatever tune your heart desires, and cheer for whatever that catches your eye. Be proud of who you are. Show the world your pride.

When I was in elementary school, kids would make fun of my weight and outfits, which over time made me very self-conscious about the way I presented myself to others. I would get so scared to upset anyone or lose any friends that I’d buy gifts to “woo” people. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself or others. I thought I was always wrong because I ate too much or didn’t catch up with the fashion trends.

Looking back, I really just want to give the old, little me a hug and slap her really hard. Come on, Julie. You might be Angelina Jolie, but you’re beautiful. You are smart. And you will never, ever give in to those who have to intimate others in order to feel strong. You are always stronger and bigger than them.

Be proud of who you are.

A week for mistakes, learning, and bonding

I just completed my first full-week on the Hill!

I have learned all the basics of being an intern: Answering the phone, sorting mails, sitting at the front desk, searching for places in the expansive Capitol underground tunnel…. While I do not think that I have mastered everything yet, I think I am on the right track. I have learned to pick up my mistakes as I go.

What really comforts me is that everyone in the office has just been incredibly generous and friendly to me. Some staffers interned on the Hill in their younger days, if not in the same office! They definitely understand most emotions that I’m going through – the never-ending excitement, nerves, frustration – and are always willing to offer advice and help.

Writing decision memos for my Congresswoman (we refer to her as just Niki) and her staffers has just been one of the most direct, enriching learning experiences I’ve had in my life. During my interview for this internship, my intern coordinator told me that I’d actually help researching bills and letters so that the Congresswoman would be informed on the issues. I never expected that I would actually do that as much as I do right now. It has only been my second week, but I’ve already completed two decision memos on two very different topics – one on environmental issues and one on customer protection. In order to inform the staffers and the Congresswoman on the issue, I have to become informed on the issue first. So, essentially, as I write these memos, I try to absorb as much knowledge as I can and then shoot it out in plain words.

Niki has been the best boss that one can hope for. On Wednesday after the shooting in which four people were shot, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalice, Niki bought pizza for the entire office and invited us to eat lunch in her office. She offered any assistance that she could provide for us. The next day, she bought the entire office tickets to see the Congressional baseball game. She even sat with us, not with other members and important people like Ivanka Trump or Wolf Blitzer in the VIP section, and bought us hot dogs!

And the game itself was just a phenomenon experience. To show solidarity after the tragic event that took place the day before, almost 25,000 people attended the event. Continuing the 108 years tradition of overlooking ideology differences and competing political agendas, Democrats and Republicans put on their baseball gears and and come together to play a charity baseball game. With the exceptions of a few people who played in college, none of the players were professionals – some of them even seemed a little too old to swing the bat – but it was still a wonderful gathering. Staffers brought their families, interns brought friends: Everyone sat together eating classic ballpark food, drinking beer (I didn’t have one because I’m not 21), and jabbing about the Presidents’ Race or other silly things in life. (Dems crushed the Republicans, by the way, and won 11-2!!)

Especially after the shooting, the country now calls more urgently for unity. While I cannot say that I agree with the current administration or Republican lawmakers on many issues, I know, for sure, that all of us want to make this country, and this world, a  better place. We differ, greatly, on how to achieve that goal, but ultimately we are all here trying to help those in need and make a difference big or small.

At the end of the day, we are united in our love for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And hotdogs,  sriracha, non-crowded metro trains, free Soul Cycle classes, Congressional briefings on topics one has no idea about but still attends because of free lunch……

Before I started my internship, I found out that a Congressman who had had some very terrible, anti-Muslim posts on his Facebook page works two doors down from my office. I was petrified and even considered taking a different route to the elevators. A week later, I now realize that there is nothing to fear. His fun-loving, smart staffers and interns are just like the fun-loving, smart staffers and interns in my office. We might have different opinions on many, many, many issues and don’t interact much socially, but we are all here for the same reason.

This is by far the best lesson I’ve learned since I arrived in D.C.: Always seek for the common love and emotions that we share.  Don’t look for reasons to dislike anyone and give everything a chance. With an open mind, I soon find that, without knowing who their boss is, I can even still have a very nice conversation with interns from the office of a senator who I detested during the election!

(Me and other interns from my office holding the hotdogs that Niki bought us!)

My First Day On the Hill!!

Woo!! I did it! I came out of my first day on the Hill unscathed.

I am working on the Hill this summer at the Office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, which is located in Longworth House Office Building.

Even though I wasn’t required to go to the office until 10:30am, I still decided to get up at 7:30 am. After a long, awkward, process of struggling with the hand-roll iron, getting my dress shirt wet in midst of figuring out how to  work the device, and blow drying my shirt clumsily while trying to hang it straight on my shower curtain, I left the my apartment at GWU Philip Amsterdam hall at 9:00am. Foggy Bottom Metro station was only one block from my building so I actually got to Longworth at about 9:30am! Fully understanding my lifelong tendency to be late to everything in life, I am fairly proud of myself for finally pushing myself to show up to the first day of my professional career early. Good job!

Longworth House Office Building!

Longworth was located only one block from the metro station, and Congresswoman Tsongas’ office, surprisingly, was straight out of the elevator that I randomly got on. So, I stood in front of the beautiful red-wood door, took a deeeeep breath, straightened my shirt and jacket, and walked in. The intern at the front desk, Owen, immediately stood up, kindly shook my hand, and turned around and almost screamed to the office, “Julie’s here!” I blushed.

My intern coordinator, Kathleen, then sent me out onto my first task – the grand quest of retrieving my congressional ID from the nearby Cannon House Building. I was told that I could use the magical underground tunnels to get there and save myself from some unnecessary sunburn. Before I left the office, Kathleen asked for my number and texted me, “Don’t get lost :)”

Little did she know, ha, I was lost before I even left Longworth: I accidentally got into the tourist lines to the Capitol and even cut in front of a few very confused tourists… I was soon rescued by a kind Capitol security guards. By the time I finally found my way to the right corridor, it was already packed with loud, anxious interns also in line to get their IDs. Starving, I stood in the line for about two hours and got my photo taken. Sidenote: This was legitimately the ugliest ID photo that I had ever taken in my life. 

UGH!

After going to lunch with Ali, a fellow intern from my neighboring town, Sudbury, MA (I am from Acton, MA, which is in Congresswoman Tsongas’ district, MA-3), I began my phone trainings with Kathleen (my primary duties as an intern would be to answer phone calls and sort mails from constituents). At first, I kept messing up when to transfer callers and got extremely self-conscious in the process. However, I soon got the hang of it (Shout out to the Kate Sainer of the Dickinson Fund for her amazing phonathon caller trainings!) and successfully directly my first call, which was a super easy one because it was from our scheduler calling one of our staffers.

The rest of the day was a bit on the slower side, but I used the time to introduce and shake hands with everyone else in the office, who all seemed very friendly, nice, surprisingly young, and good-looking. At 5’o clock,  I went on the Metro again, feeling so completely beat that I missed my stop and accidentally went all the way to Virginia…

At around 6:30pm, with a warm poke bowl in my hand, I finally got back to my apartment. I asked my roommate to take this picture of me in suit. Despite that big smile overflowed with unconcealable happiness, I was, in reality, burning and dying under this wool suit. It was indeed a good first day. I got about five blisters on my feet, but I was so very much satisfied and could not wait to get back to the office tomorrow!

Me in my first suit!