A Tale of Summer Dreams and Quests

My Hillternship Featuring Occasional Fun Stuff

Month: August 2017


It’s almost 2am in China. My flight to Boston leaves at 10am. The day after I arrive, which will be Saturday, Aug 26, I’m going to run some small errands for my mom, grab lunch with my high school best friends, and go to a Red Sox game. The next day my parents and I will finally drive down to Pennsylvania.

This summer has been… long. In the best way possible. I’ve travelled the most mileage, met the highest number of strangers, and lived independently for the longest time since birth (College, especially Dickinson, is such as a bubble that it shouldn’t count as an independent-living environment!).

It starting off as me spending about an entire week catching up on sleep and moisturizing my dry lips resulted from drinking approximately three straight Americano each day during finals. Then I entered the antsy phase when I refused to get up until my parents came flipping my cover and demanding me to walk our dog; amidst the pointless sleeping, I found time for some fun reuniting with friends, as well as some family gathering events that I went under near-coercion.

On June 4th, I got on an Amtrak Northeast Regional train and went to D.C. on my own with two suitcases that were like 100 lbs each and a huge carry-on. I insisted on travelling to D.C. by myself, despite my mother’s relentless request to come along. I considered the train ride as the symbolic first step as I stepped away from my sheltered childhood/teen life and into independent adulthood.

I started my internship in the office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas on June 5th along with four other interns. I was the youngest there: Among us, there were a rising sophomore (me), rising junior, rising senior, and graduated seniors. I wrote extensively on this blog about my love and admiration for my office and, in particular, my boss, Niki. My friends in D.C. made fun of my constant fangirl mentionings of Niki, but I really did see a role model in the Congresswoman and feel fortunate to have her as my first official boss. With absolutely no signs of it during my time in the office, I was shocked to see Niki’s announcement of retirement three days after I left.

When Niki took us to lunch at the Members’ Dining Room, the only male intern this summer, Owen, who would start law school at University of Pennsylvania this all, told us that he wrote on his law school application for the question, “What’s your career plan “, he said that he hoped to represent the Third District.

Niki simpered, “But not too soon!”

Unless Owen could run for office as a third year law school student, I guess I would see more of a stranger to Niki’s post. I only hope that whoever MA Third District would elect in 2018 would carry on Niki’s work and commitment to fight for all. Working for her this summer showed me how to stick to one’s belief when nothing seemed to be on one’s side.

This summer, having lived in D.C. for nine weeks and then travelled home to China for another three weeks, I learned tremendously about myself, where I’d want to be and go, and how to get there. I realized that I thrived in cities because they were full of life and people. I realized that I was young, starry-eyed, and restless. I realized that there was a whole, unexplored world out there. I realized that I loved, loved, LOVED that world. I realized that I wanted to be in that world as soon as possible.

And I realized that Dickinson might not be that world for me.

I found a lot of beauties in the town of Carlisle, but I thought I found peace when I was in D.C. and in Shenzhen, China, a city with 12 million people and thousands of newly constructed skyscrapers. Yes, there probably isn’t real “peace” in such populated cities with so many cars, buses, and horrible weather. But I loved hearing my heart pumping when I breathed in the not-so-clean city air, when I stared into the endless city lights, when I stood in the middle of a sweat-ful metro car, when I walked among strangers on the streets knowing everyone was heading to somewhere to do something to fight for their livelihoods.

Plenty of people who abhor cities. I don’t. Perhaps it was just the connection-aspect, or the fun-aspect, or museums, or even just food and shops, I find cities magically attractive and alive. Cities give me life.

I have spent a substantial amount of time in D.C. and then in Shenzhen contemplating my future and how my college experience would shape my future. In the upcoming semester, I would devote more time to asking myself questions and searching for answers. I planned on going to Bologna in the Spring, which would be a perfect way to attain a more global perspective for an IS major. If the answers that I would find match the ones I found this summer, I shall start exploring options to continue my college career in a much more metropolitan environment.

Nothing is set in stone, but I know there is a heart pumping timidly but increasingly loudly. It is dying for something new, thrilling, and challenging. There is a whole new world. I think I saw a glimpse of it this summer.


An annoying liberal who drove to New Hampshire in the cruel New England weather to canvass for Hillary Clinton and interned for a very liberal congresswoman on the Capitol Hill. Grew up in a young, thriving industrial city on the southern coast of China in a pretty patriotic family under the notion that one day I should return to Motherland and devote myself to the rise of Chinese influence in the world.

I have always asked to take a side. There has always seemed to be only one side (Mhm, President Trump). Ever since my first day of school in the United States, people always ask me, “Do you like China or America better?” As time goes on, the question has become a cruel one: How can one choose between one’s homes? I’ve come to identify with many American values and New England characters, but I’ve always called Shenzhen, China home. Almost all of my friends are in the U.S., a  reality proven harshly as I constantly find myself incredibly bored currently in my home in China; I use a VPN, which stands for virtual private network, so that I can escape the Internet firewall built by the Chinese government and use all social sites and apps to stay in touch with my friends. I also find an incredible, irreplaceable sense of peace as I walk around my home city and find people here more happy than they were before I moved across the ocean; Chinese government has been cracking down corruption in the government and many state-owned industries, and private citizens have profited greatly from that effort.

Yet, my uber-nationalist father never seems to get tried giving the lofty speech of why one should always choose a side when it comes to “home”. People in the United States always assume that I am completely new to America when they first meet me. My teachers professors look to me when they refer to some weird Asian traditions in class that they think no one else in the room understand and hope someone with an Asian face, aka me, can testify. If I had any annoyance years ago, I don’t now. There will always be something inherently unique about me whether I am in the U.S. or China. I will always be Chinese to Americans, and a stranger westernized Chinese to Chinese. I get to choose how I want to present myself, but I can’t choose how others see me.

More so, as a foreign International Studies student interested in development economics, I understand that I will most likely find a more interesting future in China: The Chinese government is bringing its green energy and infrastructure development game up to full speed, while the U.S. government, headed by the Trump administration align with the anti-globalist trend popular in the Western hemisphere, is cutting everything down – EPA, Paris Accord, USAID… My summer on the Hill has only confirmed my many fears about the Trump administration. I wrote previously in my blog that the fight to resist the current administration’s stupidity must go on, but perhaps my fight is on the other side of the Pacific. Many economists and scientists argue that China will catch up with and perhaps even surpass the U.S. in many areas before the U.S. recovers the damages being done currently.

I am not hawkish, nor democracy-rejecting. I have just slowly come to realize that everything good and meaningful that I imagine myself doing in my American future, I can do in China. I want to bring the world closer together so that people can understand each other better and listen to what each other has to say, so that people could spend their energy, time, and money on education instead of wars, so that there could be more homes instead of refugee camps, so that trade can proper in more places…

I believe that as a Chinese citizen who has lived and received education in both China and the United States, the two greatest global powers of the 21st Century, I, along with so many others who share similar experience as mine, have a role to play in this part of history. There are so many things that we can and need to accomplish: How can we see to the spoil of globalization reach all places, whether it is Coastal China, central Pennsylvania, London, or Bangladesh? How can we educate more girls? How can we make sure that everyone understand the danger of global climate change, and how can we unite our international community to fight global warming?

I just need to choose a side of the Pacific to live on, but I don’t need to choose a side to fight for. I’ve definitely seen too many episodes of Game of Thrones, but in the great wars to come, as residents of the Earth, we are all on one side.

A required college reading that I actually read most parts of

Does our work matter?

I’m sorry that I slacked off quite a bit toward the end of my internship and didn’t update my blog as frequently. But I still have three more blog posts left to do, and I have a lot of to reflect on my internship.

Currently in my home in Shenzhen, China, I woke up to the CNN alert informing me of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA that already led to three deaths and many injuries.

My back hardened and face numb. Baffled. Enraged. Terrified. It’s ok. I’m thousands of miles away. Wait, I go to school in Pennsylvania – that’s so close. If I was still in D.C., I’d only be an hour away…

I remembered November 9th, 2016. I went to sleep hoping that by the time I woke up everything would be back to normal and that all that hectic would be just a dream. And I woke up to a CNN alert just as mortifying. In the months followed, I told myself that I’d become more active in politics and make myself in this great battle of resistance and resilience. I applied for an internship in the office of a congress member whose ideals aligned with mine and spent nine weeks in the office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, whose humility and sophistication would make her one of my greatest role models in life.

During my internship, I talked to many constituents on the phone on daily basis. One constituent called every other day calling the entire MA delegation to resign because they allowed China to gain huge advantage in the world and America succumbed to un-greatness, because Democrats resisted many of Trump’s new policies and persisted with their “stupid war” against President Trump, who would “go down in history as the greatest president.” I spoke to someone who called every single Democrat member’s office to yell at Democrats for “allowing gays to spread their agenda”. I spoke to an angry man from Alaska who called Niki shameful for her trying to stop building roads and pipelines in a federal wildlife refuge in Alaska out of her concerns for damages on the environment. I spoke to a constituent who claimed that she would never want to deal with a Chinese national ever again because all Chinese people eat dogs; she then thanked me on the phone for my time and patience, and I forgot to tell her that she was talking to a Chinese person who never ate dog.

I expected that there would be plenty of people whose opinions were different from mine in my district. My intern coordinator prepared me somewhat for calls from “difficult callers”, but still I was entirely unprepared for the sheer ignorance, hate, and anger that I consistently felt through the wire. My hometown, Acton, was overwhelming Democratic. Niki held an overwhelming liberal voting record. The school district that I attended had a strict education curriculum on teaching inclusiveness, climate change, and cultural diversity. There were numerous times when I hoped that I could just smash the phone as hard as I could and hang up, but I could not because I was a member of Niki’s staff and everything I did represented the office. I was only there to listen, unbiasedly and politely.

One could come to many realizations and conclusions when connecting the election, the current holder of the White House, the other ends of those phone calls, and the event in Charlottesville. But the realization that shocked me this morning was the question whether the work I, or the other staffers in my office, or all those who believed in resisting any less-than-good policies imposed by the new administration, or the participants of the Women’s March and March for Science, did mattered. It seemed that the new, dark, hatred-fueled era that Donald Trump had promised on the campaign trail had finally arrived. It seemed that we were all just helpless little ants with good ideals. It seemed like the people who thought they were oppressed by the camp of political correctness could now finally broadcast their vile beliefs openly and proudly.

I was scared on the night of the election night. I was scared after seeing the news this morning. It was just too unfair and unfortunate because I thought we were putting up a good fight. Just as I prepared the most depressed voice ever so that I could inform my parents the news, I saw on my screen a video from the rally: On the other side of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, there were many protesters holding banners that were similar to those during the Women’s March. They screamed to their microphones that immigrants were welcome and there were still love in Charlottesville.

My eyes moisturized.

I started to remember some of the other phone calls that I answered this summer. I spoke to a concerned mother who feared the new administration’s decision to cut down funding for scientific research on climate change would take away opportunities from the future of her children. After President’s tweet declaring a ban on transgender service members, I spoke to the wife of an active service member who almost cried on the phone while telling me about their transgender friends in the military and her fear for their place in the military, in society, in America. After Trump and two GOP senators announced their new immigration plan, I spoke to a humorous grandma who told me that we should make English our national language because then we could deport Trump.

Almost all of those callers asked me if Niki was already doing something to change this situation. As a procedural response to be unbiased, I almost always had to tell them, “At this time, I don’t have too much information on that.” Then, I would always add, “What you’re doing right now is exactly what you should be doing. Keep calling us. Call Sen. Warren too. There are many constituents in our district who share the same opinion as yours, and we truly welcome your calls. This is the only way that we know where our constituents stand on issues.”

In mid-July, Niki introduced an amendment that advised the House Natural Resource Committee to seriously consider environmental impacts if the government were to potentially allow pipelines to be built in Alaskan federal wildlife refuge. It was already an amendment that enraged many environmentalists because of its week wording. Almost everyone in the office had hoped for stronger language, yet the realist sides of us understood that only an advisory type of amendments would have a slight chance of passage. When we watched the floor live on C-SPAN to see amendment failed to pass, the staffers gave a collective sarcastic sigh, “Oh, darn it”, turned around, and reminded each other, and possibly themselves, that they knew this would be the result despite the fact that we had already given in grounds and tried to make it a little bit more acceptable to other side of the aisle. I turned to our scheduler, Bob, and asked, “Why would Niki introduce it if we knew that it won’t pass?” Bob laughed and said, “You’ve been here for like six weeks – If you’re still asking this question, you’re so fired.”

People needed to know that in Washington, there were still people who cared about small things like birds and fish, who would try knowing that they probably would fail, who would not stop trying.

During this summer, I wrote decision memos for the office on some bill and letters that would make it more difficult for companies to discriminate against women in terms of salary, that would defer student loan payments for young adults with cancer, that would make higher education more accessible to students with disability, that would direct funding to researching recycling used motor oil… In times of an extremely polarized and slow congress under a president that encouraged, in various forms, discrimination and failed to act presidentially and forcefully condemn evil, people were still trying to make things better.

Suddenly, it started to look like whenever darkness seemed to have arisen, there was always brightness countering.

We had to fight. Like Sen. Warren said, this is our fight. Volunteer, do an unpaid internship in the office of someone whom you believe would make a difference, march, give each other a hug, and live our lives as peacefully, lovingly, and happily as we could.

Our work and voice matter. Do not lose heart.

Me and other female interns in my office – Niki said women couldn’t win if women didn’t run. Even though I don’t know if I will run for office, our presence physically represent a crack in the Hill’s white male dominated scenery.