This morning, my mom and I took turns at the wheel as we made the 7 hour drive from my hometown in Rochester, NY to our nation’s capital.

This afternoon l began to familiarize myself with my new home for the summer. From grocery shopping to getting to know my roommates, I can already tell it’s going to be a great summer.  Tomorrow I will try to blend in with the locals as I walk myself to the office where I will spend the next 8 weeks interning at the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

I first came across the NICD while searching for summer employment in the D.C. area. By a quick scan of their website, I learned that the NICD is a nonpartisan organization devoted to reviving civility in political conversations both inside and outside government. The institute’s founding was inspired by the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. I was amazed and impressed by the work the NICD does, and knew I had to get involved, as I had a personal connection to their mission.

I grew up in a conservative family, however I never took much interest in the discussion of politics. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school, when I took American Government, that I became intrigued with civics. As I read more about current events, I began to form my own opinions, which I quickly realized clashed with my upbringing.

When I voiced my views to my mother, and she responded with contrary viewpoints, we both found it hard to reconcile our differences. After a few heated and emotional arguments, we agreed it was okay for us to have different views. I realized that everyone comes from a variety of circumstances and backgrounds, which can lead them to have varying political leanings. I realized that just because my mother’s views clash with mine does not mean she is ignorant or “a deplorable.” My mother is an intelligent woman whose opinions are perfectly valid.

From my experience with my mother, I began to understand the importance of civility in the exchange of ideas. By judging others based on their political party, we fail to see opportunity for compromise and common ground. Stereotypes and snap judgments only push us further apart at a time when unity is vital for healing deep ideological divides in our country.

The NICD’s website made no mention of any job or internship opportunities, so I emailed them directly, expressing my personal experience with creating civil disoucrse, and my desire to get involved. A representative from their DC office responded to my email promptly, requesting a phone interview the next morning. After telling him my story, he offered me a position as a summer intern, which I gladly accepted.

I was also fortunate to receive a grant from Dickinson College that made it possible for me to procure summer housing at George Washington University, only a 20 minute walk to my internship site!

This summer I will explore my new city, expand my network, and learn as much as I can about politics and our government.