Adjusting to living and interning on Capitol Hill takes time

Adjusting to living and interning on Capitol Hill takes time

Five weeks into my first experience in Washington, D.C., I had a Carrie Bradshaw-like moment. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this really what it’s all about?”

I have been in Washington since Aug. 25. As a small-town Iowa girl and a junior at Simpson, it was time for me to expand my horizons. I’ve been involved in state politics since I was 13, so after seven years in state politics, it was time for me to see what the federal level had to offer.

My decision to move to Washington was brought on by a question from my advisor, Dr. Kedron Bardwell. When working on my schedule, he looked across his desk and frankly asked me, “When are you going to D.C.?”

I thought about it, talked to some Simpson Capitol Hill Internship Program alums and decided Washington might be the right place for me.

Almost 10 months after my conversation with Dr. Bardwell, I am living on Capitol Hill, working in a fantastic office, and wondering if this is really what it’s all about.

My job as an administrative intern on Capitol Hill has been excellent. I work for Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa. I work with Grassley’s two schedulers and special assistant, scheduling constituent visits and giving tours. I make RSVP calls every day for anything from a highway dedication in Sidney, Iowa, to a dinner at the Embassy of the Republic of Congo.

Part of what I enjoy most about my job is getting to meet other Iowans. Undoubtedly, the Iowans who visit are the friendliest people in Washington.

Even though I’m working 40 hours a week, I’ve still found time to explore the city. Washington is the biggest, most exciting place I’ve ever lived and there are lots of things I’ve learned to love about it.

For example, I love that there is always something to do in D.C. Bored? Go to one of the Smithsonian Museums. Out of money? Walk the monuments at night as a cheap date. Hungry? Sample all the ethnicities in Chinatown.

I love working in a place as influential as the United States Senate, but I hate the people who think they are the most important part of Washington. These people are easy to spot, as they’re usually wearing a suit long after they’ve gotten off work and flipping their Blackberry open at a bar.

Washington is a great city to be young, because working on Capitol Hill requires a vitality that comes with being young and idealistic. However, it is also a highly competitive area.

Every person I’ve met on Capitol Hill has a plan for what they’re doing next. It is as if no one really wants to be in Washington. Capitol Hill is a place lots of young people use as a jumping-off point for the rest of their career. “Someplace else” might be further up in their office, in the private sector, or a job in politics in their home state.

It’s also one of the things that makes being an intern difficult. It all comes back to the old adage about being a big fish in a small pond. It’s easy for people to be the best and brightest person at their alma mater, but harder to be the best and brightest intern on Capitol Hill.

As I am struggling to meet people and make friends, it’s taking a long time for Capitol Hill to feel like anything close to something I could call home. I’m still learning to buy my groceries at an open market, walk through security on my way into work and wear heels every day. Although I can’t say Capitol Hill feels like my home yet, it’s getting there, and that’s what it’s really all about.