For my Beyond the Classroom experience, I had the opportunity to intern in Washington, D.C. in the Office of Senator Jon Tester. I started my internship with very brief knowledge about the legislative process and the operations of a legislative office. However, within a couple of weeks of intensive training, I have come to learn the vast amount of accountability that a legislative office owes its constituents.
One of the most exciting aspects of my internship was having the opportunity to conduct legislative research. On my first day, I got assigned to work with a legislative assistant who specializes in foreign affairs issues. For that reason, I’ve attended several Foreign Relations Committee hearings and completed some research on issues like the Russia investigation and U.S. tariffs. Specifically, I wrote a number of briefing memos about the updates on Special Counsel Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation, the dangerous effects of President Trump’s tariffs on Montana farmers, and President Trump’s recent Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I am glad that I had the opportunity to study and research issues that are currently causing extreme conflict in the global arena, as this relates to my Global Challenge. My Global Challenge focuses on reaching global cooperation, despite the fact that many nations experience intense political and cultural differences. Overall, this internship has provided me insight on how the U.S. approaches global issues through the legislative process.
Additionally, a large portion of my internship consisted of constituent work like logging correspondence, giving visitors tours of the Capitol building, and answering hundreds of phone calls. Constituent calls were difficult to handle at times due to several controversial issues and bills at the time. The most difficult part of my internship was probably dealing with angry callers who simply did not want to hear the Senator’s point of view at all. However, it was my job to assure constituents that their voices mattered and that I would definitely be relaying their messages to the Senator.
Through the process of logging constituent calls and letters, I also learned about the diverse perspectives of Montanans. Although the current population of Montana is just over one million, the political positions and perspectives of people in the state varies on such a grand scale. Because Montanans have such differing stances on political issues, I began to understand the benefits of being a “moderate” within politics like Senator Tester. Although the Senator does not always vote in a way that will appease all of his constituents, he values the voices of Montanans and tries his best to reflect those voices in Congress. Also, through learning more about the Senator’s tenure in Congress, I soon realized that he is willing to work across the aisle in a bipartisan way despite the current polarization in the U.S. political sphere. As my internship progressed, I started to appreciate the Senator’s ability to put aside partisanship in order to enact legislation and effectively do his job.
On a broader scale, I feel as though my internship experience also contributed to the working of our democracy. One of the key components of a democracy is the guarantee that the voice and will of the people with be reflected in government. As an intern, I was the intermediary between the constituents and the Senator. For this reason, logging constituent calls was fundamental to ensuring that Montana voices are heard by the Senator and reflected in his decisions within Congress. Overall, I’ve learned so much about the legislative process during this experience and I am hopeful that it will help me become a more effective advocate in the American political system.