Tag Archives: internship

Student Voices – How my internship in Washington, D.C. made me realize something: our government is run by people

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the post below, Abby Spiegelman ’18 shares her biggest lesson from interning in Washington, D.C.

– By Abigail Spiegelman

My name is Abby Spiegelman and I’m a senior University Studies major with a concentration in Biomedical Science. Two summers ago, I had the privilege of interning for Congressman Bill Flores (TX-17) in his Washington D.C. office.

Abby Spiegelman ’18 and Congressman Bill Flores ’76 (TX-17)

First and foremost, let me confirm and deny some assumptions you might be having at this moment. You are correct in your assumption that interns are at the bottom of the totem pole. Two of us shared a small desk that placed our backs to the door. After our computers, keyboards, and phones were positioned on this desk there was additional room for one of use to place an elbow on the corner. But we were interns, we shouldn’t have expected anything more- and we didn’t.

Nevertheless, you would be wrong to assume that all we did was fetch coffee and copy papers. There was some of that throughout my summer, but there was so much more.  I answered calls from constituents, helped write responses to constituent questions, gave tours of the U.S. Capitol, and attended Congressional committee hearings. These activities were amazing, and I learned from them all. But I don’t consider any of these impactful enough to dedicate this post to.

There is a general progression that interns tend to follow. On the first day we feel extremely important: after all, we’re interning in our nation’s capital. We select few are helping the cogs turn in our legislative branch. However, our bubble is burst when we quickly come to realize that “we select few” is actually applicable to hundreds of other interns, just as qualified (if not more so) as us. We then settle into a dazed stupor as comprehension dawns: the sheer number of people that work on the Hill is intimidating. How will we ever stand out? How will we make an impression? These questions lead to the acceptance phase. We realize that we probably won’t stand out, that the only way we’ll leave an impression is if we do something seriously wrong (and I’m talking “setting the copy machine on fire” wrong). We didn’t go to D.C. to rub elbows; we came to learn. Once we’ve accepted this we hunker down and get to work. That’s when the internship becomes meaningful.

Over the course of my summer I watched congressional staffers do their jobs and sometimes even helped them. I didn’t so much learn about the legislative process, but about the people behind that process. The staffers had good days, they had bad days, and they had days in-between. They made mistakes and were forgiving when I made more. I’m telling you this because there’s a tendency to glorify—or more accurately, vilify—our nation’s capital, and by extension, the people that work there. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, everyone there is someone just like us. They’re people that do the best they can with what they have and hope that that’s enough. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

When I started my internship, I didn’t realize this. I don’t know why; it should have been common sense, but it wasn’t. Congressman Flores has a remarkable staff (yes, of course I’m biased, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong). Every one of his staffers knew what they were doing and how to do it; the shared experience in the office was impressive. Each day I learned something new that I didn’t know before, be it a technical skill or a life lesson. I don’t have the time to write about everything I learned from each person, and you don’t have the patience to read it. Therefore, I’ll pick the one thing that stuck out to me the most about my internship in D.C.

Working in D.C. is not constant fun. The people there are overworked, overqualified, and underpaid. Like all jobs, it has its ups, but not enough to justify the corresponding downs. The volume of calls that I fielded from angry, unappreciative constituents was impressive and not in a good way. But as I stated earlier, there is a vast number of people that work there. Why? Obviously, you have some people that are using these jobs as a stepping stone for something they deem to be better. But most of the people I interacted with over the course of my summer were there because they felt a duty to help their country. It’s that calling, if you will, that keeps staffers working late nights and early mornings for seemingly little benefit. Our government is dependent on these staffers and the members they work for, and that’s why government will never be perfect. My internship taught me to appreciate the imperfections in our government because achieving perfection would mean the loss of the people that make our government meaningful.

Unfortunately, I can’t write about that one moment that changed it all for me. That single, profound occurrence that set me on my future path. That’s because my internship didn’t come down to moments, it came down to people. There are some incredible people that work in Washington, D.C. and there are some not so incredible people that work there too. But meeting and interacting with them all was truly an experience of a lifetime.

I don’t know if I want to work for Congress once I graduate. I still don’t know what I want to do with my post-college life, and that’s okay. But I do know that if I decide I want to work for Congress that I’ll be working alongside some of the most driven and brightest individuals I’ve ever met. Washington, D.C. isn’t for everyone, and Congress is for even fewer. But those few are why I still believe it’s possible for America’s government to be that “shining city on a hill” and why I’ll always appreciate my internship in Washington, D.C.


Student Voices: Haylee Matecko Internship

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the post below, Haylee Matecko ’18 shares her experience working as an intern this past semester and her thoughts on making mistakes and feeling at home.

– By Haylee Matecko

Be a sponge, be open, communicate, build relationships, have strong technical skills, be aware of everything going on around you. In a nutshell, I’ve described both my first week and the expectations that were set forth for this internship. It’s incredibly important for interns to constantly be learning and growing, while also taking responsibilities and working towards that potential job offer in our midst.

Our first week was pure training, and it was incredibly fun. We were in the Dallas office all week; just the North Texas region for the first couple days and joined by Houston on Wednesday. It felt a bit like summer camp instead of my actual job, and I think that was a result of the hotel and breakfast buffets. I met quite a few amazing people who were all my intern peers, one of whom I’ll be working with. Casey is a super sweet person who is interested in the same things as me, which we quickly discovered as roommates at training. HGTV and healthy foods became something fun that we bonded over.

Just when we made it to our home office in Austin, the interns were tasked with decorating the offices of our manager and partner for their birthdays, and I think we succeeded! Here’s a “candid” shot of us decorating. It’s supposed to go in their newsletter, which is exciting! (Basically, I’m going to be famous.)

Interns decorating for a party.

Throughout the internship, I had tasks similar to this, like ordering lunch for the whole office, or formulating letters to send to clients- these seem minimal, but to me they meant everything. I didn’t want to make a single mistake, because I was afraid of what would follow. In reality, everyone would probably be incredibly gracious about it and help me to the best of their abilities- and they were when I did make mistakes. But in my mind, they would be upset and/or hangry (we all know that could have happened), and always remember me as “the girl that fell through on lunch.” So anyways, I overcame my nerves once I saw the success of my actions, and I have definitely learned to get rid of the nerves at the onset. It’ll be a long time before that happens completely, though- it’s a process.

I also got to experience what it’s like to be working late…! I would say yay, but I wasn’t super excited to check that one off the bucket list. It was a long day – I started a project at the beginning of March, sent it to my manager for review, and hadn’t heard anything since. Then the project came back with an insane amount of comments and corrections – I know, I know. That’s how the review process works! But I had yet to experience this process, so I took every single comment incredibly personally and felt like I was the worst intern ever.

However, the comments weren’t personal. It took me some time to learn that, but when you’re working on a huge project with three years of tax returns and you get a PDF back with that many comments, it hurts. But I worked late and I’m happy to say 1) it was only until 9, and 2) it didn’t happen again. I later had a performance review for this stressful project, and it was surprisingly super positive. I was so happy to hear that I was doing a good job, because after so many corrective comments I felt that I wasn’t doing things very well around here, or that any efforts I had made went unnoticed.

Aside from the work commentary, the environment at my office was something I really appreciated. The people I worked with are hilarious and Austin is so quirky. I loved spending time with the people here, because it’s something so different from anything I’ve experienced in the past three years of college. I like the normalcy I found, with Casey and my Austin roommates and my UT friends and everything. Austin became my home and I had to leave it. This past summer I worked at a bakery in San Antonio, and that summer changed my life in many different ways. I really didn’t want to leave that environment; it was so hard to readjust once I had become part of that. Then in College Station, I finally began to feel a sense of true belonging when all my friends came for my 21st birthday and I was almost in tears because they were singing happy birthday to me and they were all there, surrounding me, smiling at me because they loved me. Wow, that was a big day. Then two weeks later, I shipped myself off to Dallas for training and then Austin for yet another chapter of this crazy life. I cried hugging my sisters at the airport, I started writing to note the stories of what I did at work, and instead it evolved into something so much bigger. I made friends with everyone in a real way, not just in a surface-level sense. I really feel like Austin is home now, but it’s not the only home. It’s one of three that I’ll be shuffling between for the next month and a half while I figure my life out, finish an online class, travel on family vacation, and celebrate important milestones in the lives of people I love.

And if all that doesn’t make you “feelsy,” maybe you just don’t know how attached I get to home. Home to me is the most beautiful sense of the word; home means people I love and it means comfort and happiness and being completely unguarded. Home is a place where I can let my walls down and just be myself and not worry about being judged or criticized. Every home has its quirks, to say the least – sometimes in Austin we don’t do the dishes, in College Station we had a few roach incidents, and in San Antonio one of the rooms in our house is constantly leaking in the corner when it rains a lot. But these things are beautiful in their own ways, and they (along with the people) make each place home. I am so lucky to have three homes, but it’s definitely a challenge. I want each one to be my primary home; I see a life I could and do lead in each place, and I struggle with that. Each city offers its own quirks and its own life pathway that I could head down, but until I get to the point where have to decide exactly which path to continue down, I think I’ll just let the wind blow me where it does.

So, how can I begin with the end? It’s a sad thing to realize, when your journey of sorts comes to a close. But it’s more about seasons of life; new things can’t begin if old things don’t end.

And now that I’ve spat out some life clichés, I’ll wrap up the way my semester in Austin ended. I finished my biggest projects, working on those babies up until the last possible day. I went home for Easter, and was quite literally checking my computer at home. We finished up filing, and while it felt awesome to be finishing up, I also I started to get emotional about the fact that everything was ending. Even though I had only worked at this office for two months, it had become another home (there’s that emotional buzzword again). The free lunches and free coffee were super nice, but I definitely will miss more than that.

On our last week, Monday we left the office early to head to College Station for a recruiting event which was such a blast! We had a cooking lesson, and I hung out with a lovely recruit. We wore cooking hats and made salad dressing, chicken parmesan, and whipped cream for our cheesecake. It was nice to be with work people, but also just to unplug and have a fun night being silly.

The next day we had our intern goodbye happy hour/party, which was great! Our last full day of “work” consisted of little work and mostly being super excited for the adventure that was the Goodnight (aka bowling and such). Everyone pretended it was such a hassle to drive there, or maybe they wouldn’t come, but guess what? Everyone came. And we had so much fun, bowling and eating and enjoying each other’s company for the last few hours we had it. I stayed a little later than the other interns because I just started getting so feelsy about leaving and I really didn’t want to. I ended up still going home earlier than I wish I had, because once I left the karaoke began! But it’s okay, I’ll just have to be sure I stick around for that one next time.

Austin interns at the goodbye party

Wednesday Casey and I stopped at the office to give our computers back, said our official goodbyes, and then headed out to the Domain mall for our last day of adventures! And with that folks, you have it – my Austin experience ending but with promises for much more in the future. (Surprise, that means I got a job offer!)

If I had to pass wisdom on to future interns, or to anyone willing to listen, it would be:

  • Stop worrying so much about your image. Literally just be yourself, and people will love you. Authenticity and kindness go a long way.
  • Do your best, but don’t be so stressed about being perfect that you make yourself physically sick. It’s not worth it because…
  • You will definitely make mistakes. So instead of kicking yourself for making them, just learn from it. Soak up all the criticism you can, and ensure that doesn’t happen next time.
  • If your coworkers invite you to any experience outside of work, go for it! That’s how you’ll get to know people on a personal level.

So, there you have it. Home #3 is slowly going on a hiatus for the next year or so, but I’ll be back. Back for more taxation and more Austin adventures and more friends and more fun.

Congratulations to the Summer Class of Public Policy Interns!

By Hayley Cox

The Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) is an academic service to Texas A&M University students, providing out-of-classroom opportunities and helping students build on and enhance coursework they have undertaken during collegiate education. As Texas A&M recognizes internships as an integral part of an Aggie education, PPIP helps students to find these hands-on internships and move beyond their classroom knowledge.

public policyPPIP was established in 1999 by Texas A&M President Dr. Ray Bowen and since then approximately 500 Aggies have interned in Washington, D.C., Austin, and Paris. More recently, PPIP has expanded to London and other European Union cities such as Nice, Brussels, and Berlin. The internship program is coordinated by the Texas A&M office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies.

Students selected for PPIP’s Washington, D.C. internships (offered throughout the fall, spring, and summer) are chosen for their communication skills, initiative, potential, diligence, and personal integrity. While students must have excellent grades, but they must also be poised to take full advantage of the program. Prospective PPIP Washington, D.C. interns undergo an application and interview process.

Five Texas A&M University Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) students have joined the crop of summer PPIP interns in Washington, D.C.!

Sarah Armstrong – Senior Editor and Layout Designer for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal
Gus Blessing – University Scholar
Sophia Makris – University Honors
Alex Masucci – University Honors
Amanda Streetman – Undergraduate Research Scholar

Sophia Makris - University Honors - PPIP Intern
Sophia Makris – University Honors – PPIP Intern
PPIP intern for Summer 2013 Sophia Makris ‘14 has been selected to intern with the Texas A&M System Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C. Makris wrote a research essay, submitted a cover letter and letters of recommendation, and completed an interview process en route to her selection. She said, “Overall, the application process was a learning opportunity in itself and I greatly enjoyed my experience.”

Makris, a history major, has had the opportunity to attend meetings and learn about the higher education policy process since arriving in D.C. in late May. She said she loves getting to see so much of the work that impacts her university. The current PPIP intern said, “I have a very unique opportunity to experience this city for three months and I am looking forward to everything I will learn from my interactions here… Having the opportunity to live and work in D.C. as a college student is unbeatable! ”

Alex Masucci - University Honors - PPIP Intern
Alex Masucci – University Honors – PPIP Intern
Economics student Alex Masucci ’15 has also been selected as a PPIP Washington, D.C. summer intern. Since he arrived in late May, he has been tracking legislation and attending hearings on human services programs such as Medicaid and Head Start. He said his main duties are to report critical changes on these programs to state and local administrators of human services, relay their feedback to Congressional staff, and write weekly articles on particularly important items.

Masucci expects to gain professional experience from participating in the legislative process during his time as a PPIP intern this summer. He said, “I have never been to D.C., so I’m excited to explore everything that it has to offer over the course of the summer!”

The Honors and Undergraduate Research Department would like to congratulate the 2013 PPIP Washington, D.C. summer interns – Sarah Armstrong, Gus Blessing, Sophia Makris, Alex Masucci, and Amanda Streetman!

Meet the Author, Hayley Cox

Hayley CoxI work as a communications intern for Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR). As an intern I am tasked with finding, writing, and posting news stories about HUR, its students, and its faculty at Texas A&M University.

I was born and raised in the DFW area, living most of my pre-college life in Arlington, Texas. During my senior year of high school, I was at the brink of decision time and conflicted in choosing a university to attend. Hard to believe I was considering rivals such as the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas (I mean TU of course!). But I visited the Texas A&M campus, fell in love, and became the first Aggie of my family.

I came to Aggieland pursuing a degree in communication, but unsure of which path to take as my minor field of study. I considered nutrition, sports management, Spanish, and psychology, but finally found my niche in my first journalism class with department head Dale Rice. Needless to say, my advisor was happy that I finally declared a minor in journalism.

Earlier this year I found out about a great opportunity to work as a communications intern for HUR. I immediately applied when I saw the details listing communication, PR, AND journalism—three components I hope to find in a future career—what could be a better experience!

I began working in mid-April, unsure of what I had gotten myself into. Chrystina Rago, the now-graduated communications intern, showed me the tasks I would have and I thought I would never be able to remember all of them. But I have finally gotten the hang of things and feel like I no longer have to label myself as “in training.”

I am so thankful for the experience I am obtaining as the communications intern for HUR. I have met such accomplished faculty of the department and have gotten the opportunity to write about so many accomplished students and professors at Texas A&M. You cannot imagine the in-depth research that so many of our undergraduate students are a part of!

I plan on graduating in May of 2014 and have many ambitions to pursue. I hope to work either with a company coordinating marathons and other runs for charity or with a music festival such as Austin City Limits, or as a journalist. I have already learned so much from this opportunity with HUR and cannot wait to see what Aggieland has in store for me in my final year of college. Keep reading the HUR blog to find out everything this department has to offer!