Eighteen days before the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, I entered the Longworth House Office Building, just yards from the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., to begin an internship in the office of a certain Congressman from Wisconsin: Speaker Paul D. Ryan. Now, I was not entirely unfamiliar with Capitol Hill, having interned in the office of Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina, where I caught “Potomac Fever” and fell in love with the exciting and fast-paced environment.
I was an intern in Speaker Ryan’s congressional office, serving his constituents from the first district of Wisconsin. This enormous privilege and honor allowed me experiences that have shaped the way I view politics and, in a larger sense, the world as well. From the inauguration to the debate and subsequent vote on the health care bill, to President Trump’s address to Congress, my five-month tenure on Capitol Hill was quite eventful.
The responsibilities of a Congressional intern are essential to the offices in which they work. While the specific tasks vary from day to day and office to office, most interns that I met reported similar duties, which included but were not limited to: giving tours of the Capitol Building to visiting constituents, processing flag requests for constituents, and communicating with constituents via telephone. Did you know that your representative can request a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in your honor and shipped directly to you?
The responsibilities, and I can hardly call them that given how much I enjoyed them, that I remember most fondly were the tours that I gave to constituents visiting Washington. From families to school groups, I had the chance to meet people from all over our country and share with them the epicenter of the nation. I’d walk them through the underground tunnels that connect the Capitol, the House, and the Senate Buildings, showing them what felt like a separate city. Without leaving the labyrinth of tunnels, one could eat lunch, purchase a coffee, pick up dry cleaning, swing by the library, visit the nurse, and mail a package. Getting lost is part of how interns earn their stripes.
Other than politics, I have always had an interest in banking and finance. In an effort to merge politics and finance, I left Washington at the end of my internship in May and instead of heading south back to Raleigh, I took the Amtrak north to New York City to intern with the regulatory affairs group at J.P. Morgan Chase.
J.P. Morgan Chase is one of the largest financial institutions in the world and has a presence in various countries around the globe. Given that the financial industry is heavily regulated, the firm must maintain a constant dialogue with regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which it does through the regulatory affairs team. The team is spread around the globe in order to be able to interact with foreign governments.
The new position brought with it a learning curve. I spent time learning the stances of the firm on various regulatory topics, such as the Volcker Rule and cybersecurity. As was the case on the Hill, projects that I worked on at J.P. Morgan Chase came up quickly and had short deadlines. I found it very exciting and interesting to work on the other side. So far, my view point for regulation had been “inside” so to speak, but now I had the opportunity to watch, as well as react to, decision-making from the outside. While not as fast-paced, I thoroughly enjoyed having a small part in an industry leader’s reaction to various regulatory changes.
To political science majors and non-political science majors alike, I have a word of advice. If you are even slightly interested in working on the Hill, seriously consider it. Reach out to the offices of your federal, state, and local representatives and inquire about their internships. I developed as a professional, as a student, as a citizen, and as a person from my time in Washington, and wholeheartedly believe that my experience will serve to aid in my professional goals.