I couldn’t have asked for a more incredible experience interning for MP Irene Mathyssen for the last five weeks on Parliament Hill. Before I arrived in Ottawa, I was skeptical. Truth be told, I was hesitant to apply for the program in the first place. I had always been set on interning in Washington, D.C., and I was quick to write the Canadian government off as second best and nearly irrelevant compared to that of the United States. I am happy to say that I my preconceived notions were proven wrong with every day I spent on the Hill. Not only did I form incredible friendships with my fellow interns, I learned a great deal about the Canadian government, and I am more than grateful for the hands on experience I was afforded. This has been, without a doubt, a transformational experience that has given me the confidence I was severely lacking, and allowed me to realize my capabilities within the field I would like to go into (politics).
In my office, I spent most of my time answering constituency mail. I particularly enjoyed this task because it required that I perform adequate research on the topics each constituent discussed. This allowed me to obtain a firm grasp on the political climate in Canada, which issues were prevalent to voters, and the parties’ positions on those issues. I also spent time updating the database, which was tedious at times, but I was happy to help my office get caught up before the end of the session. I also got to attend committee meetings with Irene and my Legislative Assistant. I enjoyed attending Citizenship and Immigration committee meetings, but given my interest in campaign politics, I adored going to the Ontario Caucus meetings (even though they were bright and early at 8am!). My favorite tasks that I got to complete, however, were the QP statement that I wrote for Irene on Elder Abuse Awareness Day and drafting her weekly newsletter. Coming into this program, I was not expecting to get to be so hands-on. I am grateful that the office trusted me enough to contribute to projects and tasks that mattered.
This is where, I feel, my internal transformation took place. When you intern in a political office, the assumption is that you will be filing paperwork and making copies. While I spent some time doing typical intern tasks, I was expected and trusted to contribute much more than I was expecting. Quite honestly, I didn’t feel I was capable of taking on meaningful work at the beginning of the internship. I stuck to my main daily tasks, and avoided speaking up to ask to contribute to the speech writing, campaign strategizing, etc. The responsibility and encouragement that I was given by the staff in our office, however, slowly changed my perception of my own talent. I used to doubt my ability to perform in this arena. I seldom voiced my opinions (in classes, in my role in student government, etc.), because I always felt inadequate compared to others in the room. While I have maintained my humble nature and feel as though it is a valuable trait, this internship gave me confidence—confidence to believe that I am intelligent when it comes to politics and capable of making a positive contribution to the field.
Had I not interned in the office of MP Irene Mathyssen this last summer, I would not have undergone a transformative experience that has forever shaped me, and will no doubt have a positive influence on my ability to secure future internships, and most importantly, a job once I graduate from Ohio State. The skills I developed through this experience have been, to put it shortly, priceless.
I could write pages and pages about everything I learned and how much I will miss working for my MP. This program gave me the opportunity to gain genuine experience in working in a political office, and I am sad my times of attending QP, talking political strategy with Tom Mulcair’s staffers at Brixtons, and attending countless receptions with my fellow interns are coming to an end. This experience has been nothing short of unforgettable, and I am so grateful that the STEP program provided me with this opportunity.