This summer I was lucky enough to participate in the Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP) through the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. I interned for The Ohio State University Federal Relations Office, under the direction of the head lobbyists for the University. I was given the opportunity to help prepare notes and summaries of relevant congressional events, compile crucial contact lists and daily notes, and even attend meetings with congressional staff.
WAIP was particularly beneficial for my growth individually as well as my understanding of how our government functions. First, I was able to take significant strides in developing the skills and mentality it takes to succeed professionally. I must admit that, while I always considered myself a good student I would also tend to procrastinate and stay up until very unhealthy hours. As I was always able to complete my work and maintain a high level of success this was not an issue. Participating in this internship program however let me to completely rethink this idea. Staying up past 1 am when you had to go work a 9-5 job takes a toll on your mental state. Moreover, since there is a 20 page policy paper academic component, procrastination is not a real option. I had to redefine how I completed much of my work and make sure that everything was done on time and that therefore I could more easily enjoy my days.
In addition, I gained a greater understanding of just how the government works and why it seems to be so frustrating. I must admit, I was someone who would readily criticize the government and its congressional officials for how little work they do, often complaining that this Washington elites did not truly care about me. I cannot stress enough just how wrong I was, especially about the representatives we have here in Ohio. Actually, having the opportunity to listen to projects that many congressional officials were working on that the media often didn’t have time to cover gave me a far greater understanding of just how hard so many people are working every day to try and make a difference. This isn’t to say the problems I mentioned earlier don’t exist, but it is hard not recognize the work that goes in when you see very intelligent Alumnae and peers working long hours for people they believe in.
I could write entire essays on the events that helped to shape this growth, but for the purposes of this blog I will focus on the policy salons and study tours we participated in, the balancing of personal wellness, work, and class, and interactions with the Federal Relations Staff, Stan, Bill, and Jessica. The policy salons and study tours we participated in were essentially opportunities we were given to work with former Ohio State Alums and see various areas of DC. We had former Buckeyes discuss topics ranging from public speaking to the purposes of the Department of State, and were able to meet incredible people such as Holocaust Survivor Bob Behr and Secretary of Defense John Mattis. These kinds of meetings really helped with the enhanced understanding of just how hard so many smart and incredible people work to give us the governance we have. Meeting public officials and seeing how genuinely interested they are in teaching young students was pleasantly surprising. In addition, everyone was extremely passionate about their field, whether that was working in the Archives, Department of Transportation, or Diplomatic Security office. Seeing the kind of passion so many people, many of them program mentors, was encouraging and helped me realize the importance of finding something I care deeply about.
In addition, I sharpened my skills regarding ensuring work is completed efficiently and in a timely manner. WAIP was certainly not easy, and one of the hardest aspects was balancing my internship with class and my policy analysis essay. I had to really make sure I utilized my free time when I had it, as the free time in DC was significantly less than my free time in Columbus. I wasn’t quite used to that, but was able to adapt fairly quickly. In many ways this has already carried over to this semester, I’ve noticed a willingness to start my days earlier and stay ahead of my assignments.
I would also be remised if I did not discuss the importance that those who worked in the Federal Relations Office played in my growth. My boss Stan helped teach me how he manages to be successful and it was incredible help him prepare and watch him interact in meetings. My other boss Bill was always willing to explain what was going on and walk me through situations that I maybe found difficult. Jessica taught me the importance of maintaining an organized structure and knowing my schedule. Together, I found myself slowly but surely learning how to interact successfully in the real world. In many ways, this was my first “real” job, at least in the traditional sense, and reflecting back its incredible just how much I didn’t know. Overall the combination of these experiences has helped me grow in ways I never expected.
Finally, I’d like to take a minute and explain just why this development has been so important for me. I have been very cognizant of the fact that I will need to apply and get a job very soon, college won’t last forever. Without this experience, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be nearly as prepared to have success. I now know what to expect and I have the confidence that I will be able to handle the rigors of the workforce. Personally, I have found my habits to be changing. I’ve taken more initiative to get my work done first, placed a greater emphasis on making sure I get my sleep, and have started my days earlier. It’s strange but also exciting, and in so many ways its thanks to the combination of WAIP and STEP.
By. Brandon Hofacker