This last semester I spent my time participating in the Washington Academic Internship Program through the John Glenn College. I went and lived in Washington D.C. throughout this semester and had the privilege to intern with Senator Richard Durbin from Illinois. Getting to work within the Capital was an honor and my job was to help the office to run as best as I could. This process of living in D.C. and working around so many of my professional heroes was really transformative. It was because of STEP and it’s funding I was able to afford this great opportunity.
This experience was so important in showing me just what parts of life are the most important to me. While some grew to love living in Washington D.C. or the adventure of a new place, I found myself homesick as I was surrounded with coworkers from my home state. It served as a reminder of my love for my home state and taught me just how important it is for me to go there after graduation. Learning that about myself has already had huge impacts on my career aspirations and the path I should take. This realization of my love of home will be vital in my future developments post-graduation for The Ohio State University.
One of the most significant interactions I had during my time in D.C. was my daily interactions with coworkers. Including both my fellow interns and the staff throughout the office. What these interaction showed me was how much people from my own supported one another. There was a central feeling of belonging I had missed in many of my interactions in Ohio. My interactions with these coworkers showed to me that there were others who cared and would support people from my home state and how important that state was within the nation. To be somewhere that mattered didn’t mean to leave home, but it meant I could do both and that real opportunities existed outside of the coasts of the country.
The students throughout my program from The Ohio State University, WAIPers as we called ourselves, were some of the greatest parts of this program. They were smart and constantly kind to me and one another. They proved to me that it doesn’t require cynical networking and manipulation to get ahead, instead each of them showed how you can get ahead in life by being a good person and showing your coworkers of your potential through hard work. They were kind and worked as a team to help each of us cope with the many changes of moving to a new city and living in a new situation.
Seeing all of my heroes of politics each day in my workplace gave me a new perspective on what it means to work in Washington D.C. Many figures, such as Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have become icons of mine. Seeing these figures so regularly was awe inspiring at first. With time however, I developed a new perspective of working in the same place. I saw how normal of a workplace it really was. Senators made jokes with one another, coworkers had meetings, and people gossiped about local parties and events. What so often seems like a workplace of chaos turned out to be far more normal than I had expected.
These things I learned during my time in Washington D.C. have already had impacts on my career developments and the plans I have made for the future. Knowing just how important home is to me will have lasting impacts on my career and plans post-graduation. Most immediately I have gone out of my way to find internships and jobs within Illinois for my summer plans and to discuss my new developments in interviews regarding those positions. The opportunity given to me by STEP and the Washington Academic Internship Program will remain vital to my development and the lessons learned will impact me for decades to come.