Finding Value in Internship Work

Claire Budin interned remotely with Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi in Summer 2021. While she struggled with the internship search process, she was able to develop skills as a self-started and learn about the importance of everyday work in a Congressional office.

Over the summer of 2021, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to intern for the district office of Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois’ 8th district. At first, I was disappointed that, due to COVID and the incredibly high inflow of applications for far less open positions, I didn’t find an internship that was in Washington, D.C. I must have applied to at least 40 Congressional offices and political organizations over the month and a half before this summer semester, and it was getting to a point where I almost gave up hope on finding an internship at all. I couldn’t help but think, why do I keep getting passed up? Do I not have enough experience for someone my age? Am I bombing my interviews and not realizing it? Am I just not good enough? Now I know that these doubts swirling in my head are shared by practically everyone going through the demoralizing grind of internship applications, thanks to the advice and encouragement of the wonderful staff members I work with in Schaumburg. I couldn’t be happier now with the projects I am assigned to for the Congressman, whether it’s filtering question submissions for a virtual town hall, attending a conference and taking notes for the staff, writing outreach letters, or answering constituent calls.

In the early days of my internship, when it was entirely online and the interns and our supervisors would only convene through Zoom twice a week, it was important for me to learn to be a self-starter with my work. Based on my stated interests, I was assigned to a ‘pod’ or group of interns focused on creating an event centered around addressing the nationwide issue of vaccine hesitancy. Since joining the pod, I’ve gotten to have fascinating conversations with local medical professionals as well as community and religious leaders doing the hard work on the ground to encourage vaccinations among skeptical and stigmatized groups in the district. But besides the more substantive work and projects that come in, I have had to face the mundanities that often come with these internships at home and at the office. When that happens, I’ve tried to take the advice of our first readings in class and try to dive into the nuts and bolts of these tasks, what they mean about the district and the office, and why these little tasks are so important overall. For example, when taking constituent calls, I’ve noticed that a disproportionate number are related to immigration and green cards. When digging into the demographics of the 8th district, these calls reflect the diversity and high number of first and second-generation immigrants that reside here. While routine and sometimes frustrating, being able to help in any small way I can with someone’s passport application or their green card is very fulfilling and helps lift my spirits during days when I also have to deal with the occasional unstable caller directing some colorful language my way. Overall, my internship experience at Raja Krishnamoorthi has been fulfilling as well as enlightening for a hopeful student looking to pursue a career in Washington.