Persevering Through the Application Process

Marlene Santos interned with Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García in Fall 2021. Rep. García is Marlene’s hometown representative. After her semester in the capital, she hopes to return to Capitol Hill after graduation.

As I wrap up my time in Washington D.C I reflect on how my experience would have been different if I had enrolled in the Illinois in Washington Program (IIW) during 2020. I say this because during freshman year I started to plan my courses to fulfill requirements for my political science major. One day in one of my classes we had few students speak about their experience in the program.  I was convinced it would be a great opportunity to gain credits for my major and job experience to my resume. After talking to my advisor, we decided I would apply for the program in Spring 2020. However, we all know in March 2020 our lives faced the unprecedented due to the pandemic. That is when I decided to hold on submitting my application for the IIW program. During Spring 2021 semester I decided to apply for the IIIW program for Fall 2021 semester. Since there was a possibility to having class in person and interning in person. Late May 2021 I was notified my acceptance to the program which meant I had to start applying for internships.

Applying for internships was one of the most difficult part of this process. During the summer I spend most of my time editing my resume, drafting cover letters, and submitting internship applications. It was getting close to August, and I wasn’t receiving any updates on my applications. I ended up taking a large risk by deciding to move to D.C while still seeking an internship. Early September I was offered an internship for the office of Representative Jesús “Chuy” García. When I received the email, I was in total shock and very excited about the news, Congressman García serves the Illinois 4th Congressional District. The district I live in and as a native Chicagoan it is a pleasure to be working for a member who is from my hometown and holds similar political views. One major tip I can give from experience in applying for internship is that it can feel very difficult and there will be times in which you want to give up. Take time to relieve your frustration and continue seeking opportunities. When you least expect it, you will receive an update on your application status or interview.

My official tittle is Legislative Intern for the Office of Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. I started my position in the middle of September. On my first day I was escorted to the office building to pick up my Congressional badge. After, I was able to get view the office and meet the staff from the D.C office. First weeks were a major transition as I tried to become familiar with my tasks at my job and managing being a full-time student and intern. However, it is always important to remind yourself to try to make the most of the experience especially because I was fortunate enough to have my internship and classes in person. Some of my tasks included attending Congressional hearings, shop office supplies, draft memos, draft constituent letters and answer constituent calls. Some of my favorite parts of the day were when I was able to join Congressman in meeting with constituents or advocacy groups. Also, I was given the opportunity to attend press briefings in which Congressman spoke. During these occasions I was able to see other members of Congress speak such as Sen. Schumer, Rep. Tlaib, Rep. Velázquez, and Rep. Soto. Another two major memorable experiences are attending the Women’s March regarding abortions and being in at the Hill while the House passed the Build Back Better Act. My internship will be an unforgettable experience. I have been able to see public policy in action and connect with many people. One of my major hopes is to return to Capitol Hill after graduation.