My proudest moments in D.C.: Helping, representing and giving voice to the people

Sana Ajeena interned with Congressman Mike Quigley in the spring 2023. She pursues a career in public policy and plans to work in Congress after graduation.

To start off, I cannot thank the Illinois in Washington program enough for this outstanding opportunity. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, helped me grow as a person & a professional, expanded my network, and most importantly, it helped me achieve the best internship I have had.

            Going into the IIW program and moving to Washington D.C was a challenge. However, I felt immense support from my peers, parents, and most importantly, Dr. Andrea Mayer. Dr. Mayer did everything in her power to ensure we were comfortable and successful during our time here. Without her constant support and advice, I am not sure the program would have been the same!

            Obtaining an internship was by no means an easy process. I had to put a significant amount of work into my applications, cover letters, and interviews. Applying as early as possible to internships and tailoring resumes and cover letters in accordance with the internship being applied to is significant. Also, preparation for interviews is crucial. If applying for a congressional office, I had to make sure I knew the policy areas that they focused on and the work they have done with those policy issues. The same process goes for NGOs. Knowing their mission and what they care about the most is important. You want to make sure the interviewer knows that you have done your research and put in time and effort into the interview preparation. That is why I believe I was lucky enough to receive an offer form Congressman Quigley’s office. I was well-prepared and knew everything about his line of work and policy areas.

            Now getting into my internship experience, I interned with Congressman Mike Quigley. This was by far the most valuable experience I have had during my undergraduate career. I learned how to thoroughly research and write policy memos, write constituent letters, and interact with constituents through the phone. The policy memos were immensely rewarding because I truly felt the work that I was putting in was substantive and was making a difference in the community. This was especially true when the congressman would sign on and cosponsor the bills that I wrote memos on. It opened my eyes and made me realize how important the work that we are doing is. One of my proudest moments was when I wrote a memo on a topic that I was very passionate about and the congressman agreed to cosponsor it. In the midst of the Texas judge who tried to ban mifepristone, I wrote a memo to the congressman urging him to cosponsor a bill that does now allow the Texas judge to go through with this ban. Upon his approval, I felt the true importance and impact that this line of work has. I was able to represent the concerns of his constituents and ensure that their voices were heard. Overall, this internship has helped me realize that I want a career in public policy and to come back to the Hill after graduation to pursue a career working in Congress. If you know me, you will know that this is a huge breakthrough for me. I was always thinking I would attend law school, however, the line of work never resonated with me, and I was never 100% sure. After only a couple weeks in this internship, I knew this is exactly what I want to do. Being able to help people, represent them, and give them a voice is powerful.

            Overall, D.C. has been a remarkable experience and I am forever thankful for being able to experience it!