Thursday, April 25, 2013

A semester in Washington, D.C.

By Kelsey Hulbert
Cardinal Staff

Being that I am on the final stretch of the semester in Washington D.C., I’ve discovered that the life of a The Washington Center intern entails a lot of “self-reflecting.” Yes, roll your eyes all you want, but it really does help you figure out what it is that you’re actually learning here in D.C. While doing my midterm reflection I had a breakthrough. I’ve realized that I really don’t like working in non-profit sectors such as the Peace Corps as much as I thought I would.

While I’m proud to say that my internship has taught me the proper etiquette for a Twitter hashtag and I can now write a press release like a pro, I’ve had a much bigger lesson learned in figuring out what I want to do as a career. For example, I have learned that I do not like sitting in front of a computer all day. I do, however, enjoy interacting with people and corresponding with the returned Peace Corps volunteers. I’ve learned this through shadowing different offices and stepping out of the comfort of my “intern cave,” exploring all that happens within the headquarters building.

Being that I am the only intern on the 8th floor of the Peace Corps building, my supervisor hears this a lot: “Sooo...I hear you have an intern? Mind if I borrow her?” While most of the tasks that I’ve done for different offices have been menial things such as filing or data-basing, being able to bounce around in different offices and talk to different people has made my experience as an intern well-rounded.

My favorite experience so far has been helping the Office of Congressional Relations to draft a letter to Joe Kennedy III. The Peace Corps is coordinating with Kennedy to pass a bill that commemorates returned Peace Corps volunteers. Joe Kennedy III is a representative for Massachusetts and JFK’s great-nephew. After the letter was finished, the director of Congressional Relations came to me handed me twenty dollars and said: “Use the money to take a cab to the Capitol. Find the Longworth building and deliver the letter to Joseph P. Kennedy III by 3:00.”


Growing up in suburban Minnesota I have never had to use public transportation before – much less had to catch a cab by myself – so my first experience was an interesting one. As it turns out, however, the big city is fairly easy to navigate. And D.C., while intimidating at times, does have a small-town feel in that it’s easy to strike up conversations with people. I had a pleasant conversation with the cab driver; he was a former surgeon in the Ukraine who moved to America in order to give his kids more opportunities and had to resort to cab driving because his doctor’s license was invalid in America.

Finding Joe Kennedy III’s office also went smoothly. I had envisioned him to be stuffy, workaholic politician with no time to talk with anyone. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Joe Kennedy III is a thirty-something year old redhead with a boyish grin and a very pleasant demeanor. He stopped what he was doing to come out and talk about the good-old-days of being a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.

While my mom seemed to think I had a much more glamorous experience than it actually was (“Kelsey, you met a celebrity!” “No, mom. JFK’s great-nephew isn’t actually a celebrity.”), it was still a neat experience. It was great to see the letter that I drafted go full circle and (good news!), the bill was passed. I’ve learned that I may have an interest in doing something completely unrelated to working for a non-profit. Three months ago, I would have told you that I’d probably rather have my teeth drilled than to be involved with politics as a career. Now, I’m not so sure.

So, I guess this was a very long way around saying the next time you’re given the opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new, take it. Because it may just end up doing something that you never thought in a million years would interest you.

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