This summer, I was an intern in U.S. House of Representative’s Mike Kelly’s office in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kelly serves the third district of Pennsylvania, which covers north of Pittsburgh to Erie and the Ohio Border. As an intern, I was responsible for carrying out day-to-day office responsibilities such as answering phones and handling constituent comments, recording these comments and passing them along to the appropriate person, and making sure that each comment received a response. I also was responsible for sorting through internal and external mail and formulating press packets for any special occasions. Another part of the intern responsibility was giving tours of the Capitol to constituents that visited and making sure their visit was special. My favorite intern responsibility was writing form letters, which are the letters that Representative Kelly’s office sends to constituents when they leave a comment. I was able to learn about a lot of legislation and issues I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.
Before this summer, I had no idea what I wanted to do post graduation. I thought I would want to go into nonprofit communications work or something related to governmental affairs; however, being in Washington at such an interesting time made me realize that this is the place I’m meant to be. I loved doing work with the legislative correspondent and seeing how much the staff cared about the district and the citizens they represent. I felt like when I talked to constituents on the phone or when I would greet them for meetings that I was relaying the message to them that the office cared about them and their thoughts.
One of the most important classroom lessons that transpired to my internship was first impressions and trust. Likely when people are calling the office, they’re unhappy or confused and need help with something. It’s important to give off a degree of trustworthiness to the constituents who call. I learned in my community, environment, and development classes that when talking to community members, you should be vulnerable and trust them for their views are often different than an outsiders. I have also learned from my public relations courses that communication is key, and being able to learn when to listen is often more important than being able to speak.
From this experience, I learned that I’m destined to be in Washington, D.C., after graduation. I feel as if working for Mike Kelly this summer taught me the importance of constituent connections and listening to everyone’s voice. This is also a lesson that can transmit to my current work in student government. I think that the energy of working in a congressional office made me truly inspired. It proved to me that although there is no promise of reelection, there are people who are willing to work for a greater cause for the people of their districts. It inspired me and is something that I want to be a part of in the future.