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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Starting up the Hill


How an internship can prepare you for adulthood

If I took one thing away from my semester in Washington, D.C. it would be just this: being an adult is hard work. Not to say, in any way, that I did not enjoy the entirety of my semester because I did. Working for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) on Capitol Hill was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. However, there were some definite challenges that I did not anticipate when I moved in to The Washington Center at the end of August.

My first mistake was my clothes. I am a chronic over-packer and brought four, yes four, full-size suitcases to Washington. I could not even carry all of them at the same time. But once I got settled into the routine of interning every day, I realized that I did not actually wear a lot of the clothes that I had packed.

Wearing a suit every day prevented me from wearing the plethora of cute outfits I had brought, which is for the better. Looking professional, I realized, was something that I actually enjoyed rather than dreaded. Going to an office every morning wearing the blueprint of the same thing was easy, and allowed to me focus on my work, like researching the public housing crisis in Cairo, Illinois.

The rigidity of having a 9-6 pm work schedule every day was one of the more beneficial aspects of my time in Washington. Having a set routine which I was preemptively dreading made me more alert in the mornings and better prepared me to work long nights. There was no waking up at noon, and I actually got a full 8 hours of sleep every night. Although my caffeine intake definitely shot up, the overall effect of having a solid routine enabled me to be a better intern.

That brings me to the work I was doing. Being an intern is a lot different than being a student, a major divide being the absence of homework. Many things replaced homework, primarily mail runs and an hour-long phone shifts every day, the purpose of which was to listen to constituent concerns or just get yelled at by people.

I would also be doing research or going to hearings and briefings  for the majority of each day. I attended hearings on preventing veteran suicides, improving the Every Student Succeeds Act, discussing the constitutional role of special prosecutors, and many more.

In addition, legislative assistants and correspondents assigned me research projects: pull quotes about the economy from every Illinois Republican in the past 5 years, dive deep into the tiered reward system of tax-deductible college athletic donations, ascertain just how a tax plan would impact lower and middle class families in each county in Illinois. These projects were intense, but they started and ended at the office. It motivated me to work harder to meet deadlines because I did not have the added bonus of working on evening or weekends.

Overall, my experience in Washington, D.C. definitely shaped my behavior and my expectations for post-graduate life. I have to say that it was entirely beneficial to know what it’s like to work 40 hours a week because I will be able to put that to good use if, or when, I start in the workforce.

It was, perhaps, the most opposite experience I could have from being an undergraduate student and taking classes, and it challenged me and my expectations in ways that I did not anticipate. I would not trade my experience for the world and it really proved to me what it was like to be an adult.

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