From past experience, I have found that evaluating a summer internship after it ends can be as valuable as the work experience itself. Interning serves as a window into a potential career path, hones existing skills, and develops new talents. Often, however, it is only afterwards that one can fully assess the organization and the personal impact of the experience. As my time interning at the Coalition on Human Needs has now ended, I look back on my two months there quite positively. Not only was I given responsibility and able to play an active role in the small office, but my time at CHN also helped me grapple with potential career options.
I arrived in D.C. this summer with a number of goals: to write as much as possible; to see and understand the unique relationships among various policy issues; to absorb all possible information from both office interaction and city exploration; and to establish some meaningful relationships. I am confident that each of these goals has been met throughout my eight weeks at CHN. While the subject content of CHN’s weekly “Sequester Impact Report” is not drastically distinct week to week, finding and reading articles and subsequently writing summaries of them detailing the impact of the sequester gave me an opportunity to polish my writing. I also wrote an article for CHN’s newsletter, the Human Needs Report, on student loans, which was published on August 7 (http://www.chn.org/human_needs_report/student-loan-bill-enacted/). Throughout the summer I was given small projects that required both research and writing. For example, CHN’s website includes write-ups explaining each policy issue they work on. Some of these updates, unfortunately, are not up-to-date. I was able to update the health care reform section
At CHN’s bi-weekly coalition meetings, the overlap among policy issues is clear. Single issue-based member organizations are equally invested in issues other than their own, for issues in Congress bleed into one other. A representative’s vote on one piece of legislation may indicate his or her move on another seemingly unrelated issue. Focusing on my own independent reading – the New York Times, the Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly – has also been an invaluable way in which I have come to understand the interconnectedness of issues. I also made the most of my short time in the city by having conversations with CHN staff members, asking questions, and attending events outside of the office. For example, I attended a panel discussion on filibuster reform at the National Press Club. The panel of speakers – including Norm Ornstein – shared their opinions about whether Harry Reid should amend the Senate filibuster rule in response to Republicans’ blockage of President Obama’s seven executive nominees. Filibuster reform is not exactly a sexy issue for the general public, so most people are unaware of its implications. The panelists agreed that without filibuster reform, and therefore with important executive positions left unfilled, the Republicans will gain more power and gridlock will continue to plague the federal government.
But my internship has also exceeded my original expectations. Not only did I meet the goals I initially outlined, but I have also begun to define my future career path in more concrete terms. While interning at CHN, I realized I could see myself working in the nonprofit political advocacy world in Washington once I graduate. However, as I was immersed in this nonprofit world, I was also able to picture myself following the academic route, which is a wildly different environment, but could be a valuable path to take before entering the DC world.
Overall, I look back on my summer interning at CHN optimistically. And, I am confident that as I continue to reflect independently on my experience throughout the year it will become even more meaningful to me.