How to Expect the Unexpected: Surviving Capitol Hill

Posted on Monday, Dec 13, 2021

While out of session, the days on Capitol Hill can be pretty quiet. Don’t let this fool you, though. When Congress is back in session, it’s GO TIME! It can be easy to get overwhelmed in such a fast-paced environment. How do you make sure you stay on top of things? Here are some tips to help you navigate a crazy workday on the Hill!
  1. Know where you are going: There is a lot more to the Capitol than meets the eye. ‘The Hill’ houses hundreds of offices through numerous buildings that are all connected by a huge maze of underground tunnels. It is too easy to get lost in there. Don’t be afraid to go and explore the first couple of days and take note on how to get to key locations. And if you do get lost (trust me, this will happen), Capitol police are very friendly, and if you ask nicely, they’ll gladly show you how to get to where you need to be! 
  1. Get to know other interns: It is easiest to get to know interns from other offices and bond over the intern experience on the Hill! Joining intern group chats and associations was extremely helpful for me as I was able to reach out to other offices. Need an extra hand for letter-folding at your own office? Ask a fellow intern. Running low on supplies? Ask to borrow from a fellow intern. Craving a snack? Ask a fellow intern! (Seriously, we have an intern group chat going on that initiated a snack trading ring. We’ve gotten to trade for some good snacks while also getting to meet people from other offices!). In all, you’ll get to make connections with other offices and with people from all over the country. These connections can be beneficial now and even in your future career!
  1. Say yes to tasks: As interns, your office will probably have you doing a lot of running around. As you are given more tasks, you gain more experience on how certain processes work and where certain locations might be. Saying yes to tasks shows your office that you are willing to learn, and this knowledge might be helpful for future assignments! Plus, you never know what you’ll find when you’re running down the hallway to buy more post-it notes for your office. Here are some examples of cool things I’ve witnessed while on a run:
           -Walked past the Speaker of the House while getting the office’s lunch
           -Witnessed different Congressmembers’ live interviews while walking down the Capitol              
           -Saw the President arrive at the Capitol steps
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: This last tip is the most important one! I’ve mentioned that it is helpful to ask Capitol police or other interns for help, but in general, do not be afraid to ask others. Your office should be your go-to; they are there to help you and their office succeed! Plus, many staff members started off as interns and know what it is like to be one. More than likely, these now-experienced, former interns will be willing to help a new intern out. 

Every day is different on the Hill. It can be exciting and will leave you with many stories to tell! However, you might start to feel stressed while being new to such a fast-paced world. I hope these tips will help you navigate the Hill and whatever crazy things an in-session day might throw at you!

Andrea Onate
Office of Congresswoman Veronica Escobar
Washington, D.C. | Fall 2021