So, what are you doing in DC?

Posted on Monday, Mar 30, 2015

“So, what are you doing in D.C.?” 

That is a question I have been asked who knows how many times.  From family members, to interviewers at the Bush School, to people I have met since arriving in Virginia, that seems to be the one question they all have in common.  What I am doing, and if I like it.  Sometimes, I do not know how to answer.  This internship experience has definitely been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I feel extremely blessed to be where I am.  I know many other people applied for this position, and it was given to me.  PPIP selected me to represent Texas A&M, and my supervisor chose me to represent Congressman Michael McCaul.  I am where I am because people believed in me.

Every time someone asks me what D.C. is like, I try to emphasize how incredibly blessed I feel.  I explain what I do on a daily basis, from sorting emails, to listening to constituent complaints, and coordinating White House tours.  It may be mundane, I tell them, but it is where I have been placed, and I was going to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me.

“Are you challenged at all?  You graduated from the Texas A&M University…and you’re doing administrative work.  Don’t you think your skills could be better used elsewhere?”

In a word…yes.  But this question gives me the chance to expand upon my experiences.  I talk about the hearings and briefings I am privileged to attend.  I talk about meeting important people in D.C., including the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, various Congressmen, and ambassadors.  I talk about interacting with constituents while I’m conducting a tour, and watching their faces glow with a smile at the “whisper spot” in Statutory Hall.  I talk about how I have met Aggies, and how they have thanked me for exemplifying the Aggie core values through my actions and work at McCaul’s office.  While I have tried to represent Texas A&M as best as I can, that was the first time someone had told me that I carried myself like a true Aggie.  Through this entire experience, I have learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined.  I have learned to be patient, to laugh and smile even when I do not feel like it, to be polite regardless of what is said to me over the phone.  I have learned that I can handle stressful situations better than I could in the past: answering phone call after phone call while having to greet visitors in the office as they were meeting with a staffer, as well as sign for the package the mailman brought to the door.  I have learned that I have a contagious smile and personality: the visitors in our office thank me for being welcoming and joyous.  More than anything, I have learned that I am capable of far more than I ever could have anticipated before interning on Capitol Hill.    

“Okay, so…maybe it’s not all bad.  But what do you do on weekends?  Are there a lot of things to do?”

Then the individual receives story after story from my extracurricular adventures: five-dollar burger nights at Bar Louie next door, seeing a play at Ford’s Theatre, going to the top of the Washington Monument, visiting the museums, and traveling to Annapolis like I did last weekend.  I also take the opportunity to talk about the unexpected, unscheduled little experiences: seeing the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, making my first snow angel and having a snowball fight on the National Mall, and meeting new people at Starbucks and striking up conversations about books and movies.  There are incredible opportunities, I say; you do not even have to go out of your way to look for them because they come to you.

“But what have you gained from doing this?”

I have gained a network.  Through the office of Michael McCaul, I have connected with each individual on the staff, and they have told me they would help me later on in my life, should the opportunity present itself.  They would write me recommendation letters galore, they said, including the Congressman.  All I had to do was ask, and they would have the letter emailed, mailed, or faxed to wherever it needed to go.  I know people in different offices, both from Texas A&M and outside of the university: one is a staff assistant at a Congressman’s office from North Carolina, while the other is an intern in Rep. Steve Russell’s office across the hall from us.  Through one of my roommates, I have connected with someone who works at the Pentagon, and the Office of Federal Relations has given me the opportunity to talk with former students in the area, giving me advice regarding obtaining a job in Washington, D.C. upon my graduation from the Bush School of Government & Public Service.  I have individuals willing to help me and reach out on my behalf for years to come, and I plan on using that to my advantage in the future.

Washington, D.C. has been far more than I could ever have hoped for.  I cannot believe I am halfway done.  And as the spring break crowds arrive, and I become a glorified tour guide for the office, this is what I have to say: let the networking games with constituents begin!  I will conduct each tour with a happy heart and a mind hopefully full of knowledge (and the right directions inside the Capitol), to be able to answer all of their questions, as well as ask my own, in return.  Who knows what these tours have in store!   

Kelsie Suter
Congressman Michael McCaul
Washington, D.C. - Spring 2015

Tags: Extracurricular, Reflections, Washington