If you ever want to step out of your comfort zone, my suggestion is to go from working in a barn and an animal shelter for years, and then going to intern in the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. for a summer. Last May, I left UConn and drove seven hours down to our nation’s capital to spend the next few months interning for Congressman Joe Courtney.
I heard about the opportunity to go to Washington during fall semester of my junior year. I wasn’t sure where I wanted my path to take me, but I had been considering a career in agriculture policy. When I learned that the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) awards stipends to students interested in interning in government each year, I jumped at the opportunity. I had to apply and interview, but eventually I learned that I was one of a few students nationwide to receive one of those awards. From there, ASAS helped me find an office to intern in. I was interested in working for Congressman Courtney because he represents my home district, which is full of small family farms. Agriculture is an important sector in Eastern Connecticut, so when I learned I was chosen to intern in his office I was ecstatic.
Interning in a big city was a culture shock. I lived in Maryland and had a 45 minute commute on the subway each morning and evening. I knew nobody, but quickly became friends with other interns who were in the same position as me. However, the biggest change for me was working in an office instead of outdoors, but I found myself really enjoying it. Each day, I spent a lot of time answering phones and speaking with constituents. They would often call in to express their support or opposition for issues that were currently being debated in Congress. Additionally, I helped the legislative staff do research for letters that would be sent out to constituents, as well as for upcoming legislation. Since the staff knew I was focusing on agriculture, many of the topics I researched for them involved animals and agriculture. My favorite part of the internship was being able to sit in on meetings and go to hearings regarding upcoming agriculture legislation and the upcoming Farm Bill.
This experience helped me narrow down what I might want to do in the future. Now, working in an office doesn’t seem like such a big stretch. I’m currently considering going to graduate school for food and agriculture policy. I found that I really enjoyed researching topics to educate constituents regarding current issues, and I’m now leaning towards a career in extension to help with community education concerning agriculture. While I may not find a career in government, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to intern with Congressman Courtney. I learned so much from the experience, and it’s something that I’ll never forget.