If I were to pick a place to start, it would be the taxi ride.
To be precise, it was an Uber, not a taxi, and the driver, an Egyptian man, did not stop talking for the hour-long drive. I sat in the back of the black Toyota feeling weary and anxious at what this foreign metropolis might be like. I watched the lights of Washington D.C. coming ever closer through the midnight darkness. The driver’s hypnotic voice and the comforting rumble of the engine allowed me to get lost in my own thoughts and think about the nine long weeks that lay before me. Would I get to do interesting things, or would I be making coffee runs and photocopies for my coworkers? Would I actually learn anything? Was I expected to come in with certain skills? I suddenly felt very unprepared—like if I were showing up to a test for a class I never took—and very alone.
I woke up early the next morning and went out for a long walk before heading to the communications boot camp the Fellowship was hosting for us. The morning was hot and balmy. The sun shone down on the busy streets of Washington D.C. where well-dressed men and women rushed to work. I suddenly felt out of place in my jeans. If I put on my blazer and heels would I blend into that busy crowd that looked so sure of their place in life? They clearly knew where they were going, but did I?
At 9:56 am sharp, I entered the brightly-lit conference room at Burness and saw the welcoming smiles of the other Fellows for the first time. Here were the seven others I had only seen once through video. Here were the seven others who reminded me I was not alone in this adventure. Here were the seven others who almost instantly felt like family. We were, after all, in this together.
Two days later I walked into the offices of Families USA—the organization I was matched with for the summer—feeling only slightly less nervous than when I first walked into Burness. With two days of intense training under my arm, I felt ready to face this new world of public interest communications. Yet, I knew no one in my office, and I felt very much like “the new kid.” My mentor was waiting for me, and her kind, welcoming demeanor made me feel instantly at ease. I was introduced to my coworkers, toured the office, and then I was sitting down at my own desk to begin my first day as a communications intern for Families USA—a non-profit focused on securing affordable and quality health care for all Americans.
The weeks have flown by since, and I have not once performed coffee runs or been assigned pointless busywork just to keep me out of the way. From day one I was not treated as an intern, but rather as a full member of the communications team—one with a voice and a vote. I knew next to nothing about health care in the U.S. coming into my internship, but by sitting in on meetings and completing my assignments, I quickly learned the intricacies of this universe. I’m now able to help out with more complex and specialized tasks.
I have only been an intern for a handful of weeks at this point, but I have already experienced some incredible things: I’ve contacted reporters and set up interviews; I’ve helped set up a media event in our office; I attended a federal court hearing; and I went to a press conference directed by Nancy Pelosi inside the Capitol building.
Each week that passes I learn new things, and I’m trusted with bigger responsibilities. What I appreciate most, though, is that my mentor cares about my interests and tries to expose me to as many different things as she can, so that through new experiences I can learn more about myself and where I want to go in life.
I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I will learn at Families USA this summer, so I’m very much looking forward to the days that lie ahead. Suddenly nine weeks seem like a ridiculously short amount of time.