Charles Rahr is a junior at DU studying International Studies. Through the Summer Internship Award Program, which provides funding for unpaid internships, Charles interned last summer for U.S. Congressman Lloyd Smucker in Washington D.C. We asked Charles some questions about his internship experience and here are his responses:
What is your biggest takeaway from your internship?
My biggest takeaway from my internship was learning how much work Congress must actually do in order to get bills introduced, debated, and passed. I feel that there is a perception today that Members of Congress as well as their staff do not get a lot done. However, during my internship, I saw exactly the opposite. I saw the long hours, many meetings, and work that Congressional staff undertake daily. Because of this, I feel that I have a much larger appreciation for those serving in Congress as well as those who work for them. Above all, I feel that my internship allowed me to grow my skills of oral communication. By speaking on the phone almost daily with constituents, I believe that I have become more comfortable talking with people who may share vastly different views than I do. In addition, I often gave tours of the US Capitol to constituents, allowing me to hone these skills of oral communication. This internship also taught me how to act and address people in a professional work environment. Prior to the internship, most of the jobs I have worked had a much more informal work environment. But, because I was working in Congress, I learned how to show respect to both my coworkers, constituents, and Congress as an institution.
What were you most proud of during your internship?
During my internship, I was most proud of simply working in the U.S. Capitol. Everyday after work, I would go down to the National Mall and just stare at the Capitol Building. I could not believe that I actually had the privilege of working in a place that was filled with such rich history. In addition, I was proud of being able to contribute to American democracy. Although I played a small role, I still felt that I was making a contribution to our country. It was truly an honor and unique opportunity to work there and one that I will never forget.
Please share with us a funny moment from your internship:
One interesting and rather funny activity congressional offices engage in is a “snack trade.” This trading occurs as a result of the food products that are manufactured in congressional districts. For instance, if one Member of Congress has a soda factory in their district, then they will often receive soda from that soda factory’s company. Then, the Member’s office is free to distribute the sodas to constituents who visit the office. Or, they can trade with other offices for different food products that are made in America’s many other congressional districts. It was occasionally my job to both deliver our district’s snacks to other congressional offices as well as to pick-up other snacks from these offices.
What are your next steps in your Career and Professional Development journey? What do you plan to do after graduation?
My immediate next step in my Career and Professional Development journey is to secure an additional government-related internship for next summer. I am currently looking into government internships at departments such as the Commerce Department. I hope to again live and work in Washington, D.C. next summer. After graduation, I would like to work in a defense-related field or within the U.S. government for a defense-related agency.
What would you recommend to other students applying for unpaid internships or the Summer Internship Award Program?
My main recommendation is to apply for many unpaid internships and to ones to which they have some sort of connection. In this way, they have a better chance of being interviewed and possibly receiving an offer. However, I would also recommend that to each internship that they apply, they truly tailor their cover letters to the company/organization to which they are applying. As for the Summer Internship Award Program, I would recommend that these students truly know what sort of skills and experience they are looking to get out of their internship. I feel that once they know this information, they will then be better able to craft an essay, showing their need for the Program’s award.
*These responses were collected by our Career Peer Advisor, Walid Hedidar