PAAIA’s Summer 2017 CHIP Fellow Reflects on Internship Program

Washington, D.C. – This summer I have had the privilege of working as a digital press intern for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ (HSGAC) Minority Office. As a student at American University here in D.C., I have had the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill in the past for my representative, Congressman Jared Huffman. And after a great first experience on the Hill, I decided to come back and further explore my interest in media.

As a fellow for the Akbar Ghahary Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP), I have had the support of PAAIA which served as an invaluable support system for me during my time on the Hill. The CHIP program has made this internship an even more beneficial experience through the guidance provided to me and partnerships offered by Iranian Americans working in the field of politics and government. The program also provides a helpful stipend to help with living expenses.

Summers on the Hill are famous for their overabundance of interns who travel from every corner of the country to serve their representatives while learning the ins and outs of an intricate legislative process. And while interning at the crossroads of it all is an incredibly valuable and memorable experience, it can be financial difficult and unfamiliar territory for many. The CHIP program turns what is a dream for many into a reality, and I’ll always be grateful for the guidance of those I encountered through the program. Without their assistance, I wouldn’t have been able to delve into this experience and come out of it with the knowledge and skills that I’ve gained.

During my time interning in the Senate, I’ve seen what is ostensibly a dysfunctional and divided government actually get critical legislation passed on a bipartisan basis. In my high school government class, we were lectured on how a bill becomes a law, but seeing the entirety of it firsthand was quite an eye-opening experience. As an intern for HSGAC, I had the honor of sitting behind Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) during hearings ranging from nominations for the Department of Homeland Security to the agencies cybersecurity infrastructure. I was also able to sit in during a committee markup, a meeting where the members vote on what legislation they would approve as a committee to more forward for a full Senate vote. I truly got to see what I had learned in my government classes come to life. From attending rallies alongside Senators on the Capitol steps to sitting in the Senate gallery during critical votes, I’ve had the most memorable summer I could have imagined, and I could not have done it without the support of PAAIA.

As the daughter of two Iranian immigrants, I have observed the reluctance Iranian Americans face when challenged to be outspoken on political issues. As immigrants from a country where the political social norm is to refrain from voicing opposition, Iranian Americans have a tendency to take a back seat on major political issues, even at times when they directly affect our community. This is why it is so important – especially today – that our community works with and supports organizations like PAAIA that try to bridge the gap in communication between our representatives and our community. It was a privilege and an honor to be the recipient of the CHIP program, and I hope to continue working with PAAIA to carry out its mission of getting more Iranian Americans involved in the legislative process.

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