Leila Pearson, Spring CHIP Intern, Shares Her Capitol Hill Experience

Leila Pearson is a student at American University who interned with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) during the Spring 2022 semester as part of PAAIA’s Capitol Hill Internship Program. 

by Leila Pearson

This past Spring semester, I had the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill with the office of Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. I began the internship in February, where I assisted the office with constituent outreach and various legislative duties.  

Having had the opportunities to work on different campaigns throughout the years, every election night I was always left wondering: what now? What happens after all our hard work on the campaign trail? What do our elected officials actually do? 

I was able to answer many of my lingering questions the past spring during my internship with Senator Murphy. Known for his avid love and depth of knowledge in foreign policy and passion for sensible gun reform, I could not think of anyone better to work for – as these are also two public policy areas I deeply care about and the reasons I got involved in politics. 

Like most newbies on The Hill, I was extremely nervous on my first day. I did not know what to expect. I first thought it would be like the political campaigns I had worked for, but the moment I was standing in front of the Capitol building going through multi-layered security system, I knew I was in for a whole new chapter of learning. I felt the gravity of it all standing in the Capitol. Reflecting that my mother came from Iran where it is utterly challenging to have a voice, and yet here I am, her daughter, a generation later, working in “the room where it happens.”  

Throughout my internship I got to hear from constituents, deliver birthday letters to other Senators, attend very heated Russia / Ukraine briefings, sit in on a meeting with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, gather important news stories from across the globe, and most importantly, learn about how physically difficult it is to find your way around the Capitol building, which is the ultimate maze. 

I was only at the Capitol for three months, but my time there brought many unexpected events. To name a few: A war in Ukraine, the leak announcement about the overturning of Roe v Wade, and the historic nomination and confirmation of Judge Jackson. While I was grateful to be witness to these moments in history, I think what I will take away the most are the friendships I made with other interns, the incredibly hardworking and dedicated staff of Team Murphy, and the connection I felt to Connecticut constituents. I was able to see and hear what people from across the state are struggling with and saw first-hand how the actions of our government impact the lives of so many.  

I am extremely grateful to PAAIA and the CHIP Fellowship for this opportunity. It has been an incredibly unique and humbling learning experience and I have been surrounded by such a supportive Iranian American community. I hope that, in the future, we will be able to see more Iranian Americans leading matters of public policy. 

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