Persia Zurita Reflects on Internship with US Senator Mark Warner

Spring CHIP Fellow Persia Zurita Reflects on Internship with Senator Mark Warner

Pezeshkan Family Capitol Hill Internship Program Fellow Persia Zurita is a rising Junior at George Washington University studying international affairs with a concentration in security policy. This spring, she interned in the office of Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).

Ever since childhood, I dreamt about working on Capitol Hill, and PAAIA made that dream a reality. From providing me with support and resources during my internship search to guiding me through career development opportunities during my fellowship, PAAIA has been there for me. The fellowship was far more critical than I imagined when I originally attempted to enter the field of international affairs and public policy as an Iranian American without any community direction or support.

This past semester I had the privilege and joy of interning for Senator Mark R. Warner who represents my home state of Virginia. Senator Warner’s office was my first introduction to working in Congress, and having interned there makes me want to return and further serve constituents and influence policy. As an administrative and legislative intern, I regularly attended hearings and drafted memos, witnessed historical votes on the Senate floor, and further understood the needs of my community through phone calls, voicemails, and mail. Every task–whether it be running an errand, giving a tour, or delivering a bill–held so much significance and it was thrilling to experience that as a college student.

My greatest highlight was attending the annual Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on the Worldwide Threats Assessment. There I got to see my Senator, the Chairman, speak about current conflicts that I read about in lectures as an International Affairs student concentrating in Security Policy and the Middle East. It was also amazing to be sitting in the same room as the directors of the different intelligence agencies. My second greatest highlight was being assigned to attend a hearing on Big Tech in the House and drafting a memo about Congress’ capacity to pass bipartisan bills on the topic of data privacy in such an emerging industry. It was incredibly eye-opening to see Big Tech and data privacy be the topic of focus in Congress, which drew me to further pursue knowledge regarding that policy issue. Seeing the intersection of data privacy and policy was incredibly eye-opening and helped me develop greater interest in this critical issue.

Aside from all the tasks I was assigned to complete, the most valuable aspect of my internship was getting to connect with fellow interns who were experiencing the same hardships and first-time triumphs as me, as well as the Senator’s staffers who share similar ambitions to influence change as I do. I am incredibly encouraged by the give-back attitude the staffers embodied as they made efforts to learn more about my passions, career goals, as well as the challenges I’ve faced along the way.

Not only have I formed a lifelong network in the office but also gained lifelong friendships with my PAAIA cohort. There is something special about accomplishing milestones with other like-minded people which for me was my fellow Iranian American women with whom I shared such experiences. SSI events such as the annual Nowruz celebration on Capitol Hill, our visit to the White House, as well as the CHIP mentorship meeting where I had the honor of being the mentee of Virginia House of Delegates representative Atoosa Reaser are all examples of how PAAIA provided me with ways to expand my network with other successful and hardworking Iranian Americans who I greatly admire. Because of my fellowship and internship experience, I am now confident in my ability to accomplish future endeavors in public service, and I can’t wait to connect with more Iranian Americans and give back as PAAIA has given to me.”

May 30, 2024

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