Washington, D.C. – I have just finished my internship on Capitol Hill in the Office of Congressman Jamie Raskin from Maryland’s 8th District, where I worked as a Press Intern this past semester. Beginning in January, I helped the office with press and communications, as well as constituent services. I was honored to be selected as a PAAIA CHIP (Capitol Hill Internship Program) Fellow for Spring 2018. PAAIA’s program allowed me to connect with Iranian Americans who have experience working on the Hill and beyond, which supplemented the work was doing in the Congressman’s office.
We had many interns in the office this semester, but I was the only Press Intern. Thus, I focused mainly on assisting the Press Assistant and Communications Director on a day-to-day basis. I assembled press clips to send to the staffers that featured the Congressman at events he attended, bills he was working on, or issues and situations he was talking about in interviews. Rep. Raskin is very active in both Congress and his community, so there were always radio, video, and print news to find and document. I got used to seeing the news cycle through a local lens– how issues on a national level affected Montgomery County and the Congressman’s constituency. I also valued listening to how the Congressman approached different topics and issues, as one of my tasks was to transcribe his speeches and interviews. Congressman Raskin’s social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is robust. I was able to help his communications team design graphics and pen posts for his online followers, as well as add updates to his website as needed. This internship allowed me to work on my writing, graphic design, and other communications skills to see how they could be most useful for a press team.
I am most grateful for the engaging experience this internship provided me with topics I had only ever seen on TV or studied in a classroom. It’s one thing to watch the news or scroll Twitter to be informed. It was a completely new perspective for me to be right in the center of it all, learning about our nation’s legislative process in a completely hands-on way. Whether it was the Government Shutdown and DACA, the March for Our Lives Movement, or Andrew McCabe’s firing, I heard and read what the office, other offices, and so many of the Congressman’s constituents had to say about a variety of issues. The sheer number of people I was able to interact with everyday via phone, letter, or giving tours was unparalleled to any work environment I had been in before.
I am a first year student at American University studying Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government. Interning on Capitol Hill during the spring semester was one of the most amazing opportunities afforded to me because I am living, learning, and working in the hub of national politics. I remember one day I was in the office and I heard about an event Congressman Raskin was doing which was to be held on campus at AU– it was a discussion with another member of Congress about bipartisanship in the legislature. I left the office early to come to campus and hear him speak right near my residence hall. It’s moments like these that I am so glad I chose American University and was given the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill this past semester. I wouldn’t have had this incredible experience without the support of PAAIA.
Through this experience, I am even more aware of the need for Iranian Americans to have representation on Capitol Hill. It means a lot to me to see people who look like me and my Iranian family in positions that I’d like to fill one day. PAAIA’s support throughout this internship allowed me to meet other Iranian Americans and learn from their successes in politics and public service on the hill and beyond. Growing up in a predominantly white and wholly American community meant I often felt distanced from the Iranian side of my cultural identity. I was so excited to celebrate Nowruz on Capitol Hill in a way I had never imagined— with PAAIA, other staffers, and Members of Congress including Rep. Jamie Raskin. This experience helped me to connect my political passions to my personal heritage, which is so important. I am so grateful for organizations like PAAIA that try to help policymakers understand our community and educate them on issues that are important to us. It was an honor to be selected as the Spring 2018 CHIP Fellow, and I am so lucky to have this internship, my experiences, and the support of PAAIA as I progress in my undergraduate studies and look to my future.
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