A Geneseo History Student Goes to Washington

I spent last semester living and interning in Washington, D.C. through the SUNY Washington Internship Program. I’ve always wanted to work in politics or government in some capacity in Washington after finishing school, but I never dreamed I would have an opportunity to live and intern in D.C. during my time as an undergraduate. This experience has easily been the most rewarding of my college career, and the skills I gained as a History student at Geneseo undoubtedly helped me to succeed in my internship. For four months, I interned at the United States’ Department of Justice in the Environment and Natural Resources Division [ENRD], Law and Policy Section [LPS]. My biggest responsibility as an intern was covering Congressional hearings, usually at least one per week. My office covered any legislative hearing that was of interest to the Division, and it was my responsibility to either attend the hearing in person on Capitol Hill or watch online from my office and take notes. Then I would write a report on the most important parts of the hearing for my supervisors. My history education was incredibly helpful to me when completing this task. I would have to listen to hours of complicated testimony and then distill it down to the most important points to be compiled into a readable format for my bosses. Years of reading long history texts for their arguments helped me to focus on what was really important in these hearings and not get lost in the details.
View of the inside courtyard at the RFK Main Justice Building.
My other main responsibility as an intern was completing research for attorneys in LPS. Two of the most detailed research projects I completed during my internship were an analysis of reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act [EPCRA] in light of current litigation, and a project on Native American rights under the 14th Amendment. The History Department’s strong emphasis on research skills certainly helped me complete these projects. In History 302, a research-skills seminar which I took with Dr. Mapes on rural history, I learned how to gather and analyze a wide range of sources. These skills were incredibly useful for the projects I had to complete for my internship, and the major’s emphasis on writing skills throughout the curriculum helped me to effectively communicate the results of my research to my supervisors. While these were my day-to-day tasks as an intern, there is one experience I had at the DOJ that stands out as particularly special. On April 18th, I attended oral arguments at the Supreme Court in a case that attorneys in my Division had worked on, Washington v. United States. Since the case originated in ENRD, the attorneys I worked with encouraged us to attend the oral arguments. Of course, because they were members of the Supreme Court bar, they could walk right in while I had to wait in line for hours to get a seat. We arrived at the Court at six in the morning, stood in line in the cold for hours, and still just barely got in. Once we were inside, however, all of that faded away and I was struck by being in a place where so much history had been made, so many important decisions rendered. Having some knowledge of the case beforehand and then discussing the arguments with my colleagues afterward provided a really unique perspective.
A picture of the Supreme Court, taken while we were standing in line for oral arguments.
While interning at the Department of Justice was an incredibly enriching experience, my time in D.C. was so much more than just my internship which I attended Mondays through Thursdays. Through the SUNY Washington Program, I also attended seminar classes on Fridays and completed a research paper and presentation. The seminar classes were an interesting blend of tours of places like the Capitol or the Pentagon and meeting and networking with people who work in Washington. The semester culminated with a presentation of a twenty-page research paper of our own design to our seminar class. Definitely my favorite part about the whole experience was just living and working in Washington, D.C. It was exhilarating to be right there where so much happens, especially in this particular moment in history. The house where I lived with the other interns in my program was on the same block as the Supreme Court, and the Capitol building was a two minute walk away. I worked at the RFK Justice Department building or “main justice” and the Attorney General’s office was two floors up from mine. I was also able to explore all the history and culture in different museums that the city has to offer, and I attended the March for Our Lives protest that took place just a few blocks from my house.
A picture I took of the Washington Monument from the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season.
As I am embarking on my senior year here at Geneseo, I am starting to confront the intimidating prospect of graduation. The years I have spent as a History major have been challenging, exciting, and transformative and it will be hard to leave here. My semester in D.C. helped to ease some of my anxieties about graduating – I know now that I can use the skills I have gained at Geneseo to succeed in the “real world.” I know that my history education has made me a better reader, writer, and thinker, and I know that I have all the tools I need to be successful in whatever I do after graduation. Most of all, I am thankful for the education I have received as a Geneseo History major, and now I cannot wait to make my way back to Washington, D.C. after I finish my journey here.
Me and my fellow interns at the Lincoln Memorial on our last night in D.C.

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