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Week Three: Highlights of the Hill - Knowing the game

Working on the hill has definitely been a unique experience. This is the first time that I actually work in an office or go to work in a suit and tie. It has all been difficult, from getting used to the hot, humid weather to riding on the overcrowded metro and knowing where to switch trains. However, I think that the biggest challenge has been working in an office and getting used to the working environment. Before I came here, I didn’t know what I was going to do in regards to actual “work.” People back at school told me that I was going to be sorting mail, running errands, filing paper, basically doing “busy work”. Although that is true, there are other tasks that are considered real work. One of the disadvantages that I had was that I missed the first week of CHCI which was the orientation week due to school and finals. During this week, CHCI taught the interns where to research, what to expect, and other valuable information that would facilitate their experience working on the hill. Therefore, I didn’t know how to draft a constituent letter, conduct research on government sites, or where my office was located, for example. On my first day, I arrived early hoping that would calm my nerves, it didn’t. I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know how to “play in the game”. I call it a game because everything that I do, school, music, sports, and internships for example, have their own written or unwritten rules and guidelines. For me, once I know the “game” and know where I stand, then I can adapt, manipulate the game, and win. During the first week, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information that was presented to me. After I drafted my first constituent letter I submitted it to one of the staffers for approval and it came back with pen marks all over it. I was actually relieved because I knew that the staffers were taking the time to review my work and give me feedback. In doing so, I was able to restructure my letters and understand the “game” more clearly. The only way that I could overcome these challenges was by directly confronting them. That is, when I was asked to draft my first constituent letter I said “Sure, what do I have to do?” I never back down and I am not afraid to fail because as my Congresswoman said, “When you fail that is a success because you learn how not to do it and you are closer to achieving your goal.” What keeps me going is this belief: it doesn’t matter how hard it is, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, it doesn’t even matter that you come from nothing, all that matters is how much you have accomplished, experienced, and that you reach your dream by the end of your life.