Turning on the TVs, making coffee, answering phones, and delivering letters – the typical tasks of an intern.
Now imagine doing those tasks on Capitol Hill. A boring, stuffy experience working for the bigwigs who run the country might come to mind.
Jude Al-hmoud, Tristan Torres and Lyssa Bell would refute that statement.
The two current and one former Texas Tech students each spent a semester interning in Washington D.C. through the university’s Washington D.C. Congressional Internship program. During their time in the city, each said they found Washington D.C. to be exciting, fresh and driven by the younger generation.
“The vibe is very young, very professional,” Al-hmoud explained. “Everyone there is so passionate about politics or lobbying or whatever it is they’re in.”
Al-hmoud is a senior political science major who interned for Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, in the fall of 2017.
Tristan Torres is a senior public relations major who interned during the summer of 2018 for both Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Cornyn.
Lyssa Bell is a graduated university studies major who interned for Congressman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, during the summer of 2018.
The interns all have different majors. They worked in different offices. They all have different interests.
Despite the differences, the internship brings together people who would have never met without it, Bell said.
That might be due to the fact that the university leases a house in Washington D.C. where the interns live together dorm-style, with two or three people in some rooms. Or it could be the fact that they all had similar jobs, and according to Bell, could bond over the various mishaps from that day’s work.
At first the interns bonded together out of necessity, Bell joked. They would all be invited to receptions and gatherings, so they stuck together for a social safety net. Soon though, they began to explore the city together making memories and friendships.
“My friend Farah and I started exploring D.C. in the evenings,” Bell said. “We’d go out and do cool things and eventually other people in the house wanted to come as well, so we would all start going together as a group.”
Those “cool things” included traveling to Philadelphia and Baltimore, along with a copious number of trips to Georgetown for falafel and ice cream from Thomas Sweet.
Bell’s adventure-filled experience is common for those going through the internship.
During her internship, Al-hmoud traveled to New York City for a four-day trip on a mega-bus with friends. When she was not visiting other cities, Al-hmoud frequented the monuments and museums of D.C. and ate ice cream at her favorite shop in town, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
D.C. is full of opportunity – Al-hmoud learned that the day she met royalty. While she was interning, the king and queen of Jordan visited Senator Cornyn. Coincidentally, Al-hmoud is of Jordanian descent. As even more of a coincidence, her grandmother knows the king’s chief of staff, so Al-hmoud had five minutes with the royal couple after they finished their meeting.
“I had to keep pinching myself to tell myself that it was real and I had to keep my cool of course,” Al-hmoud gushed. “They ended up walking out and his chief of staff just points at me and I’m just this little intern in the crowd of reporters, so everyone was looking at me like, ‘What is going on? Why are they pointing at a little intern?’”
Torres also did his fair share of sightseeing and exploring. He took advantage of how close D.C. is to other cities and visited Baltimore with friends.
“One weekend we went to Baltimore and we just got on a train and it was not even an hour,” Torres said. “It was an $8 ticket, so it was me and a few other people on a train to Baltimore for a day. It was so fun because we went around and had brunch.”
That last part about brunch is important. In the District, it is the thing to do. It is a way to connect.
“Brunch is very expensive, but it is kind of a tradition in D.C.,” Bell explained. “A cool place we went for brunch one day was called Farmers Fishers Bakers and it is in Georgetown. It is a buffet style, farm-to-table.”
While the sights and bites were phenomenal, Bell, Al-hmoud and Torres all said the people were the highlight of their internship.
“The highlight of my semester? I would say, honestly, the friendships that I made there,” Al-hmoud stated.
Al-hmoud made friends with Texas Tech interns along with Texas Christian University interns – even rooming with one of the TCU interns this summer for her second internship on Capitol Hill.
Torres expanded his social circle at Texas Tech and created valuable connections on the Hill in the case he ever wants to work in Washington D.C.
Bell formed a more permanent connection with the people she met at her internship. At the end of this summer, Conaway’s office hired her on as a full-time staffer.
Bell said her internship peeled back the curtain and exposed her to the vibrant, pulsing community that is D.C. The internship let her see the other side of the Hill.