“How was your summer?”
It’s a simple enough question, but I fear for the days when I return to Nashville where I will have to answer this question ad nauseam as I reconnect with my friends from Vandy. Because I will likely be answering this question multiple times a day in the next few weeks, I had better get my story straight.
This summer was the best summer of my life. In terms of experiences, lessons learned, friendships made or developed, this summer has been remarkable for me and I feel that I am entering my junior year a different person from the one who left Nashville in early May. With plans to explore the public service sector, I packed my bags for Washington, D.C. and set off on an eight week adventure in the rip-roaring, fasted-paced professional community of our nation’s capital.
Most importantly, the work that I have done with the National Veterans Legal Services Program has taught me just how much of an impact a career in public service can have. Since the beginning of my internship, I have been responsible for learning a magnitude of information regarding injustices faced by our nation’s veterans. By providing pro bono legal representation to veterans who have slipped through the bureaucratic cracks of the US military, NVLSP provides a vital service for free to one our nation’s most vulnerable communities. As time has passed this summer, I have been given more and more responsibility at work to the point that I am sad to leave my desk for the final time this week and hand my projects over to my supervisors. It has been a real privilege to work for such an outstanding organization and such a noble cause this summer.
I have had an interesting perspective on the law-making process this summer. As an intern for a veterans service organization, I have not spent much time on the Hill, but I have been closely following legislation as it moves in and out of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. Although Congress is often thought of as an obstructionist, hyper-partisan gridlock, I am happy to report that when it comes to Veterans Affairs, our elected officials are more than willing and able to find common ground to work together on. The valuable bipartisan work of the Veterans Affairs Committees reminds me of a quote from Sam Rayburn (the 43rd Speaker of the House), “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one”. I believe that the information that I have learned this summer about veterans law and the political processes of Washington have given me my first hammer and nails. Who would’ve guessed that a summer in D.C. would have me considering a career in carpentry?
On top of all I have learned this summer through my work, I have made and developed some amazing friendships. I feel so lucky to have become so close with the VIEW cohort, and I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things that I know these people will do in the future. To everyone in the cohort, thank you all for being amazing, intelligent, hilarious individuals, and for putting up with my dumb jokes all summer.
As the sun begins to set on my time in DC, I find it almost difficult to look backward, which is probably why I’m afraid to answer that question, “How was your summer?” In the past eight weeks, I have been in a state of perpetual motion. I have sacrificed sleep, skipped meals, run through the city in 100 degree weather in a suit to catch the Metro more times than I’m willing to admit, and I have not stopped to catch my breath. Of course, there have been quiet, peaceful, reflective moments along the way, but this city has ignited a fire in me that does not allow for rest and reflection. I’ve tried to learn everything that I possibly could this summer. Although the official last day of my internship is this Friday, I feel like I just got my hammer and my nails. I’m done with DC for summer 2017, but I feel that my work here is just getting started.
- As a nerd of all things politics and Saturday Night Live, meeting Senator Al Franken at the DNC was definitely one of the coolest things I did this summer
- Funnily enough, I also ran into Michael Che (one of the co-anchors for Weekend Update on SNL) at one of the Smithsonians
- Watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the steps of the Capitol Building seemed like a pretty American way to spend Independence Day
- Reaching out to Vanderbilt alumni and other DC professionals has helped me to realize that basically everyone in DC was an intern at one point or another and everyone wants to help
- Watching House of Cards on my phone during my lunch break in front of the White House
- I’ve loved every minute of my time in DC and I’ll cherish all my memories of the Cohort and all of our (mis)adventures in the District!
But anyway, enough about me. How was your summer?