A Day in the Life of White House Interns – Lander University students revel in their D.C. experience
Wednesday, Feb 13, 2019
DC Interns
Sarah Grigg, second from right, and Brooke Trotter, fifth from right, with their Theatre Group class to see Macbeth at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

In August 2018, Lander upperclassmen Brooke Trotter and Sarah Grigg began a paid work-study internship in Washington, D.C., through the Washington Semester Program.

Directed by the University of South Carolina Honors College, the program ran from August 25 through December 7 – and both Trotter and Grigg earned Lander course credits while serving in two separate political offices.

In addition to the work experience, these two students were hoping to gain some insight and direction to their futures.

This is a snapshot of their lives during their internships in the nation’s capital.

 

Brooke Trotter – Office of Management and Budget

My alarm sounds at 6:45 a.m. – and I roll out of my top bunk, dress, do my hair and makeup in case I happen to see the President today, grab my winter boots and bag, and head downstairs quietly so as not to awake the other three girls sharing my room.

After grabbing a quick bagel and coffee, I pack a lunch with salt-and-vinegar chips, grab my heavy coat and head for the Capitol South metro with headphones in both ears. On my way, I pass the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

Reaching the metro, I find all the train seats are full, so I stand and hold onto the bar above my head, and am rocked back and forth from stop to stop. The ride seems so easy now, but when I first arrived in D.C., I was quite nervous and anxious trying to figure out the system. When I reach McPherson Square, I file out with other passengers, take a right, and head toward the White House.

Five minutes later, I show my intern ID to the secret service agent, pass through a metal detector, walk between the west wing of the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and go up 2 flights of stairs to the Office of Management and Budget.

 My desk is within the OMB Press Shop. Every morning, I turn on my space heater, and begin my daily morning assignment of compiling a list of news articles published about staffers within my office. This part of the job sometimes lasts until lunchtime.

Trotter and Mulvaney
Lander upperclassman Brooke Trotter, right, stands with Mick Mulvaney, acting chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C. Trotter interned with the OMB from August to December 2018.

Throughout the rest of the day, I have to remain flexible for anything.  I might be asked to research specific files. Or escort foreign nationals and other students to different places throughout the building. Or just help staff with different office  tasks.

I have also had the opportunity to learn more about the nation’s budgeting process by attending meetings and taking notes for staff members – but today is not one of those days.

On a couple of other days, however, I have had the privilege of attending the National Christmas Tree Lighting, seeing  the Vice President’s office, bowling in the basement of the Eisenhower Building, and receiving a West Wing Tour.

But today, I leave the office at 6 p.m. as usual and head home – retracing my steps from the morning.

Once back, I change clothes, make a phone call or two to people back home in South Carolina, and grab another quick bite before attending class at seven with my 12 housemates.

Because it’s Monday, we talk and argue about domestic and foreign policy issues. As usual, everyone comes away more educated on the topic – and, despite some polarized feelings in the heat of the discussion, we all leave with a better understanding of opposing views.

Finally, back home again, I finish some homework assignments, and get ready to turn in so I’ll be ready for the next morning.

I am already looking forward to Thursday, when our class will either go see a play or discuss past plays we have seen.

The Christmas holidays seem so much closer now. Hard to believe I only have two weeks left in the internship – it feels like I just arrived.

The hardest part of this internship was being in a new city, far away from people I love. It was a huge adjustment.

But I believe the experience will help me in the future. I’ve learned something about how our government works, and the importance of a helping hand.

If I could do this all over again, I would network more. I am definitely not one to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and I slowly learned this skill as time went on. I wish I had begun doing this earlier. But I am extremely thankful for this amazing experience and all the lessons I learned with it.

 

Sarah Elizabeth Grigg – Office of U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, S.C.

Every morning, I leave my house around 7 a.m., walk 15-30 minutes to work, and on the way, I pass some of the most noteworthy buildings in the city – including the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, the Capitol, and both the Senate and House buildings.

Congressman Norman reads the Wall Street Journal every morning, so I always put it on his desk first thing when Congress is in session.

The rest of the morning includes a lot of routine:

Grigg and Norman
Sarah Grigg with U.S. Congressman Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill.
  • Checking voicemails and logging comments and concerns, as well as messages of support from constituents.
  • Gathering headlines from national and local news. These headlines are sent to all of the congressman’s employees and to all constituents on the district email list.
  • Giving  tours of the capital to visiting constituents. I enjoy taking them through the Capitol rotunda, the Crypt, and the old Senate and House chambers. Tours are one of my favorite things to do because I get to interact with people from the state.

Lunchtime is always a favorite. On the street behind our office are a variety of restaurants, and I often go to lunch with my boss. I have also had some of my best experiences with my co-workers during lunch as we talked about politics, policy, and career goals.

Most afternoons, including today, are spent on two things: compiling more legislative and committee research for the office; and, focusing on my fellowship project. This means doing in-depth research on bills that I am passionate about and presenting them to Congressman Norman to consider for co-sponsoring.

At the end of the work day, I mostly follow the same routine as most students in the program: grab a quick bite at the house or a local pub before heading to class.

Wednesdays are an internship focus class; Thursdays are theater class; and today, Monday, I have a public policy class.

The public policy professor is a Harvard graduate and led a political and philosophical discussion on current issues facing our country as well as deep thought about the future. This is probably one of the more challenging, but most rewarding aspects of my time in DC. It gives me the opportunity to strengthen my beliefs, completely change some, and soften others.

Grigg and Pence
Sarah Grigg with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the 2018 Value Voters Summit.

The benefit I have gained from these courses has been considerable. I have learned more about myself and my abilities and goals in my career from them than I have in my entire undergraduate career. And they have all further solidified my focus on pursuing a career in law and government.

Now back home, ready for some sleep, I think about the day to come – and realize my experience here in D.C. has been immeasurable in so many ways. It has given me a broader view of politics. It is strengthening my political views. And it is improving my ability to defend these views in a concise and articulate way.

Every day, I have seen that there are people on both sides of the political fence who are willing to put politics aside to accomplish a common purpose; and every day I see that there are people on both sides who are not willing to do so. I also discovered that just because someone is in the same political party as I am, it does not mean that they feel the same as me on every issue.

Christmas is just around the corner, and I will be happy to be back in S.C. and to Lander after the holidays. But at the same time, part of me wishes I could stay here and do the entire program all over again – It was life-changing!