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A summer like no other for NIU’s congressional interns

September 18, 2017

After hearing so many good things about NIU’s congressional internship program in Washington D.C., Christine Wang knew she wanted to be a part of it.

Wang, a senior political science major from Naperville, made her own memories this summer as she joined three other Huskies in the offices of Illinois congressional members as part of the program, which debuted at NIU in 2009.

“I wanted to be a part of it because I love politics,” Wang said. “To be able to learn and work in the heart of our nation’s capital was an experience I very much wanted to have.”

This summer’s participants included Wang, Ben Staub, Erin Hernandez and Lark Lewis. Undergraduate students from any major are welcome to apply, according to NIU’s Director of Federal Relations Anna Quider, who has assisted with the program since 2014.

Students submit a written application with their academic background, an essay and letters of recommendation. Quider calls the process “competitive” with the goal of placing some of NIU’s most outstanding students in the offices of U.S. senators and representatives from Illinois.

“Capitol Hill is unlike any other place in the world, and interning there is an excellent way for students to gain necessary experience to launch their careers,” Quider said. “Numerous program alumni are employed on Capitol Hill, in federal agencies or in other policy roles.”

Lewis – who double-majored in journalism and political science – applied for an intern spot at the urging of Professor Matt Streb during his time as chair of the political science department. She graduated this summer and, following her internship, was offered a paid press fellow position with U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly.

“I got matched up with Congresswoman Robin Kelly in the (political science) mentorship program and then was so lucky to be placed with her office for the internship,” Lewis said. “I know I’m spoiled starting off my career in such an amazing office.”

Hernandez, a senior double-majoring in political science and Spanish, also interned with Kelly’s office.

“My biggest take away is how important it is to have representation on the Hill to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard,” she said. “I had the tremendous opportunity to meet so many people and hear so many stories about what’s going on around the world. I hope to go back and work in the foreign policy sector.”

Staub recently graduated with a political science degree focused on public administration. He wants to be a policy advocate for science and education, so seeing Capitol Hill firsthand was an important experience.

“My main reason for taking part in this internship is that it would give me real-work experience in a congressional office and help me figure out if this is the right path for me,” said Staub, who interned with U.S. Rep. Bill Foster.

Wang is the first in her family to be born in the United States after her parents moved from Taiwan in 1992. That fact made the Washington D.C. internship even more meaningful.

“(My parents) are the epitome of the American Dream, and for me to work in Washington D.C. meant that I was a step closer to helping others like my parents have the opportunities they need to succeed in our nation,” said Wang, who worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos.

With many lasting impressions to choose from, Wang highlighted the chance to talk with Bustos and learn her mottos for success, as well as getting a first-hand view of working life in D.C.

“It’s a steep learning curve. You’re expected to be quick and a problem solver, so it can get very difficult if you’re not careful,” she said. “Congresswoman Bustos, with her honesty, shed a new light into the world of Congress that I had never been able to see before.”