For the spring semester I have the opportunity to participate in the Legislative Internship Program. I will be living in Austin for this semester and instead of taking traditional classes I will be interning full-time in the office of a Texas House of Representative member. Even though I am in the clinical concentration, I thought that it would be good for me to gain exposure to policy making. Through my previous work experience in schools and in my first year placement, I have realized the extent that policy has on a social worker’s role and on the individual client.
This first week in the office has felt very much like the first day of high school for me. I have been bombarded with information, meeting countless people whose names I have already forgotten, and spent considerable time lost around the Capitol building. I have been accepted into the representative’s office. The staff has done a very good job of helping me transition and learn about the Capitol world. People have described the legislative session as a summer camp, where people see friends they do not often see and act in ways that they traditionally would not. Also, since people work in such close proximity, rumors spread quickly and there are even blogs that are dedicated to the rumors of the Capitol.
I have tried my best to forget all my pre-conceived notions of the political world and start off on a clean slate. My desk is in front of the representative’s office so I am the contact person for dozens of lobbyist and advocacy groups that have entered the office the first week. In addition to hearing the perspectives of the many lobbyists in the office, I have attended a number of receptions that they have given in order to gain a background on certain issues. As a graduate student and novice cook it is hard to pass up free meals that do not come from a microwave.
After the trainings are completed, I will begin to write bills to be presented before the Legislature, and I will learn the policy issue I will be working exclusively on. So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Legislative Aide in the Capitol and hope to maintain this enthusiasm throughout the rest of the semester, when the stress and the workdays will inevitably compound.