So Jung Kim (BA '18) submitted this field report from her internship with U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47).
218 out of 435. In the classroom, I was taught that House action requires a simple majority. However, the reality behind the lower chamber is more complex. This summer, I learned about the staff side of Congress as an intern for Rep. Alan Lowenthal. There are thousands of staffers advising our elected officials, and they distill input from ordinary citizens, research authorities, community organizations, interest groups, and lobbyists. My fellow interns and I handled the frontlines of information gathering and constituent services. I processed daily office communications, led Capitol tours for visitors, collected signatures, drafted constituent letters, attended briefings, wrote memos, and researched policy proposals.
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Aiming to better understand the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, the House body that directly legislates my focus area, I sat in awe during several informational subcommittee hearings and part of the 10-hour bill markup to reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. Witness questions were factually educational, and member banter could get entertaining, but I was most fascinated to see how individual members singularly advocated for their constituents’ unique priorities. For example, while representatives from districts with airports might want to regulate aircraft noise pollution, those from cities with ports might focus on reforming multimodal freight funding.
In the evenings, I joined DC’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community as an International Leadership Foundation Civic Fellow. Each week, my ILF cohort (student interns supported by other AAPI nonprofits) and I heard from panels of artists, journalists, professors, activists, business people, politicians, and public servants who discussed cultural history, various sectors of public life, career challenges, and the uncertainty of America today. I was grateful to enrich my work experience with these events and reflect on my personal identity and pursuit of policy work in greater context.
During the winter semester of my junior year, I interned at the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General through the Michigan in Washington program. Thus, I had a four-month head start on bureaucratic and congressional acronyms, navigation/commuting, and the all-important local tourism. Among our capital’s cultural and historical gems, my strongest recommendations are the Library of Congress, National Portrait Gallery, and Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
It was wonderful to see and spend time with Fordies around the Capitol Hill tunnels, all over the city, and congregated at the best-attended Worldwide Spirit Day celebration in honor of our namesake. After six months in the hub of national politics, I return to Ann Arbor with a wider definition of ‘public service,’ a greater awareness of the stakeholders in the civic sphere, and a determination to learn as much as possible in the classroom during my last year of undergrad.
So Jung Kim (BA '18) is a senior pursuing a bachelor's in public policy concentrating on American governance with a subfocus on transportation and infrastructure and a minor in political science. Her top domestic policy interests also include food security and voting rights.