Ahearn ’20 Reflects on D.C. Experience

Caroline Ahearn ’20

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Caroline Ahearn ’20, who was an intern in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) office as part of the Fall 2018 Washington Semester Program. Applications for the 2019-2020 Washington Semester Program are due February 11. Learn more at the program webpage, and apply via the Student Programs Application Portal.

I have never been on a movie set, but I imagine it feels a little bit like my commute to work every day during my semester in Washington, D.C. There’s something just a little bit surreal about the historic buildings and monuments in D.C. and the way they juxtapose from the modern architecture of the rest of the city.

Every day I would walk down First Street from Union Station to the Hart Senate Office Building, with the hordes of other federal government employees off to their jobs in the House, Senate, the Supreme Court, or one of the many non-governmental organizations with a Capitol Hill office. Any person I walked beside could have decided or aided legislation that impacted the entire country, even the entire world. Or they could have helped make decisions that completely changed one person’s life for the better, from a Syrian refugee to a farmer in the Midwest. Difference makers throughout our country’s history have walked down the same corridors that I walked every day, whether that corridor led all the way to the Senate floor, or simply the coffeeshop.

This striking feeling of living history stuck with me as I toured the Lincoln Memorial on the opposite side of the mall. It weighed heavy as I had the opportunity to tour the White House gardens. I walked the same paths past the Rose Garden and the Oval Office that 44 of the country’s 45 Presidents, that First Ladies, Chiefs of Staff, and more aides than I could ever imagine have walked. And here I was, one of many in a long history of people who came to Washington to try to make a difference.

It could be easy to feel small amid all of the history and the impact of Washington, D.C., under the dome of the Capitol Building or on the underground train between the Senate buildings, just a car over from a Senator and his team of aides. Every person I came into contact with in my time in D.C., however, from my boss, Senator Elizabeth Warren, to my fellow interns, came to D.C. because they want to work towards a goal they believe in. Every day I was surrounded by elected officials and staffers with multiple degrees and a vast knowledge of public policy. I am a 21-year-old undergraduate college student who served in a 3-month long internship position. This was not a reason, however, to feel discouraged, or small, or unimportant. I, the eight other interns in Senator Warren’s office, and the 15 other Holy Cross students I traveled to DC with are part of the long tradition of the city. We are here to learn, to make any difference we can make in our 14 weeks of the Washington Semester Program, and to take what we learn with us as we continue in our studies and enter the working world.

D.C. is better than a movie set, because every day you work there, you’re contributing to what you believe in, and you’re making a real difference in the world.

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