My experience in D.C. was absolutely life-changing. Not only was it my first internship, but it was also my first time living in a city.
In many ways, I got a sense of what it is like to be an independent adult: grocery shop on my own and have the freedom to choose how I want to live my life each day. After living in D.C., I now have a clearer sense of who I am and what I want to do in the future. To celebrate the experiences I’ve had, I’m going to share with you all some of my reflections as a send-off.
My work was an even mix of researching policies and helping with advocacy on Capitol Hill. I attended a couple of congressional hearings on my own to report back on. At one of them I got to hear Representative John Lewis, which was incredible. I learned how to communicate with congressional staffers and even sit in on a few meetings with them. Occasionally, I would go to Capitol Hill with the Community Living Advocate at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL). I learned a lot about how to advocate for disability policy going to meetings with her.
At the same time, I realized that I want the work I do to go far beyond creating and changing policies—I want to be involved in changing the culture of the society that we live in because without working to change how society views disabled people, the policies will be less effective. I want to focus my work on eliminating systemic oppression against disabled people within the movement itself and in society as a whole.
Throughout my time at the NCIL, I got to meet many other disability rights and justice activists who I greatly admire. I did this by going to many events such as an Olmstead decision anniversary event held by Senator Casey’s staff (Olmstead was a Supreme Court decision that affirmed that disabled people should have first choice in where they want to live and living at home as part of a community should be prioritized over institutions).
I’ve gained a lot of mentors who I learn from every day, and I hope to bring the skills I have learned back to Albion College.Eryn Star
I made a lot of connections through helping to staff NCIL’s annual conference a couple weeks ago. It was easy to connect with everyone I met because disability activism is very much a space where everyone knows each other; people were genuinely interested in what I am passionate about and wanted to help me get involved in the disability rights movement. I’ve gained a lot of mentors who I learn from every day, and I hope to bring the skills I have learned back to Albion College. My coworkers welcomed me with open arms and have said that I’ll always be a part of their family. I feel very lucky that I got to work in that type of environment. I now feel happy with my life direction and that I finally feel like I’m going somewhere.
I hope that any incoming interns who read this know that you can absolutely find an internship where you feel part of a community/family and do the fulfilling work that you’ve always wanted to explore.