Internship vs Working: Setting my Own Schedule

International World Peace Garden, Capitol State Park

Two more weeks are left of my summer internship at the Sacramento State Capitol. So far, I've been here six weeks, or thirty work days, to be exact, filled with moments of growth, decision making, and learning. But mostly learning. This is my first official internship of my career and it feels much different from the way any of my previous jobs have felt. In other positions I was trusted with introductory tasks, and upon their completion was given more projects, some requiring a deeper knowledge base. But, as a temporary shadow in my office, the experience was not about my ability to complete tasks and be compensated for them and the hours in which I worked on them. Instead, each hour I was at my desk was a lesson in law, consulting, fact checking, or customer service. Realistically, not every day I was assigned a project that had to be completed, instead I set my own intention for what I wanted to get completed. Whether the goal was set for those eight hours, for those five days, or for those eight weeks, I had different places I wanted to end up, different goals, with a focus on a stronger grasp on the state legislature, understanding of career choices within the Capitol, and the current legislators topics of focus for the upcoming session. These are what I went there knowing I wanted to learn on a deeper level. I feel as though this summer has been a process, chipping away at the colossal iceberg that will eventually be shaped into my post-college life. This continual process of forming my evolving path requires experiences that create an outline for a future path or sculpt tiny details that I will enjoy forever. The process of reflection has been one of my greatest takeaways from the summer.

My education at Berkeley has given me the exposure to understand that each office you work in, each campus you step on, and each level of government has its own network of resources, advisors, and authority. They have their own culture that may feel awkward at first, but eventually feels natural as you begin working and contributing to the ideas that attracted you to that office from the start. You build inward when you start at a new place, but you are then expected to use that internal knowledge and bring it to the table when you think about getting projects done in the sector, business, or branch you have ended up in. Because of Berkeley, I landed my first internship in the Capitol, and have spent the last six weeks slowly digesting the institutional knowledge that is needed to work and thrive in the Capitol. I have an enormous amount of respect for the elected officials who serve in our state Capitol because they are both compliant to hundreds of stringent and necessary regulations as well as relentless and active in their attempts to satisfy their constituents and Californians even beyond their district. The Assembly is a large, eccletic group, and the level of enthusiasm and ambition of the staff is one I have daily been impressed by. Public service, I am seeing, is similar to other sectors in the way you have a job you must attend, you have other people you must answer to, and you have a responsibility to remain fiscally afloat. But, for me, the biggest division between public service and the private sector is that you don’t answer to a board room full of people or shareholders; you must answer to the people who live in your district, who trust you with giving them the proper information about how to vote, where to get their social security check, and what to do when they get a ticket. These people want to be able to navigate the system I spent this summer, every day, trying to learn through and through.

In the public sector, legislators and staff are working to protect public safety, correct wrongs that have happened, and provide more people with opportunities that were not always available to them. I am proud to say I attend a university, one of the greatest in the world, that was established as a public institution for advancing the state. We have the most progressive environmental goals that we are on track to achieve, and it is because of the interplay between elected officials, agencies, and state research. I have used this internship to watch as legislation goes from an idea to a policy. I have heard from hundreds of people who share and disagree on what the state should prioritize and what they believe the future of California should look like. I have begun to delve deeper into what value system many constituents hold which serve as a basis for their political decisions. I have chosen to focus on the sheer mass of input and ideas that exist in our state, and how they are negotiated, prioritized, and eventually agreed upon in a way that creates a policy or initiative that will structure certain aspects of our life. This type of large scale community agreement in itself is a feat, and although not everyone will be pleased, the elected officials and loyal staff of the Capitol continue to work towards that dynamic goal.

I have learned that policy is an evolution, dependent upon everything from current events to demographics. I have gotten to tune in to incredible conversations and debates, to learn what people are thinking and what their goals are, and whether or not I believe my own would contribute to the future of our state. To be able to stake a claim in the guiding infrastructure of our state and our core, communal value system is both an enormous honor as well as a responsibility that must be subject to the harshest light. I have enjoyed the buzz of the internship in the same way I enjoy the process of legislation. As parallels, I respect the transitional process that policy creation is and I have learned to be patient in my own transition from academic to professional. It has been an enjoyable learning process that I will continue to be attentive to as I explore more issue areas and potential career paths involving policy and government.