To say my first week interning at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee wasn’t what I expected would be an understatement. This was my first time in DC, so it was at first really overwhelming at first because of the rushed and professional environment. As I walked to my internship, passing by various people in suits and dresses, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat out of place. Once I arrived to my internship, my supervisor warmly welcomed me and sat me down to describe what I would be doing here for the next couple of weeks. As a Governmental Affairs intern, I had assumed I would be primarily doing research on current political issues regarding Arab identity in America. Instead, right off the bat I was told I would be lobbying House and Senate members with another intern the next day on extending Temporary Protected Status for Somali immigrants. The intern and I spent that afternoon putting together dozens of informational packets and I went home with stacks of folders.
The next day I wrote what I assumed would be the most “professional-like” outfit I had and met with the intern who happened to live near by. He told me of a free shuttle to a metro station that would then take us to Capitol Hill. It was my first time navigating DC’s metro and it was at first overwhelming because of how rushed it was. Though, it wasn’t too difficult to understand and extremely reliable. It was when we arrived and walked to Capitol Hill that it struck me how small we all were, but how together we combined to create the functioning society I was at first so intimidated by. This was solidified when we met with another NGO and worked on packets together. It was one thing to witness solidarity efforts by two groups trying to ensure the human rights of a vulnerable population, but it was another to be a part of this effort. As we knocked on representative’s offices and spoke to their staffers, we passed by multiple individuals and groups lobbying for their own particular issue. That relaxed my intimidation, again noting that we were all working towards a common goal of addressing issues we felt critical to the functioning of this country. It was extremely comforting knowing that hundreds have been and will be in my shoes, so I made the most of what was a huge start to my internship.
This lobbying, which lasted from 8 AM to 6PM, was tiring to say the least, but it was nonetheless redeeming. That week, the Department of Homeland Security renewed, but failed to redesignate Temporary Protected Status for Somalia. This meant that those who hadn’t been registered underneath the status couldn’t do so and, truthfully, it was my first glimpse of how disheartening lobbying and NGO work can be. Though my week also reminded me of how necessary it is nonetheless. So while we hadn’t necessarily gotten the outcome we wanted, we just had to continue to push harder. Though I hadn’t spent my first week researching as I had expected and was thrown into what at first was extremely intimidating, it was valuable in re-aligning my priorities and what I wanted to do with my own presence in DC.