Internship Series: Congresswoman Niki Tsongas

January 13, 2014

Bob SchneiderBob Schneider
CAS’13 | Major: International Relations
Intern, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ Office

As an undergraduate student, Bob Schneider worked as intern in Washington, D.C. for Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. In addition to administrative tasks, Bob wrote recommendations on legislation for Congresswoman Tsongas. He found his internship via the Congresswoman’s website at the recommendation of a BU D.C. Study Abroad Program Manager.

CCD: Tell us about your internship experience on Capitol Hill.

Bob: Every morning I got to the office at 9:00 a.m., checked the morning papers for anything related to or directly about Congresswoman Tsongas. If I was working the front desk (there were three of us and we rotated each day), then I would answer phones, check guests in, organize constituent tours, and flag requests. I would also check the mail and sort it by how it should be responded to. If a constituent called, I would take down his or her name, address, and question/comment. Their information would then be entered into a database. The person would then receive a response from the Congresswoman in a few weeks. The same was done with mail. If I wasn’t at the front desk that day, then I was working on assignments or attending meetings with or for other staff members. During my internship, I was also generally assigned pieces of legislation. I would write an entire write-up about the legislation and make a recommendation on how the Congresswoman should vote. At 5:00 p.m., I was out of the office and off to class.

CCD: What was the best part of your internship?

Bob: The best thing about my internship were the people in my office as well as the Capitol Hill experience I gained, which is crucial to ultimately getting a job on the Hill.

CCD: What about the worst?

Bob: The worst thing were the constituent tours of the Capitol Building. I didn’t like giving tours, not necessarily because it was not enjoyable, but I really enjoyed being in the office working on legislative affairs. We usually had a few legislative projects going on at once, and giving tours to constituents usually got in the way of working on those.

CCD: What is one thing that you’ve learned that will be most beneficial in your next endeavor?

Bob: Between the experience on the Hill and the contacts I made, I hope to get a job because of my internship. I learned specific skills that staffers don’t want to teach you once you get hired. They don’t want to teach you how to get around Capitol Hill, how to sort mail, log mail into the computer system, handle constituent requests – simple tasks like that. It’s not necessarily a specific skill as a learned as much as basic Hill experience and the jobs I would have to do were I to be hired.

CCD: How has this internship changed your future plans?

Bob: The internship did not change my plans at all. It only reinforced my desire to work on Capitol Hill.

CCD: What are the top three skills you’ve learned from your internship experience?

Bob: The skills I learned were very specific to my job: how to navigate Capitol Hill, how to act on Capitol Hill and lastly, how everything works on the Hill. In terms of navigating, getting around the Hill is a skill in itself. It’s a maze of multiple senate buildings, house buildings, the Capitol building, the visitor center, and various hidden offices, connected by long hallways, trams, and a subway. The other aspect is obviously how to act. You always have to be dress professionally. You have to know when you are allowed to speak up and when you cannot. You have to be able to recognize who is a Congressman or Congresswoman and who is a tourist. There are certain elevators you can and cannot take. Certain hallways you can or cannot go down and doors you can or cannot open. I still don’t know everything, but I have a basis for where to start.