the washington monument
View of the Washington Monument on the bike ride to work.

Max Wagner, MPP Class of 2024, writes about his experience as a Legislative Intern in a Congressional Office on Capitol Hill.

When I arrived in Washington, D.C. on a May Monday morning, I got on the subway, took one look around the train car, and thought to myself, “I have a feeling we’re not in Chicago anymore.”

I was surrounded by a sea of business attire—mostly black and navy-blue suits—worn by people on their way to work. It felt strange at first but soon became a normal part of my experience working in the nation’s capital as a Legislative Intern in a Congressional Office on Capitol Hill.

I secured the position through the UChicago Institute of Politics (IOP), which offers paid internship opportunities for students interested in working in government or nonprofit organizations. I was offered the internship after one interview with a Legislative Aide and then the pressure was on for me to find housing in D.C. for the summer.

I scoured the D.C. subletting Facebook groups for an apartment that lined up with my internship term. With no luck, I ended up living in a dorm at George Washington University, which provided the flexibility and affordability that I needed.

Max Wagner
Max Wagner, MPP Class of 2024, headed to work on his first day in DC

I worked alongside six other interns from across the country. We all shared the same basic job responsibilities—answering constituent calls, giving tours of the Capitol Building, and writing policy memos. The policy memos provided a great opportunity for me to put the analytical skills I learned at Harris to work in the real world. During my internship, I wrote more than 15 policy memos on a range of policy issues ranging from hydrogen tax credits to railway safety.

Outside of my day-to-day responsibilities, I enjoyed indulging my love for politics by attending Congressional hearings and wandering the halls of the Capitol Building. And while I appreciated the opportunity to see up close how federal policymaking happens, I will admit I was more energized than ever to return to being a public policy student in Chicago: the city I love—and the city that dresses in business casual.