SCU political science junior Conor O’Brien is gaining valuable experience this fall as a White House intern in Washington, D.C. He and some 140 other college students were selected to work in several White House departments, including the Office of the Chief of Staff, the Office of Political Affairs, and the Office of the First Lady, the Vice President, and many others. O’Brien shared his experience exclusively with fyi:
What prompted you to apply for the internship?
I heard about the White House Internship Program through my uncle, who works in Washington, D.C, and my aunt. They referred me to a family contact who had participated in the program. She strongly recommended the program to me, so I decided to apply. I had originally planned on spending some time in Washington anyway, so I said, “Why not?”
What was your reaction when you discovered that you were selected?
I was shocked initially. I really didn’t know my chances of being accepted when I applied. I knew that the program was extremely competitive, and I wasn’t sure that my application would stand out. When I was accepted I was euphoric. I wanted to tell everyone, but first thanked my aunt and uncle, and told my family the news. They were all very happy for me.
When did you start your internship?
I started my internship in early September and the program concludes in mid-December.
Which office are you working for and what are you doing?
I am working in the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. The office handles and responds to virtually all mail sent to the President. I help that process by coding mail so it can be entered into our electronic processing system. I spend most of my week coding and processing mail that addresses judicial, labor, and gay rights policy issues.
However, there really isn’t a typical day or week for me, because our office is constantly changing and adapting. The staff here is dedicated to modernizing and improving how the White House hears from and responds to the American people.
What’s it like working in the White House?
I was a little intimidated at first, but after a few days, I settled into the office and got to know many of my fellow interns and the office staff pretty well. Everyone here has been great to me, and though I’m only here for three and a half months, I feel like I’m part of the team. If our office holds a universal truth, it’s that there is always work to be done. Each staff member has assigned tasks, and at the beginning of every day our entire division meets to discuss the day’s priorities and goals. My work for any given day depends on those priorities and goals.
Have you met the President, First Lady, or Vice President yet?
I have not yet had an opportunity to meet them, and I would be honored to do so.
Do you have any political aspirations, and if so, what do you hope to do?
All I really know is that politics and government interest me, and that I want to stay involved. I would like to work on some campaigns and work in a government or political office at some point. My experience as a White House intern has already guided my ambition in that direction, and I hope my future experiences will spur me to continue to participate in politics and government work.