Emma Dietz preparing to be a legislator

I arrived in Washington D.C. on January 18, 2017. It was two days before the inauguration of Mr. Trump, and I was anxious about being in the nation’s capital, where the incoming administration held values that were contrary to much of what I believed, particularly when it came to environmental protection. Nonetheless, I was eager to get to my first day at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. In truth, I had no idea what to expect. My professional experience prior to EESI was limited to laboratory settings, and I was acutely aware that my ability to perform a perfect chlorophyll extraction was not going to help me when it came to writing about energy policy. Still, I was confident that my coursework and eagerness to learn would carry me.

I had been warned by my peers that as an intern in D.C., you get often stuck doing grunt work, and that intern’s feel readily replaceable in these competitive and coveted positions. At EESI, this could not be further from the truth.

From my first day, I was working on meaningful, relevant projects. I was eagerly welcomed aboard as a member of the team, and tasked with taking over the Congressional Record (updating the office on the relevant bills discussed by Congress the previous day) and managing the social media accounts. I was given a protocol on writing articles for EESI, and then quickly assigned a topic. By my second week, I had two web articles published. 

The beauty of working at EESI is that you get out of it what you put in. Everyone at EESI is responsive and helpful; they seek opportunities to help you engage with their work, and as an intern, you very much feel like part of the team. What’s more, the input I received on my work greatly helped me develop my skills as a writer and a critical thinker. By the end of my 11 weeks as an intern, I had 10 web articles published, contributed to two major fact sheets, and assisted with a host of other fascinating projects. Being given these opportunities as an intern is rare, and it’s one of the unique features of the EESI intern program that makes it so special. 

As an EESI intern, no two days are the same—you are constantly engaging with new topics and broadening your horizons. I was immersed in policy issues ranging from revamping the energy grid, to improving public housing. I was encouraged to attend local events; some of my favorites included Congressional hearings (with titles such as “Make the EPA Great Again”), and talks by well-known scientists on climate change, or the future of the low carbon economy. I was able to visit Congressional offices, help host briefings, and learn all about the processes that contribute to creating environmental policy.

There are three words that come to mind when I reflect on my experience as an intern at EESI: substantive, engaging, and transformative. Coming out of my internship, I not only have a plethora of new knowledge, but also tangible work to show for my time there. When it came to writing articles, I was often able to choose my own topics, which meant I was always working on a project that was engaging. And finally, the experience as a whole was truly transformative on every level. Living in D.C. at such a critical moment in history was exciting, and I saw how the work we were doing at EESI was more important than ever. I learned the ins and outs of life in the Capitol from the staff, and was inspired by their dedication to bettering our world. By the end of my internship, I had a new goal: to one day work as a legislator who can help enact the important changes that EESI is pushing for. Without a doubt, EESI provides an internship experience like no other!

 

Author: Emma Dietz