One of my favorite aspects of the WMDCSI (William & Mary DC Summer Institutes) program is the mentorship program.
As a DCSI Fellow you can chose to be paired up with a W&M alumni located in DC, who you meet with a few times over the summer to get advice on careers, hear about their DC experience, and learn about their field and work (as well as learn about so much more). Your mentor tends to be someone involved in a field that interests you, so you can learn more about what you might want to do after college.
Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to have a mentor, because I find it is always helpful to hear from someone on the inside.
My mentor works on Capitol Hill as a reporter for Politico and he has been absolutely fantastic in showing me what life is like to be a journalist in DC.
I first met my mentor at the program’s mentorship dinner. This dinner served as the first time for most DCSI students to meet with their mentors. My mentor and I quickly began talking and realized we had a pretty cool connection: my mentor actually worked for The Flat Hat, W&M’s student newspaper, which I currently work for. The Flat Hat has served as a fantastic connection for us; it has been great hearing about the paper’s past and getting advice about the paper’s future.
Beyond that, I was able to ask my mentor about how he got to Politico and what his work is like on the Hill.
Recently, we met up again; this time I was able to shadow him for a morning on Capitol Hill.
Photo by Madeline Bielski
I sat in with my mentor on a presentation on US defense, which featured comments from Sen. John McCain and Congressman Randy Forbes. Being an international major who is interested in defense, this was an incredible experience to hear from two decisionmakers who are involved in forming our nation’s defense strategies.
From, there my mentor led me to the Press area in the Capitol, where I got to see real journalists at work: writing stories, conducting interviews, and meeting deadlines. My mentor even let me check out a couple of his stories and shared what issues he will be looking at in coming days.
Photo by Madeline Bielski
He also showed me where many journalists hang out when they are trying to catch a member of Congress they want to talk to. We stood in this area for a bit and I was able to see some of the big names in Congress pass by (Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Democratic Candidate for President Bernie Sanders). It was surreal to see some of these people who are all over the news, in person. Just standing there gave me the sense of what it would be like to be a reporter in Congress, always having to be ready and present.
Throughout my time on the Hill, my mentor was so great in answering my questions as they popped up and helping me keep up with who was who and what was being discussed. He really gave me insight into how his job works and how one handles the fast-pace of journalism.
Overall, this shadowing experience was fantastic. One of my goals this summer is to gain as much real world journalism exposure as I can, and thanks to my mentor, this opportunity gave me just that.