Hello, my name is Matt Camarda, and I’m DC Spring Semester’s blogger.
I’m also a senior who decided to spend the final semester of his college career working instead of goofing off with the friends he’d made the past three and a half years.
My situation is a bit unique in that I’ve already lived and interned in DC. Last summer, I lived in Crystal City, Arlington, within sight of the DC program’s old student housing, the Buchanan, and interned at the Library of Congress. I’d visited DC several times prior to last summer, but only then did I start to get a feel for the city, master the Metro, almost get bored of walking the Mall, and get annoyed whenever anyone would stand on the left side of the escalator. Coming from a New Jersey suburb of New York City, which is seemingly never ending, I liked that DC was small enough to navigate fairly easily, but big enough so that when I went home, I felt as if I left so much unexplored. I loved the Thai restaurants, bars, parks, museums, memorials, the people.
I knew I wanted to come back, maybe even live here. Last August, I got an email from the William & Mary Washington Center saying that the spring DC Semester Program’s topic was the 2016 election. I’m obsessed with politics and government, so I jumped on it, despite my reservations about being away for my last semester.
I’m currently a press intern for a Democratic congresswoman. My work has generally involved calling up news organizations, finding contacts, and doing light research, but always includes compiling press clips in the morning. For me, this involves hyperlinking, copying, and pasting every single article mentioning the Congresswoman, articles from certain respected national newspapers, articles on certain policy topics, the entire A section of a local newspaper, and editing and creating links for every news broadcast that mentions her. It’s imperative that these get done ASAP, because that’s how the Congresswoman gets her news. (This also means I have to be in the office by around 8:00am. Yay.) It’s been challenging, and I’ve made my share of mistakes, especially on the first day, when I finished the clips absurdly late, but gradually I’ve improved and become more dependable and efficient.
And when you’re a government nerd, nothing beats those exhilarating moments when you connect with the people and issues you’ve read about.
A few days ago, I got to go to my first press conference. The topic was opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the trade deal — admittedly, something I know very little about. In order to get there, I had to walk from Rayburn to Cannon, which are two buildings apart and connected by tunnels. I sat with my boss, senior advisor to the Congresswoman and asked her every question I could think of: Who was there? What about TPP did they oppose? How long did press conferences usually last?
My duties will eventually include taking pictures of the Congresswoman at these sorts of events, which gave me pause, since I had never met her. I was there, in part, to observe my boss doing it.
Just before the press conference began, my boss handed me a coat, telling me not to wrinkle it, and that this was a test the last press intern had failed. As each speaker took their turn railing on TPP, including the president of the AFL-CIO and reps from Sierra Club and MoveOn, my arm did not budge from its L-shaped position.
After around 40 minutes, the press conference ended, and I stood near the door with my boss. The Congresswoman approached me and said, “Are you holding my coat? Bless your heart!”
I had no idea I was holding her coat. I was frozen, starstruck. Later that day, the staff assistant introduced me to her in her office. She told me I was doing a great job, and asked about where I went to school and what I was interested in. Meeting her made me even gladder that I have the incredible opportunity to work for her and help her fight the good fight.
-Matt Camarda ’16