The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Amanda Toporek ‘16

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Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our "Notes from the Field" series. Click here to read more about the Rockefeller Center's Internships program. To read the entire series, click here.

Student Intern: Amanda Toporek '16

Internship Organization: United States Senator Charles Schumer – Washington, DC

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
Congress really is the pulse of our government and our nation. All current events are relevant in a day's work on the Hill. Each day, we work to fully understand and solve the wide array of issues our nation and constituency face. Our office, and the Hill more generally, is full of bright and eager minds always looking to problem solve.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I'm in charge of answering and cataloging constituent phone calls and letters, giving constituents tours of the Capitol, doing news clippings or relevant research for Legislative Correspondents, and writing up summaries of briefings or hearings that I attend.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
Firstly, I got goosebumps just walking in to the Senate office buildings on my first day, which still haven’t gone away. The other interns were really good about making me feel comfortable quickly. They'd all been here since January so not only did they know the way the office worked logistically, they already all got along with one another. They showed me the ropes and seemed excited to have a new intern to get to know. When I answered my first constituent phone call I got butterflies in my stomach. I was worried I'd say the wrong thing, push the wrong buttons, or just mess up in the worst possible way. Now, talking to constituents is second nature to me.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
My two favorite things about the internship experience have been giving tours and going to briefings. In giving tours, I get to explore the Capitol and discuss American history while getting to know constituents as they discover DC. I've also loved going to briefings on different issues. Usually there are many different perspectives represented and a plethora of information. Afterwards, I compile the information into a memo for a staffer. This process is not only useful for the staffer, but also helps me process and parse through the information.

What challenges have you faced so far?
In general, I've had to develop my listening skills. On the phone and in the mail I have to parse through constituent information and direct them to the right sources or answer their questions. Some constituents are understandably emotional about particular issues. As a result, I've found it important to stay level headed and listen to their concerns while pulling out the critical details to provide useful answers.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to have a holistic understanding of what happens behind the scenes of the Senator, the Senate, and our Congress here in DC.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
Doing laundry on weekends is nearly impossible because everyone else does laundry on weekends. It's best to pick a weeknight to chill out, make dinner, and do laundry. It can even be relaxing! Also, lookout for free food! It's everywhere if you keep your eyes open. And finally, a jumbo slice of pizza, while nearly seven bucks, is most certainly enough food for at least 24 hours.

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