Brits in America: experiencing the US political machine

Harvard University student Raphaëlle made the most of the summer with a number of internships including one in the Washington DC office of the Governor of New York State Andrew M. Cuomo

August 30 2018
Brits in America

For the bulk of my jam-packed summer, I interned for the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in his Washington DC office. It was an experience unlike any other. I went from reading articles on President Donald Trump’s policies to actively partaking in the DC political machine.

As a staunch Democrat, Governor Cuomo is a force against President Trump’s advancing political agenda and he has been cited by The Washington Post as a possible 2020 presidential candidate. It was a privilege to work for Governor Cuomo and to have learned as much as I did from his staff. 

My role involved writing memorandums on a broad range of policy areas such as immigration, environmental protection, trade and economic development. I attended both House and Senate hearings, witnessed key political figures in action, and experienced the raging political battles on Capitol Hill.


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For example, when the media revealed that thousands of children had been separated from their parents at the border with Mexico, I found myself at the centre of the political furore. New York State filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, seeking the reunification of families. Governor Cuomo’s actions, supported by his army of determined staff members, played a vital role in forcing the US government to change course. 

Governor Cuomo’s core values of inclusivity and integrity not only produced results in policy, but provided a welcoming and inclusive working environment within his team. It was clear from the start that the DC office of the governor focused on merit and suitability when deciding who to select as an intern. I was able to experience the core of American politics and soon found my place within the team. 

Through my work in DC, I became more aware of the importance of caring for the local community and vulnerable immigrants. I decided to volunteer, after hours, for a local education centre that taught immigrants English. I met people from Honduras to China and witnessed their determination to integrate into American society.

In addition to my internship and volunteering, I also attended multiple events organised by the Harvard “Summer in DC” programme run by the Institute of Politics. This added additional excitement to my DC experience. For example, I was able to visit the White House and meet Matt Lira, a senior adviser to President Trump.

I met with senators, congressmen and congresswomen, ambassadors, and chief executive officers. I even had the opportunity to visit a secret service training facility. Despite my international status, Harvard gave me access to events normally reserved for US citizens.

DC is where Americans with political ambitions go. I spent time alongside the future leaders of the US government and I began to understand the way that DC operates and also met important political figures. I became a citizen of the DC bubble but I could never call DC home. Instead, I hope to use my unique experience back home in the UK.

Read more: catch up on all of Raphaëlle’s blogs  

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