Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Interning in DC

After completing a year of study in Nanjing, HNC Certificate/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA student Clarise Brown, started her studies at SAIS in Washington, DC. During her first semester at SAIS, Clarise had the opportunity to put her studies into practice at her internship with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sub-Committee on Asia & Pacific. 

In September of last year, North Korea launched yet another missile, violating not only the rules of international law I had chosen to dedicate my career to, but also every warning the U.S. had issued. How would the U.S. respond? Over the last year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I had pored over dozens of articles in both Chinese and English about the “North Korea Problem.” After I began my Legislative Affairs internship at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sub-Committee on Asia & Pacific, however, I was no longer merely reading the articles. I was apart of the story.  

There is a certain electric feeling on the Hill when Congress is in session, a buzz that accompanies the bustling of Congressmen heading to hearings and staffers on their way to briefings. I felt it for the first time as I prepared the Hearing Binder for the Committee Chairman, including several potential questions I had researched and contributed. Building off of the conceptual understanding I had gained in classes at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I constructed my research framework and crafted potential questions for the Congressman chairing the Sub-committee based on the very issues I had studied in Shi Bin Laoshi’s Contemporary International Politics class the semester before.  During the hearing, I took notes and listened as experts testified, many of who had written the articles I had been assigned as a student at both the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and SAIS.

Speaking of experts, over the next 3 months, I attended more than half a dozen more congressional hearings, staff briefings and meetings with key stakeholders. Each meeting gave me the opportunity to apply the lessons I’d learned in lectures in a professional setting, providing context for current affairs and geopolitics that helped provide a framework for me to understand and write effective summaries for the Sub-committee members and relevant staffers. Moreover, I also had the chance to connect with other SAIS alum on the Hill. Some were staffers, and others were expert witnesses. All of them were excellent examples of taking lessons from the classroom and applying it in meeting rooms, shaping policies that reflect and respond to geopolitical trends and events.

Despite my best efforts, we were unfortunately not quite able to solve the North Korea problem during my three month Legislative Affairs internship on the Sub-committee. I, however, count it as a success that I not only received my first (of what I hope to be many) government ID badge, I was also able to enhance the foundation gained at the HNC and SAIS with practical skills, including attending and writing summaries regarding formal briefings, meeting with key stakeholders expanding my D.C. network. Moreover, it was a pleasure to introduce a fellow SAIS alum to the office and connect him with an internship for the spring. The internship may not have been as House of Cards-esque as one would have hoped, lacking as it was a realistic Frank and Claire Underwood, but for a brief three months, I not only watched U.S.-Asia affairs unfold firsthand. I also felt more prepared to pursue a career contributing to the U.S.’s relationship with the increasingly complex and crucial region.

Written by Clarise Brown
HNC Certificate/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA 2017