By Michelle Bruns
Editor's Note: Michelle Bruns received a 1998 scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, and is a leader in the Texas Association of Blind Students.
Anticipation gripped me from every angle as the plane landed in Washington DC's National Airport. This overwhelming sense of fear was clutching at me, insisting that I give into its demands. Slowly, the plane began to descend, the great national monuments whizzing by beneath us. I knew I was in for an adventure, but I had no idea to what degree.
I had only been to the nation's capitol once before as part of a structured school trip. But now I had three exciting months to explore and digest as much of DC as I could. To me, the city seemed like it was a world unto itself.
Needless to say, I continued to be extremely nervous. Luckily, I had a week or so to settle in and orient myself to the transportation system and Capitol Hill. Furthermore, there are these tunnels that connect all of the Senate Buildings underground and I wanted to master that system as well.
With butterflies dancing around in my stomach, I began my internship with Senator Christopher Dodd that following week. When I arrived at the Senator's office, two other women were already waiting. Being the social person that I am, I quickly became acquainted with my colleagues. We were supposed to be there for our first day by 9:00 a.m. Soon I learned that no one on Capitol Hill begins work before 9:30 a.m. The intern coordinator was extremely nice, but very efficient. All of us could tell she expected great things out of us.
The following day, the real work began. At this point, I decided these experiences might be worth giving up my summer for. After my initial elation ended, I began doing "real work." My main task was to attend hearings, briefings, and markups. All of these meetings were directly related to issues that pertained to happenings that Senator Dodd was handling. The best way to describe the way I felt was capable and accomplished. My favorite issues to handle were matters concerning the Year Two Thousand Computer Crisis. Before going to Washington, I was not aware that this was such a big concern plaguing our country. Now I really feel as though I am educated on the subject and I can now inform others.
The remainder of the summer passed quickly. It was filled with handling some constituent mail, writing reports, and doing research. All of these are essential skills that will definitely assist me in my future endeavors. The adaptive equipment I used to complete my work, such as computerized technology, was very helpful and put me on an equal footing with the other interns. I am sure that the people who coordinate the intern programs were worried about how I was going to handle my work, but, confidently, I can say, I am sure I measured up to their expectations.
My adventures in Washington DC were truly exciting. This experience put me in situations that made me grow. I know I was influenced and educated by everyone that I encountered, and I am sure I educated them as well, not only about blindness, but about being independent and taking on new experiences.
In retrospect, I sincerely can say my summer was well spent learning about our government and all the events that happen within it. I know I could have spent my summer taking summer school, or lounging on a sandy white beach somewhere, but I would not give up the experience and knowledge that I had gained from this internship.
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