By Brooklyn Dance
Rocxana Estrada spent the fall semester interning in the United States Congress—her third internship in two years.
The junior business management major, a self-professed political junkie, took the internship even though there was no academic requirement for it.
Nicole Hubbs, the internship coordinator for the school of business, communications, and arts and sciences, said that 25 to 45 of students under her branch take internships each semester. They are almost always off campus, and the students are the ones who take the initiative in getting the internship.
“Internships are crucial to your career field. It’s the first chance you get to work in your major, off campus, not in your job, and really have a concentrated time to work in your field. It really gives students a first person perspective of, ‘yes this is what I want to do,’ or, ‘no I don’t want to do this.’ Either way you go, it is a good experience because you work with a supervisor. It teaches you about your future job after college, and it builds up your resume.”
Estrada has always been fascinated with politics and the government.
“I am really interested in the Department of State,” Estrada said. “I hope to end up in D.C. again someday.”
In 2014, Estrada joined LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, an organization that seeks to better the community and the daily lives of Latin Americans in the United States, according to the group’s website.
Estrada went to a three-day conference in Washington D.C. through LULAC, where she joined other Latinos as they learned about public policy, civic engagement and advocacy.
At the conference, Estrada met members of the CHCI, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and quickly began networking. She attended the same LULAC conference in New York City, and between the two she learned about the internship opportunity in Congress, and knew she wanted to be involved.
Estrada was accepted, and soon joined 20 other students from around the country at the nation’s capital in the fall of 2015. CHCI paid for her housing, a stipend, transportation, and the flights there and home.
The group of students was divided in half, either working with senate or congress. Estrada and another student were assigned to intern for Congressman Steve Cohen, the U.S. Representative for Tennessee’s 9th congressional district (Memphis).
Estrada’s tasks included filing caller’s comments, writing letters back to constituents and taking notes on the congressman’s hearings. Every time Cohen was mentioned in any form of media, Estrada was notified and responsible for reading the articles and deciding what to put on the website.
Estrada recalls being surprised by how fast paced and intense even simple tasks were.
“There was such a competition between all of us, because everyone wanted to grow and get their name out there” Estrada said.
She also learned how to give tours of Congress to visitors, learning about the underground passageways that connected all four office buildings and Congress.
Through CHCI, Estrada was able to meet both Barrack and Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and several more republican candidates.
Estrada’s semester in D.C. came to a close and she was back in Nashville. Soon after, she was offered an unpaid internship with Congressmen Jim Cooper, one of Tennessee’s representatives. There was a possible job opening attached, but Estrada decided to turn it down and pursue finishing her education.
Estrada used Schuy Weishaar, Ph.D., one of her English professors as a reference for the internship.
“[The internship] seemed to make sense for who she was.” Weishaar said.
Weishaar explained how Rocxana was always curious in class, especially when they covered politics. The next year, whenever Estrada ran into Weishaar she always had a question about something she wanted to know more about, Weishaar said.
Internships where you have to go somewhere else, and live differently than you’re used to leave such an impact, Weishaar said.
Weishaar recalls seeing pictures of Estrada working in D.C. on his facebook and said
“It made me happy to see her out in the world, blossoming.” Weishaar said.
Since she has spent a semester away without earning college credits, Estrada typically takes 18 hours a semester and still plans to graduate on time.
“The internship impacted me in countless ways. I have become more aware of how our country’s legislative system works,” Estrada said. “I am anxious to continue to grow my experience in our government.”