For a political junkie like me, this election cycle has been all-consuming, in good ways and in bad. It’s difficult to feel like so much brainspace is occupied by such contentious politics, but it’s also so energizing to be able to participate in your first general election in a meaningful way (this is my first time being able to vote for a presidential candidate!). A really important part of my relationship with political and civic engagement was through interning with Biden for President as a fellow for all of my sophomore year, and I don’t think I would have gotten my position as fellow if I didn’t go to Penn!
I started my sophomore year with what a lot of people describe as this thirst to overextend yourself. You’re finally finished with being a newbie in all campus situations and now you’re old enough to be able to impart some wisdom on the freshmen below you. You’ve grown up a bit, gained some confidence, and learned through experience how to manage your time and choose your classes. The next step for ambitious and motivated Penn students is to get busy and take advantage of this newfound confidence in one’s academic, professional, and personal life. The best way to do that for me was to look around and see what part-time internships would be available around campus.
After some searching, I found that Penn Democrats was encouraging students to apply to paid and unpaid internships with the Biden campaign, which had national headquarters here in Philadelphia. I immediately applied and heard back with an interview offer a few weeks later. Much to my disbelief, I got a position as a fellow with the research department with the campaign! I couldn’t believe that I was going to be working at the national headquarters of a presidential campaign as my first ever internship. I eventually went on the next semester to work with the Communications team in the same capacity as before, a fellow.
In the months before COVID-19 hit, it was an amazing experience. I went into the office 3 times a week, collaborated with and learned from some of the most politically-important people in the country, and felt like I was helping to possibly change and heal this country from four years of a president whose views I strongly opposed. My last in-person day at the campaign was in mid-March right before the country went into lockdown. Vice President Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden came to Philadelphia for a post-primary rally after winning yet another set of primaries. The energy was so palpable as we cheered as a team, watching them wave to us and thank us for our help and support.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience, which I’m sure you can understand from the passion in my words, regardless of your political leanings. However, what I want to stress is that this all happened in Philadelphia! So many people told me during the college process that if I wanted to pursue politics, I absolutely had to be in Washington, D.C., and when people tell you that you must do something when you’re stressed about your future, you might think that they’re right. But if there’s anything I’ve learned through my time at the campaign, it’s that Philadelphia is just as dynamic and exciting of a city to pursue politics in as D.C. Sure, it’s not home to the federal government, but in many ways, that makes the scene much less competitive here (at least for those looking for internships!). Additionally, with Penn’s inherently collaborative culture and tight-knit community of politics-oriented people, I feel like I get access to special opportunities that those at more politically-saturated schools might not.