Political Science - Public Service & History
- Interned at: United States District Court at Washington, DC - Clerks Office
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/don-congjuico-49ba9498/
Tell us about your internship. What kind of work did you do? What did you find rewarding?
As a Public Administrative Intern for the Court, my responsibilities revolved around clerical and administrative work related to how the Court functioned. At first, I was responsible for data entry but progressed toward more classified and time-sensitive work that involved going to the judges' chambers and sitting in court proceedings. I had the opportunity to continually prove what I could do and earn the trust of my supervisor as the days progressed and by the end of it I was able to make myself, and the work I did, an asset to the Clerk's Office. This, in turn, allowed me enough rapport to be trusted in working with confidential projects that lasted toward the end of my internship.
What I found rewarding throughout the whole experience was the amount of personal growth I experienced. What I saw was a benefit to me came in tandem with how much I gave and to what extent. I saw the gift of giving myself fully to an experience, no matter how infinitesimal, and that gave me the opportunity to get more out of it. Once I adopted the mindset that this whole experience can only teach me something, without judgment or any filter as to what came my way, I opened my mind to a range of possibilities I never took too seriously. This mindset I found and adopted for myself was the greatest reward I learned from my internship. This would have never been possible without the guidance of the people who looked out for interns like me in the Court. From the District Judges and their clerks to the waiter named Mister H who I always looked forward to having a conversation with during lunchtime, everyone in that building and my experiences with them helped develop and enrich my experience.
Have your career or life goals changed as a result of your internship? If so, how?
My career goals have definitely solidified as a result of my internship at the Court. I had reservations at first about wanting to pursue a career in law but am now determined to go to law school after my internship. I also did not consider seriously working for the public sector prior to this internship but the exposure I received from meeting and seeing public defenders and district attorneys during litigation in the courtroom was transformative. It made me see how integral their work is and showed me how close its proximity is to touching people's lives. The degree to how close this work hits to the people these lawyers represent humanizes the profession for me and makes it a worthwhile endeavor to strive to be the best in order to be a better advocate for my community. My internship definitely had, and will continue to have, a positive influence in reeling me towards public service and solidifying my zeal towards that end in my future career.
Share an exciting memory from your internship about something unexpected that happened while you were in D.C.
I had the privilege of being invited to Judge Kennedy Jr's portrait unveiling ceremony. The portrait would then be hung in the halls of the Court as a reminder of his service. After the heartfelt ceremony, where words commemorating the judges' greatest show of character in jurisprudence were shared, there was a banquet with catered food. Being the broke intern that I was, naturally, I was excited and was one of the first people there to sample the steak sandwiches and crab cakes. In a few minutes, the great parade of esteemed guests from other Courts arrived downstairs in the lobby. One of those esteemed guests was none other than Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United States Appellate Court for the District of Columbia. I was starstruck at first for a few minutes but gathered enough courage to go up to him after consoling myself with the fact that even a Supreme Court nominee can get rejected. As I was walking towards this person he motioned to his cellphone and moved to my right with considerable haste. I had a feeling this wouldn't be the first time he avoided a poorly dressed intern who stuffed himself with cheap steak sandwiches and imitation crab bites. Later on, he would do it again and I got the hint. So there it is. The most exciting memory of my internship is when I got rejected by the Supreme Court reject. Later on, one of the Appellate Court judges corrected me about the crab cakes. They weren't even crab cakes. At the very least I didn't pay for dinner that night. And now I have a great story to remember and a memory to share with people about my time at DC. That's a win in my book.
Did your internship lead to any opportunities?
I've had multiple people at the Clerk's Office express interest with me working with them once I graduate. I've also had the privilege of getting to know different clerks who work with the judges that expressed interest in helping me with my career goals. This internship led to an abundance of opportunities that I am humbly grateful for. It's opened doors and windows for me that I would not have had if I didn't do it. I will always be thankful for the wonderful experience I've had and will continue to cherish those memories as long as I can.
While you were in D.C. did you go on any special trips or visit any monuments that stood out to you?
I didn't want to leave DC without visiting Mt. Vernon so on one of the Saturdays, I set out early and gave President Washington one full day at his estate. I read about Mt. Vernon and how beautiful it was described in the books I've read but nothing ever compares to the real thing. It was breathtaking to be there and I was fortunate enough to spend that day with the sun shining brightly in the sky with minimal cloud cover. A perfect day at the very least. I spent that time mostly walking and taking in the sights and history of the place. There's not one singular momentary experience I can point out because it lasted for the whole day.
How has living in the nation's capital for a quarter changed you?
The experience changed my outlook, my perspective, my direction, and my purpose. Being surrounded by like-minded people makes me want to aspire to be in that atmosphere or bring a somewhat similar experience to spaces back in school. Walking and living the history all around me turned abstract book explanations into concrete experiences. Learning was exponential in the ambiance of the city because places from which to learn were in such close proximity. I learned to be okay with change. Being in the nation's capital made me rethink who I wanted to be because I was constantly depending on the people I met and how I let them affect me. In a city where only the best thrived and whose kindness made it their priority for others to be as successful as they are, it is difficult to emulate them because of their diversity in character and experiences. A single thread that unites them all is their affinity to change. And not just any change, but a change towards the betterment of all. If what I've been taught through this internship fell on deaf ears save this one lesson then the whole experience would have been worth it. It changed me for the better so that I may make it better for everyone else.
What advice would you give to students entering internships in Washington D.C.?
My only advice is to be proactive when it comes to your responsibilities and make a lot of mistakes with the mindset that you'll learn from them. Where you intern matters little compared to what attitude you choose to apply to it. Don't worry so much about missed opportunities because there are plenty to go around. There's enough for all so don't go into a binary mindset of win and lose. Help each other and you'll all succeed. Finally, please don't take yourselves too seriously. You are interns doing intern work and everyone knows what that life is all about so put your hubris aside and replace it with humility. Remember kindness so be kind to everyone you meet.