Fisher Senior Spends Semester in Washington, Interns During Height of Election Season
Instead of spending the semester in the Campus Center, Cyber Café, or Lavery Library, one Fisher senior has spent the semester going door-to-door, giving tours of the Capitol, and attending hearings on “the Hill.” He traded in life at Fisher all in the name of his love of politics, and Matt Berry says he has really enjoyed his time in the Semester in Washington Program.
The program, which is run by the College at Brockport, is offered at Fisher as well as other area colleges. Berry says one of the main reasons Fisher intrigued him was because of this opportunity, something he first heard about during an open house when he was a 17-year-old high school senior.
“I was enticed by the faculty encouragement to take advantage of experiences like this,” he said. “I knew I would study in D.C. at some point; I just had to figure out which semester would work.”
Berry landed an internship with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, where he works full-time Monday through Thursday. On Friday mornings, he attends a seminar class focused on D.C. and politics. Berry is currently writing his senior thesis on the 36-day battle that decided the 2000 presidential election results between George Bush and Al Gore.
Every Saturday, Berry is the guy knocking on doors to talk to citizens about who they are supporting this year. He crosses the border and goes to Virginia to meet with constituents who live in one of the biggest swing states on the country.
Matt Berry and his parents visiting Georgetown.
When asked to explain his day-to-day role in Gillibrand’s office, Berry said that every day is different ? one of his favorite things about the job.
“One day I might be doing a tour of the Capitol, or answering phones to speak to constituents. Another day I may be asked by a staffer to attend a hearing and report back what I learned – and those could be anything from watching a group of people testifying in front of senators or congressmen, to a federal agency providing an update on a specific project that Congress has asked them to complete,” he said.
Berry even had the chance to witness an oral argument in the United States Supreme Court.
Being in the hub of American politics during the height of one of the most important presidential elections in his lifetime, has been an exciting time for Berry, full of new opportunities and lessons learned.
“Many people joke here that the country is run by the youth because of the high number of 20-30 year olds working with senators, congressmen, and other high profile political organizations,” said Berry. “There is a huge intern population in D.C., which gives me a great opportunity to discuss, debate, and enjoy the huge amount of young people around me.”
What does he miss about Pittsford? Wegmans, he says. But, he appreciates the rich history of the D.C. area and the opportunity to be there during the 2012 campaign and election, which he says has increased the city’s energy.
“One of the things I sometimes forget is how many important buildings, people, and organizations call Washington, D.C. home. I’m still not used to getting up every morning and going to work in the U.S. Capitol,” he said. “During lunch, I can walk by the headquarters of the FBI or IRS Buildings, or I can take a stroll to the National Archives and be inches away from the Declaration of Independence. Instead of studying at Lavery Library, I am two blocks from the Library of Congress!”
After Fisher, Berry is interested in pursuing a career in government, but says that the lessons and experiences he is bringing home will serve him well no matter what path he takes.
“While this experience is almost necessary if I wanted to work in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, the experiences that I’m taking away, the lessons that I’m learning, and the people I’m meeting are proving to be invaluable to my life. I most certainly will be able to take these skills and apply them to any line of work I decide to go in to,” he said.
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