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What It Was Like to Intern For the Utah State Senate

If you came to this post looking for anything but positivity, you are in the wrong place.

From January-March 2020, I interned in the Utah State Senate. It was the best experience I've ever had, hands-down. So, I thought I would write a blog post about my experience as an intern. I also kind of wanted to write this for anyone doing the internship in the future, since when I was getting ready to participate, I didn't really know what to expect.

The timing of my internship was pretty perfect; it ended right as COVID-19 shut everything down in the US, so it was one of the few things that the pandemic didn't cut short (or cancel altogether) this spring. The internship lasted for about seven weeks, from January 27 to March 12, as the Utah State Legislature meets for 45 days each year in their General Session.

I got the internship through my school, BYU. I've wanted to participate in it since my freshman year of college, when I learned about it, and so it was a big deal for me. I was assigned to intern for a specific state senator, Senator Ralph Okerlund, who is one of the kindest and best people I have ever met. During the session, we would be walking to a meeting, or to a committee hearing, and people who walked past would tell me, "You know, you're working for the best boss." And they definitely weren't lying.

My jobs as an intern varied on a daily basis, but there were a few things I did every day. I would track Senator Okerlund's bills, run his daily schedule, write talking points for his bills, and make sure that everyone who needed to meet with him was able to meet with him. Another fun part of my particular experience was my opportunity to sit up on the dais with Senator Okerlund during the Senate's floor time. He served as the President pro tempore of the Senate, and so when President Adams was off the floor in a meeting, Senator Okerlund ran the floor debates in his place.

It was completely incredible to be able to experience state politics at such an in-depth level. Everything about the internship was exciting to me, despite the early wakeup time and occasionally long commutes spent in traffic to get up to Salt Lake City from Provo. The last week of the session was especially taxing--in an effort to pass as much legislation as possible, the Legislature spends up to 15 hours a day at the Capitol, which means that we interns were there for that long as well. The last night of the session, March 12, lasted until about 1:00 in the morning--the Senate ended their floor debate at midnight, and then it was time for some speeches and the interns showing off our traditional video skit.

One of the absolute best parts of the internship was the friends I made throughout those seven weeks. I have hundreds of pictures saved on my phone from those weeks, from us getting a tour of the Capitol dome to us crashing one of our favorite senator's office for lunch every day, to us doing somersaults in the hallway leading to the bill room when we were getting bills for our senators.

I was also amazed by how kind everyone was. It didn't matter their political party, or your own, the legislators and staff alike were so kind to everyone. They were always interested in how our experience as interns was going, and I think most every intern agreed that they were working for some pretty great bosses. (even though I had the best one, obviously) I wish that the session had lasted longer than 45 days, and wish I could do the internship over and over again. (but maybe not the last week...I think I slept for fourteen hours after getting home at four o'clock in the morning on the last night)

So, in summary...if you have the opportunity to participate in an internship while in college, go for it. 100%. And if you have the opportunity to intern for the Utah State Legislature, go for it. 1000%. Unfortunately, you won't be able to intern for my old boss, since Senator Okerlund is retiring from the Senate after this year. But, I'm sure you'd still get a great boss. I don't know if this post served any real purpose, but I just wanted to be able to share (in more detail than a social media post would allow) exactly how much I loved this internship.

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