Student serves as government intern in Washington, D.C.

October 11, 2013
David Merrick

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — David Merrick, a junior political science major and criminal justice minor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville from Janesville, Wis., had the opportunity to serve as a government intern for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in Washington, D.C. this summer. Ryan had four summer interns, three from Wisconsin and one from Miami, Fla.

During the internship, which ran from May 28 through July 3, Merrick stayed in a residence hall at the American University in Tenleytown, a historic neighborhood in Northwest, Washington, D.C., about a half-hour commute from capitol hill.

As Ryan’s intern, Merrick was responsible for giving tours of the capitol, preparing mailings, running errands and answering phones. He also helped box United States flags that people had purchased in memory of someone they cared about. The flags were signed by Ryan and flown on top of the capitol.

Answering phones was Merrick’s first priority. “Representative Ryan's office received many phone calls from constituents from the first congressional district while I was an intern,” said Merrick. “We especially received a lot of calls after he had made a public appearance or given a speech about an issue.”

“Most days, I answered between 30 and 70 calls,” Merrick continued. “Many of the calls were about immigration issues, as the immigration debate was heavy at that time. Other calls were about more general issues. People wanted to share their concerns and find out what the congressman could do to help.” Merrick said that staffers advised the interns how to respond to questions, if they needed assistance.

Merrick also gave personal tours of the capitol for constituents and others who were interested in a more personal guided tour. Merrick stated that in public tours, there were typically 25 to 30 people in a group, but in the personal tours that he and the other interns gave, there were typically between 3 and 15 people in a group. The interns attended an eight-hour training class where they learned helpful information about the capitol, including its history, artwork, statues and more.

“This was a life-changing experience for me,” said Merrick. “It gave me a whole new outlook on politics. Even though I am uncertain about exactly what type of career I want to pursue – I am considering business or law or politics – this experience made me even more interested in politics or something related to it. Someday, I hope to have the opportunity to work my way up to become a staffer for a politician.”

“This experience also gave me a different outlook about cities and cultures,” said Merrick. “I really appreciated the diversity of cultures in Washington, D.C. I heard people from all over the world speaking in their native languages, like German, Japanese and Lithuanian. I also had a chance to eat Ethiopian and Mediterranean food, which was delicious. Washington, D.C. is an exciting city where there is an amazing blend of people and culture. I loved it.”

Contact: Dr. Travis Nelson, Department of Social Sciences, (608) 342-1809,

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191,


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