‘Postcards Home’ is our invite to UAA students working as legislative aides in Juneau this semester to jot down their experiences and share them with us back home. Ruddy Abam, from Cameroon, Africa, is a junior at UAA studying criminal justice with dual minors in psychology and political science. Ruddy will be working with Democrat Representative David Guttenberg of Fairbanks.
To date, three UAA students took on the challenge of sharing some impressions of their semester of work as a legislative aide, including finding housing, getting to know a new city, working in a team and watching state government in action. Watch for future installments from Ruddy, Hans Rodvik and Victoria Yancey.
I applied for the Legislative Internship to be an intern for the 28th Alaska State Legislature, not knowing what to expect.
Having been raised in a different country, and choosing to study the judicial system of another, I did not feel as though I was well informed about our U.S government: the judicial, legislative and executive branches. I took this internship with open arms as an opportunity to learn in-the-field how legislation is carried out, about funding, law making and the Legislature as a whole.
Getting accepted seemed like the easy part. But then I had to find a place to stay and find an office to work in—I had no idea where to begin. Like the other interns, soon after getting accepted, I began receiving calls from legislators. The program coordinator explained this is what usually happens, as most if not all the offices in the Capitol were looking for interns to work with them during the 2014 session that started January 21. In conversations with office staff, representatives or senators, I found that I barely knew what to say. I wondered if I sounded intellectual enough to make the cut—I could only imagine how significant these men and women are in our state’s affairs.
After about a week of trying to keep track of who was who and what they stood for (on a small notepad I might add), I quickly realized I needed time to think it through, because every legislator seemed to be a wealth of knowledge for me to learn from!
But as I took my time to think, I was foolishly unaware that available positions were quickly being filled. Instead of me returning calls to legislators and their respective staff, they began calling me back… “We are sorry to tell you Ruddy, but we filled our slot. Thank you for your interest.”
I could not believe it, that quickly! I managed to stay optimistic through my panic.
As luck would have it, the office of Minority Leader Representative Beth Kerttula called to let me know they had thought of a great office for me, and that I should reach out to that office. The chief of staff for the former minority leader Rep. Kerttula helped me secure a placement with Representative David Guttenberg of Fairbanks, a Democrat from District 38.
My interview with Representative Guttenberg and his staff lasted about an hour and went great! They sounded extremely welcoming, and they all seemed to have the best senses of humor. I felt like it was a perfect fit and was humbled to be accepted to work with them. I pride myself on challenges, and working for a member of House Finance will be one of them.
Looking for housing was not the most pleasant experience, but the legislative staff working with the internship program made it easier for me by providing us with listings. Nothing panned out. Finally I found an apartment, but it was a three-bedroom; I clearly needed roommates in order to live there. It was close to the capital building which was convenient for me since I have no car down in Juneau.
I sent out an email to the other interns, inquiring whether anyone was looking for a place to live. Soon I had two roommates! The three of us signed the lease for the first week of January through April 20 when the 90-day session ends. Hooray, we had a fully furnished home!
My family and loved ones were sad to see me leave. Both parents would now have to be living at home alone. I always thought the “empty nest phenomenon” was what parents wanted; the kids grow up and leave so parents can finally spend time with each other—however, they were sad to see me leave, but grateful for my opportunity to work for the Legislature.
My expectations were that it would be cold, and seeing as I am an African woman who hates the cold, I brought lots of coats/boots/scarves. Three suitcases and one carry on later, I was settled into my apartment and out exploring the town with my roommates.
I will be keeping you posted on the many adventures and chronicles of living in a small, hilly, beautiful city with no car (which means lots of walking exercise) and no friends. It is difficult getting around without a car, but it gives me a chance to take more photos of the beautiful city of Juneau. Looking forward to this great experience of my collegiate lifetime!