Many students at the Schar School of Policy and Government have served as interns for national politicians on Capitol Hill, as well as many local politicians in their home districts. But junior Government and International Politics major Glenham Smith’s summer internship was a little different.
He interned at the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Smith spent his summer in Dublin, Ireland, interning for Senator Jerry Buttimer, the leader of the Fine Gael party and the first openly gay Fine Gael Teachta Dála (the equivalent of a member of Congress).
“I applied through Mason’s Global Education Study Abroad Office and interviewed with the Senator’s office a month before leaving for Ireland,” Smith explained.
Smith has a strong interest in the European political system and used his time in Ireland to further his research while working in Buttimer’s office. The position gave him opportunities to gain insights he would not have encountered at home.
“My research is on Ireland’s role in Brexit,” he said. “I was able to gain a spectrum of knowledge by asking Irish politicians questions and gathering their opinions.”
Interacting with Irish politicians gave Smith a new understanding of policy, and they put him to work in different ways than he otherwise would have in a U.S. Senator’s office.
“Because of the size of Ireland compared to the U.S., it’s built into their culture for higher level politicians to address local concerns,” he said.
“I gained a clear understanding of what the people were interested in by going to events held by organizations and meeting with people,” said Smith. “The main issues were wait times, the budget, and education reform.”
In addition, Smith used his skills gained through the Schar School of Policy and Government to write briefs, draft press work, and research emerging policy issues.
“I was comfortable in the internship because of the wealth of experience looking at policy I have received at the Schar School,” he said. “My degree helped me be more prepared to look at a political system I wasn’t familiar with.”
Through studying abroad and interning at the same time, Smith received six course credit hours. Additionally, students were given the opportunity to travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the seaside Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
Smith is expected to graduate in May 2021, and he plans to pursue a career in policy analysis for the Department of State or another internationally focused organization.
As for what he learned regarding Brexit, while all eyes are on the United Kingdom, Smith, who is minoring in international security, explained the general feeling of certainty in Dublin.
“Everyone is waiting to see happens next in the U.K., but the consensus in Ireland is the same,” he said. “The Irish support the E.U., and the backstop is necessary to maintain peace.”