In the next couple of weeks, many Yale students will be submitting applications to political internships around the country. Having once been in your shoes, I offer a piece of advice: Stay in New Haven.
I get it. Saying that you were in New Haven for the summer, working for a local nonprofit or political organization may not sound all that cool — not as cool as saying that you worked for a senator in Washington, D.C., But there are many reasons why doing something meaningful here would be a better use of your time.
There’s a beauty in local government — the relative ease and agency with which one can make a difference in their community. Not only can you work on a specific issue that is important to you, but you can also see the fruits of your labor change people’s everyday lives in a way that you simply cannot elsewhere. Take my good friend Aidan Pillard ’20, for example. Last summer, he interned with the New Haven Fire Department, working on a response initiative regarding the opioid crisis in New Haven. At the end of the summer, Aidan’s work helped shape the city’s response to the over 100 synthetic marijuana overdoses that took place in one day on the New Haven Green. No lives were lost that day.
Another friend of mine, Caroline Smith ’14, spent part of her summer working in Mayor Toni Harp’s office as a Yale Presidential Public School Fellow and another part with the award-winning New Haven–based startup SeeClickFix. That summer, she fell in love with the city. After running an event series surrounding community problem solving alongside another Yale alum, she co-founded a program called Collab that prioritizes making entrepreneurship accessible to everyone. In fact, she didn’t stop there — soon after, she founded New Haven Bike Month and currently serves as the chair of the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team.
Like Aidan and Caroline, I have spent the last two summers in New Haven, summers that have strengthened my resolve in the importance of local government. I worked with legislators across Greater New Haven on a plastic bag ban, which I plan to introduce next month to the city’s Board of Alders, where I serve as the elected representative for many of Yale’s students. I also met with various union leaders and educators, helping New Haven become the first city in Connecticut to recognize Eid al-Fitr, the religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Neither initiative would have gotten as far in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
Your work in New Haven could help our city in various ways, making you a stronger candidate for future jobs. After all, the skills you strengthen from creating actual change at the local level, like the ability to communicate effectively, persuade others and see projects to implementation are generally more useful than those gained at many other political internships. As thrilling as recording minutes in meetings and answering phone calls may sound, they simply don’t equip you with real-world experience.
A summer in New Haven could transform the way you feel about our city. Have you visited the food carts on the harbor? Strolled through the farmers’ market on a Sunday morning? Attended the International Festival of Arts & Ideas? There is an entire universe in New Haven that many Yale students may never explore. Enjoying what New Haven has to offer during the summer and building relationships outside of “The Yale Bubble” would transform New Haven into more of a home for you during your time here.
If you want to make a tangible difference in your community, work hand-in-hand with decision-makers in a way that would not be possible anywhere else and connect with the city you will call home for four years, please consider staying in New Haven this summer. If you end up working here, maybe, hopefully, you may even consider New Haven home beyond just your time at Yale.
Hacibey Catalbasoglu is a senior in Davenport College. He currently serves as New Haven’s Ward 1 Alderman. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .