London Calling: A Summer in Parliament


DiMisa took some time to explore popular London destinations amidst the hard work of his internship. (PHOTO BY ALEXANDER DIMISA/THE OBSERVER)


On June 23, 2016 the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and on that day I was in Scotland counting those very votes that would change history. This summer I was one of only a few students to intern at the Parliament of the United Kingdom through a program created by Arcadia University. After interviewing and being offered the position, I was ready to begin my summer adventure working for a Peter Grant, a Member of Parliament from the Scottish National Party who represents an area in Eastern Scotland. Along with students from colleges across the United States who were interning in companies from all sectors, I lived in central London for the duration of my internship.  I have yet to realize the full impact of this amazing opportunity.

From the first day that I walked into Westminster Hall, a building older than the United States, shortly after I got over acting like a tourist, I was shocked to see the Leader of the Opposition Party, Jeremy Corbyn, standing next to me. What was even more surprising was that he was carrying a tray of strawberries for his staff. He immediately asked me about fishing in Scotland, before realizing that I was American, and then went on his merry way to question the Prime Minister in the traditional Wednesday Prime Minister’s questions. This period of questioning is where the Prime Minister will go to the Houses of Parliament for one hour and must answer questions from the members.

Along with Jeremy Corbyn, I was able to meet and take a picture with Boris Johnson, the now Secretary of State for the United Kingdom. Mr. Johnson rolled his eyes when he saw who I worked for, due to clashing opinions on critical issues. In addition, I passed by the Speaker of the House without even realizing it. I held the door for David Cameron after he resigned from being Prime Minister. I also had the chance to meet countless other Members of Parliament representing areas from all of the United Kingdom.

Once I settled into my office, I was offered a tour from a fellow employee of the Scottish National Party,  where I was able to learn insider facts and trivia about the Houses of Parliament. For instance, in the main chamber where all discussions take place, the two parties sit across from each other at the length longer than two swords in order to avoid any potential duels. I also learned the secret route to the roof of Parliament, where I would sit and eat lunch everyday overlooking the city, only 50 feet away from Big Ben.

Besides venturing around the antique buildings and trying to take everything in during my internship at Parliament, I also worked. While my exact position was assisting Peter Grant, he wanted to make sure that I had the best experience possible, and able to do as many interesting jobs as possible, which I was very grateful for. Most of my jobs involved researching various topical issues for Mr. Grant and the Scottish National Party. Some of the most interesting tasks I had included: writing a report on a 150 pages of a 2.6 million word document, the Chilcot report, determining what various world leaders said on Scotland and its future, and helping the constituents of my boss back in Scotland. In addition to these fascinating projects, I was able to go and watch the Prime Minister’s Questions, and other debates in the Chambers of Parliament and report back on them.

While I was in Parliament, I was told countless times that this was the most interesting time to possibly work there, and I quickly realized that this was correct. While interning, many exciting events took place that would change history:  the United Kingdom left the European Union, David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister, Theresa May was elected Prime Minister, the United Kingdom released a 10-year-long inquiry into the Iraq War called the Chilcot Report, and Britain voted on its new budget.

Out of all of these historic storylines, the most fascinating was the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, also known as Brexit. During the European Union Referendum, the vote that ultimately led to the United Kingdom’s departure, I was in Scotland assisting with the voting. On the actual day of the referendum, I visited several polling stations with my Member of Parliament to see how the turnout was and what was occurring. This led up to the actual counting of the ballots, of which I was a part until four in the morning, I was inside a massive gymnasium with hundreds of other people counting the ballots of over 250,000 citizens. The impact of the vote has yet to be seen, but being able to participate in this event that has massive implications for the entire world was simply incredible.