A Day in the Life of Student, Teaching Assistant, and Congressional Intern Maaz Abbasi 

Maaz Abbasi standing outside and smiling while wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and red tie
‘My favorite part of the internship is interacting with constituents, engaging in what they have to say, proving answers, providing help.’

This is part of the Schar School's student-to-student story series where undergraduates are interviewed and profiled by their peers.

Maaz Abbasi, a senior government and international politics major at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, is a master juggler. He attends classes full time and works as a teaching assistant and legislative intern for Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA). Below he shares a typical (busy) day as an intern and a student. 

Internship days – Tuesday and Thursday
6 a.m. | Get ready and head to work

My day starts at 6 a.m. I work in the office of Congressman Gerry Connolly in Virginia’s 11th district as a legislative intern. Capitol Hill is a very formal environment, so interning there requires me to wear a suit and tie. I leave my house around 7:45 a.m. and take the Silver Line for 1 hour and 10 minutes to D.C. During that time, I catch up with assignments or plan my Friday teaching lessons. 

9 a.m. | Go to Capitol Hill internship

Right now, because of recent international events, we are very busy. The first thing I do is check any emails or messages from my supervisor. Then, I will be given an assignment, which can be working on a letter. The other day I worked on a Supreme Court reaffirmation letter. I wrote the letter from scratch, which spoke about the need for change in the Supreme Court after multiple corruption cases were revealed within the body. Writing this letter was important because court corruption can affect the body’s decisions and American’s lives. I was able to bring analytical skills while referencing the congressman’s opinions. I was able to do research for it and what the  congressman has supported. A lot of my time is spent on research and answering calls from constituents. They call for a huge range of things, so you need to be prepared to answer EVERYTHING. Yesterday, I answered a call about UFOs and then another about Vietnam War veteran benefits.

I go to different events. So, if an organization wants to lobby for a certain bill, the congressman’s office will send me to an event to take notes. For example, I’ve gone to a Save the Whales event, or a Gambling Addiction event and take notes for staff, so maybe they can get the congressman to support it or not. I also lead tours in the Capitol and share its history. Learning history is a big part of the job because if you know the history of Capitol Hill you will be much more respected and engaged in what is going on there.

My favorite part of the internship is interacting with constituents, engaging in what they have to say, proving answers, providing help. Assisting people on the phone is very rewarding because, sometimes, people just want to be listened to, and giving them the opportunity to voice their opinions is what democracy and freedom of speech is all about.

The most unexpected thing is the amount of work the office of a congressman does. It’s a lot. There are two offices, the district one and the Washington one, and they all do so much to help the congressman succeed, write legislation, find what legislation to sponsor, help constituents, and just be there to support him. There are a lot of functions that require a huge time commitment. 

5 p.m. | Head home

It takes me one hour to get back to Ashburn. I mostly decompress and read a book or watch a movie. When I get home, I will check my class, check if any student has emailed me regarding the 103 class I assist with, and answer any questions they might have. I am also a member of the No Lost Generation club, a student club at Mason, which is dedicated to expanding refugees’ access to higher education opportunities. Currently, I serve as the director of policy advocacy as it facilitates contacts throughout my internship because the congressman is a big supporter of refugees.

School days – Wednesday and Friday
7 a.m.Wake up

I wake up and get ready for the day. I finalize lesson plans and make sure all activities are ready to present to the class.

11 a.m. | Arrive on campus

I hold office hours before class and then teach the 50-minute class. Then, I go to club meetings and interact with people on campus and professors who might have office hours. As a teaching assistant to Professor Jennifer Victor, I give input on the lesson, helping by providing examples and answers to the students. Some of my specific tasks are teaching recitations, answering questions about the textbook or the class, providing support for review sessions, and being a point of contact for students.

My favorite class is GOVT 332 Politics in the Middle East with Associate Professor Bassam Haddad. I like this class because it builds from GOVT 345 Islam and Politics, which I had taken before. When you take out religious perspective, you get a deeper understanding when you don’t focus on only one thing. Also, the way Professor Haddad teaches, he starts off looking at your own biases and perspectives and then analyzes them.

5 p.m. | Leave campus

I enjoy hanging out with friends, going to the gym, and reading. I like to read political books about places and communities that are not talked about.