Alyssa Baskam is a senior global studies major from Cumming, Georgia, who concentrates in international politics. Upon graduation, she plans to attend Emory University’s School of Law. She hopes her background in international politics will provide a solid foundation from which to study human rights legislation both within the United States and throughout the world.
In Fall 2010 I received the opportunity to intern for the Scottish National Party in the British Parliament through my Honors London study abroad program. When I received the news I was initially very excited but I did not know what to expect at all. The morning of my first day I was a ball of nerves, but those quickly dissipated once I met my boss Chris. He is the chief researcher for Angus MacNeil MP, and he is also a hilarious individual. He immediately made me feel at ease and began to teach me the ropes.
If I had any expectations at all, interning at Parliament absolutely surpassed those expectations. I took a comparative politics course my freshman year of college and one of the activities we did was divide into assigned political parties for a “parliamentary debate.” I, ironically now, was assigned to the SNP, and after that I always assumed that the SNP was radical and a bit crazy. I quickly learned that this could not be further from the truth. Every SNP MP that I met cared deeply about their constituencies, had a tremendous love for their nation, and desperately wanted the freedom that America received so long ago. Angus, the MP, was an easygoing politician who blasted top-40 hits including Katy Perry and Taylor Swift from within his office. (The MP across the suite preferred Linkin Park.) One of the best parts about interning for the SNP was that I got my own pass to Parliament. With that pass I could go basically anywhere on the Parliamentary estate and I could guide tours of up to six people.
I have two favorite moments from my time at Parliament. The first one occurred pretty early on because of a bill promoting a change in parliamentary voting procedures. Chris and I had spent the day researching various aspects of the bill, and then he turned to me and asked what the benefits of the “First Past the Post” system were. I can definitively say that this is the first practical application of political science I had experienced and it was truly exciting to be able to answer off the cuff thanks to Professor Reynolds’ class. The second great moment I had came much later. Throughout my semester at Parliament, Chris gave me research assignments based on whatever bills were tabled for debate. Around November, the next big bill was a bill on whether to change daylight savings time to coincide with the standard European time zone. Chris basically gave me control of the research, so I had to compile full lists of each side’s argument and then explain them to Angus and Chris. Because Angus was from the most northwestern province of Scotland, he provided the main dissent for the bill. In order to equip him for the debate, I created a sheet of talking points that outlined the opposition’s arguments and the rebuttal he needed for each point. This is one of my favorite moments from Parliament because I then had the opportunity to watch a Member of Parliament follow my reasoning and use my points in a Parliamentary debate. He later thanked me and said that the talking points were spot-on.
My experience at Parliament taught me a lot about the intricacies of legislation and the importance of research. I will undoubtedly take those lessons with me when I attend Emory University School of Law in the fall, and when I work as a public interest lawyer in the future. Regardless of whatever significance my internship will carry in my professional life, I will cherish the memories and memorabilia that I brought back with me for a long, long time.