Serving as a White House intern last fall was a dream come true for Husker Ryan Bentz.
A junior political science major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Bentz grew up fascinated by history and politics. From an early age, he could name every U.S. president in order, and his role models were leaders like George Washington and George W. Bush.
Last April, as he took a break from homework, Bentz began looking into internship opportunities at the White House. Despite having no political experience, he decided to give the application his best shot and see where it went.
“I got two separate emails. One was saying that I was a potential candidate, and that’s where I was like, ‘Wow, this just got serious,’” said Bentz, a native of Jackson, Nebraska. “So I responded back, answering some of the questions.”
A few weeks later, a congratulatory email informed him that he was accepted into the program.
“I was like, ‘This can’t be happening.’ I had to pinch myself,” Bentz said. “Since I was in kindergarten, this whole thing has been a dream of mine, just to be a part of the White House and its experiences.”
Bentz moved to the Washington, D.C., area and began his internship in September, taking online distance classes to continue with his degree. On his first day, he was assigned to the Office of Presidential Correspondence, one of the largest departments in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
“That’s where we respond to the American people, like letters, emails and phone calls,” Bentz said. “I was placed in the gift office. That’s where all the packages and gifts are sent to the president and first lady. We open them, sort them into appropriate responses, and then we log them into a computer software program.”
Outside his work in the correspondence office, Bentz says his favorite Beltway memories are too many to count. Over the course of the fall semester, he observed the Sept. 11 moment of silence at the White House, watched the Marine One helicopter land on the South Lawn before shaking the president’s hand, and soaked in the excitement of the city as the Washington Nationals won the World Series. He also received special tours of the Washington Monument and the Capitol.
“Especially for me, being a history buff, I just loved every second,” Bentz said.
In his free time, Bentz volunteered at White House events, attended Redskins football games and connected with students from across the country.
“We had a lot of time to hang out with the other interns and just explore the city,” Bentz said.
Working in a place you’ve idolized since childhood can come with huge expectations. But for Bentz, the experience was everything he thought it’d be and more.
“This White House internship was the perfect fit for me. Nothing would have been better,” Bentz said. “I was inspired by every single president before (Donald) Trump and every one that’s going to be after him. I respect every single one, and I thought it was an incredible opportunity for me to walk the same halls as they did in the White House and on the grounds. That just blew my mind.”
Back in Lincoln this January, Bentz is excited to continue with his political science education and gain more government experience as an intern for Sen. Ben Sasse. He hopes to one day work in national security and potentially return to Washington.
Most importantly, he’s grateful that he took a chance and chased after his dreams.
“My advice would be: If you think about it, don’t hesitate,” Bentz said. “Just go for it.”