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A few surprises might await new members of Congress as they move to Washington

Nov 20, 2014

U.S. Capitol Building

Freshman year in Congress isn't that different from freshman year in college.

Michigan has five new "rookie representatives-elect" that now have to worry about making new friends, finding a place to live, and even taking part in a freshman orientation before they can begin their work.

We talked to Sheryl Gay Stolberg, author of the New York Times piece After Victory Laps, Settling In As Rookies, about what new Congressional members go through during the transition to Washington.

Stolberg tells us concerns for rookies include hiring a new staff, finding a place to live and getting settled into a new office.

Space in Washington is condensed and expensive, and Stolberg says that some members look for roommates, while others resort to sleeping on their office couches.

Limited and undesirable office space on the Hill might also come as a shock for new members. Member's offices are determined by lottery. Stolberg says some offices are in hard-to-reach places, like basements and attics.

Michigan Rep. Candace Miller runs the House Committee on Administration, which is in charge of freshman orientation. She told Stolberg that she intends to leave freshmen with an understanding of the beauty of our democracy: that the Founding Fathers recognized that previous members could leave at the same time new members enter, and that it can be done peacefully.

"Washington is a place where we see American democracy in action," Stolberg says, "and that with all the partisanship, new members are still entering a place where great men and women of our nation have achieved great things."

*Listen to our conversation with Sheryl Gay Stolberg above.

- Katrina Shafer, Michigan Radio Newsroom