Engaged Learning

He’ll Sleep When It’s Over

USF student works on presidential campaign

by Ethan Tan ’21, USF News

Follow Ethan Tan — politics student, intern with the Biden presidential campaign, and chief copy editor of the San Francisco Foghorn — as he navigates a day of classes, campaign work, and putting out the newspaper.

8 a.m.
I make my usual latte while swiping to clear notifications that hit my iPhone and Apple Watch overnight. I say good morning to my mom, who has already started her virtual day of work. My dad has already left for the day. (I'm living at home in San Gabriel, Calif., since classes are online because of the pandemic). I check my email and then scroll through Twitter, looking for trending political headlines and to see if my favorite journalists have tweeted anything. I check new polling data and new analyses of the presidential race, plus the occasional meme from a friend.
9:15 to 10:20 a.m.
Zoom into class, Intro to Buddhism: Dalai Lama. I'm interested because my family occasionally practices Buddhism, and this is part of my Chinese studies minor, where I’m learning more about my family’s heritage. The class helps take my mind off the campaign, even if it’s only for 65 minutes.
10:20 to 10:30 a.m.
I have 10 minutes before the morning huddle with the campaign team. Since I’m not getting much sleep due to election anxiety, I make another latte.
10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
I meet with another intern and our manager for our morning huddle. We talk about what needs to be done today.
11:00 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
I work on the vetting team for the Biden campaign. We vet everything — background checks, travel plans, campaign stops — and make sure everything is clear for Vice President Biden and Senator Harris. I’ve worked on everything from a trip that Lizzo took to Michigan for the campaign, to songs for the VP’s Spotify playlist, to clearing jazz star Herbie Hancock to perform at a virtual fundraiser.
I never imagined joining a presidential campaign this year. I told myself I was done working on campaigns after volunteering on a few my freshman year at USF and after phone banking for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But with the help of a USF alumna last year, I worked with the Democratic National Committee advance team. When my summer plans to intern at a federal agency were canceled due to COVID-19, I decided to use my network to find a campaign role because I wanted to do something and not sit on the sidelines. I wanted to be able to say that I gave it my all and did everything I could to elect Joe Biden as president of the United States.
2:15 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.
I finish my shift with the campaign and Zoom into my Traditional Chinese Culture class. A calligraphy expert speaks to our class, giving a demonstration, which was cool. This class, like my Buddhism class, allows me to explore more of my culture.
3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
I have a little time before my evening shift at the San Francisco Foghorn, the student newspaper. I text friends or take a quick nap. Professors have office hours during this time, so I pop into their Zoom rooms to chat.
5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
At the Foghorn, it’s production day, and we need to put out the paper. I check facts and review articles for copy and spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and ensure every story observes Associated Press style. It’s rewarding when I see the paper come out on Thursdays, knowing that I played a key role in making it happen.
It's a long day, but it’s worth it for a chance to see history made on Nov. 3 — or days after — and to say I was part of it. I see it as a blessing being able to work from home because of the pandemic. Traditionally, campaign interns have to live in the city where the headquarters are (for us, Philadelphia), but with everything being remote, I was able to work as an intern from 3,000 miles away. It’s a unique moment in time.