Caspar Oertli, 18, isn’t your typical intern.
For one thing, he grew up in Zurich, Switzerland, and spent much of his youth skiing the Alps.
For another, he’s working for a Republican, Rep. Howard Coble (N.C.), but he’s really more of a Democrat. He will change partisan stripes in three weeks to intern for Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.).
In the year after high school and before college, Oertli spent three months in New York and Cincinnati. In New York, he interned in public schools; in Cincinnati, he worked on the campaign of Democrat Steve Driehaus, who is challenging Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).
In the fall he will go to the University of Geneva to study political science.
On the trail, he took a liking to Driehaus. “Yeah, totally,” he says, struggling through the language barrier.
Answering the phone has been rough, especially since there is still a lot of English he doesn’t understand.
Luckily, he explains, typically callers just want to spout off, so it’s easy for him to say he will pass their views along to the congressman. “Mostly they are totally easy,” he says.
Oertli is friendly and shy with shaggy brown hair that hangs in his eyes and a big smile he exposes every so often. One thing Oertli is not so friendly about is Cincinnati. He dislikes it thoroughly and throughout the interview sprinkles in the many reasons why he does not care for the Southern Ohio town.
Food? Not so much in Cincinnati. “In Cincinnati it was rare to get a salad,” he says. “You can even do your vegetable greasy.”
The weather also didn’t cooperate. “I didn’t have a car and it was raining most of the time,” he noted.
Oertli landed his internship with Coble by way of Coble’s chief of staff, Ed McDonald, who was traveling for work in Switzerland and sat next to Oertli’s father, a lawyer and judge, at a dinner. A few months later, Oertli followed up with an e-mail.
He has impressions about American politicians. “I think Americans are not as good at admitting mistakes,” he says.
Oertli points out that crime is low in Switzerland and healthcare is available to all. “I’m pretty spoiled because we really have a lot of things, especially things poor kids don’t have,” he says.