Upon my acceptance into the ‘Semester in Washington Politics’ I was equal parts excited and nervous. I had never been to Washington D.C., and I had never spent more than 2 weeks away from home before. I did not know what to expect. The one thing that I did know was that I could not let this opportunity pass.
Beyond the obvious value of working and studying in one of the most important cities in the world, the program offers an opportunity for you to challenge yourself. To really challenge yourself if you want. I entered the program not with the intention of getting my feet wet with politics. Instead, my goal was to challenge myself and gain some perspective on the rest of the country. With many twists and turns, I can conﬁdently say I gained more from my semester in Washington than I could have ever hoped for.
Our program was lucky enough to be granted a townhouse by GW that was situated only two blocks up from the Lincoln memorial. The location was ideal because it was very central. It was close to the metro, the National Mall, many restaurants, Georgetown, and more. Between all that, work, and classes, the 24 of us in the townhouse rarely had a shortage of things to do during the week. On the weekend, It was not unusual for students to take trips, or explore the city. There is an overwhelming number of museums in D.C. to check. If you like museums, there certainly are many that should not be missed. If you are a space nerd like me, I suggest you check out the Air and Space museum. I went 5 times, and my only regret is that I did not go more often.
One of the most signiﬁcant components of the program will be your internship. I interned with Whitmer & Worrall, a lobbying ﬁrm. I did not have an extensive understanding of Lobbying prior to my internship, but by its conclusion I certainly was quite knowledgeable of the practice. The best part of my internship was that I felt very useful. They had me doing meaningful work and I actually saw that I had a tangible impact on our ofﬁce and our clients. They sent me to the hill 2-3 times a week to write summaries on congressional hearings as it related to our clients. I also created extensive company proﬁles on prospective clients for our partners’ meetings.
The classes we took were interesting because we analyzed politics as it was happening in the world. Almost all of our lectures and assignments were based on current politics. We often analyzed policy decisions and how it affects stakeholders. My favorite class would have to be the campaign class. Two teams of 6 of students were pitted against each other in an all out campaign that lasted the whole semester. This was some serious stuff. It was a lot of work, but I learned many new skills. We were all friends but we had an interestingly competitive campaign. Both teams were very smart, but neither team was willing to lose. It was very fun to work with the members of your team to create a sound campaign plan, and to have (friendly) trash talk with the other team. But at the end of the day, we were all friends and enjoyed the experience all the way through!
While work and school are integral parts of the program, it is also important to consider that SIWP offers you a chance to spend a good amount of time in one of the most famous cities (and important) cities in the world. There is so much to do in the city! At times it felt overwhelming because there were so many things to do! It is very difﬁcult to pinpoint one favorite experience of mine. However, I can recall one truly special memory. During our last week in DC, we had a reception in the Capitol building. A few of my friends and I thought it would be a cool idea to try to explore as much of the building as we could. After wandering around for an hour, we quite literally stumbled onto the Speaker of the House’ balcony behind an unknown congressman. We stepped out on to the balcony right at sunset and the view was breathtaking. It was very humbling to experience a view that not many get to appreciate. I felt so lucky to have accidentally walked out on to that balcony.
Jake with Senator Feinstein
In summary, there are many things to be gained from the SIWP program. If it isn’t the professional and academic experience, it will be the relationships and memories you build that make the semester special. I hope you are willing to take a dive and experience our nations capitol ﬁrst hand.