Jake shares his experience in D.C.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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DC: Policy beyond the Classroom by Jennifer Wong

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The Washington Semester program is a great program to supplement a major in PPD. Being in Washington, D.C., the center of our nation’s policymaking, is to really be completely surrounded by our area of study. Concepts and themes from PPD classes like “Government and Business,” “Citizenship and Public Ethics,” “Public Policy and Planning Analysis,” and even “Urban Planning and Development” are relevant and experienced on a daily basis. From questioning the ethics behind government interns attending protests, to writing memos for my internship, to severe planning issues with the Metro system (check out @UnsuckDCMetro on Twitter), the things that I have learned in the classroom at USC are all clearly in action in DC.

Being in DC has also equipped me with tools that are not necessarily accessible at USC. First off, I am approximately 700% more informed about politics than I was before coming to DC. This may be due to the overall crazy 2016 election, or that no one is able to escape the overwhelming amount of news coming from the election, but DC has keyed me into a world of politics that I had never fully experienced before. When conversations in and out of the classroom are dominated by politics and what is happening in the world, you have to keep up to continue to be a part of it. Crazy events, like the passing of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, rock DC immediately and it feels like the entire city is literally bursting with the news.

On the other hand, DC has also given me opportunities that just are not available in Los Angeles. Through my internship, I was able to help staff a Hillary for President fundraising event. I have been given the opportunity to listen to and meet with Senators like Cory Booker, Jeanne Shaheen, and Kristen Gillibrand. At the end of the semester, we are going to have a personal forum with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These are opportunities unique to DC, and it has been a really special privilege to be here during the 2016 election cycle.

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Wong, pictured above with fellow student (left) and Senator Cory Booker (right)

 

More about Jennifer:

Major: Policy, Planning and Development (Track: Health Policy)

Favorite class and why: The Disruption of the Legislative Process in the 2016 Election. This class focuses on the interaction between the 2016 election and the legislative process, and most importantly, how it has been disrupted. This is my favorite class because on a weekly basis we are able to analyze every step of the election as it happens in real time. No one, including our professors, had anticipated the circus that the 2016 election has become, and it is fascinating to get a glimpse into what seasoned DC insiders think of the races.

Internship site: Berger Hirschberg Strategies

What has surprised you about DC? Sunday Brunch is serious business. Freezing weather or not.

What do you hope to accomplish before leaving DC? I want to be less intimidated by networking, and I want to go to the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Life as a DC Intern by Madi Biedermann

My time working in DC has been exciting, challenging, and most importantly new. I had participated in various internships before coming to DC, and nothing has compared to working on the Hill for the office of U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Everything on the Hill feels so important – every paper I file, phone call I answer, and memo I write ultimately benefits the Senator in some way. While it may be important, work can be tedious at times. But even tedious tasks feel impactful when I explain to the constituent the Senator’s efforts for the state of Utah. And the long errands are not too bad when I get to walk by the Supreme Court on the way to the office. My work in DC feels like it is making a difference, and that has made my experience so much more fun.

Another great part about being an intern in DC is how much fun it is. There are so many college students in DC doing internships and taking classes, and I have gotten to meet people from all over the world. I have loved getting to know other interns on the Hill through networking events and meeting people in the Senate cafeteria. Everyone is close to my age and so excited to be here, which makes it a fun atmosphere to work in. Even though I am working a lot and taking classes, I have managed to find a lot of time to explore with new friends and try all the trendy brunch places.

My experience in DC has changed the way I look at my future. It used to be this big, scary, looming thing, and now I am kind of excited for it. I cannot wait to finish school and get back out to DC and start working. Though it may sound cheesy and cliché, DC really is the place you want to be if you have an interest in politics or law or planning. I am so glad I took a risk and chose to be in DC for a semester.

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More about Madi:

Major: Policy, Planning, and Development (Track: Public Policy and Law)

Favorite class and why: “Disruption of the Legislative Process” because I got to hear from highly respected DC professionals about their experience in Washington and how politics affects what they do every day.

Favorite thing about DC: Everyone talks about politics 24/7 which is my favorite thing to talk about.

What has surprised you about DC?  It’s smaller than I thought! I always imagined DC as a big city because everyone complains about traffic and how crowded it is, but the city itself is really small and easy to get around.

What do you hope to accomplish before leaving DC?  Making connections with both professionals and friends who I can stay in contact with and learn from!