By: Nick Santangelo

For students interested in national politics or public policy, Washington, D.C is the place to be. But getting from Philly to D.C., finding a job in politics and supporting yourself as a college student can be challenging. That’s why the College of Liberal Arts’ (CLA) Washington Semester places students in D.C. internships, gives them full-time credit for a semester and provides scholarship money.

Since 2014, CLA’s Institute for Public Affairs, which oversees the program, has sent 65 Temple University students to Washington for the spring, summer and fall semesters. Although open to students of any Temple college, the vast majority of students have majored in the liberal arts.

Among the CLA students who spent this spring in D.C. are:

One of the best parts of the Washington Semester is how it allows students to work in whatever political sector interests them, and these three students took full advantage of that. Confoy interned with Congressman Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Avila with lobbying firm Potomac Advocates and Carter split his semester between the non-profit Voices for a Second Chance and JRSA, a statistics and research firm.

At Congressman Norcross’ office, Confoy helped the communications director draft press releases and manage the website while also working with legislative aides on a variety of issues. Confoy attributes CLA’s political science courses for helping her transition to and succeed in her position on Congressman Norcross’ team.

it's just getting my feet wet in the real world and discovering what it's like to work in D.C.

For his part, Avila found politics to be the dominating force everywhere in D.C. His international relations and political philosophy courses were particularly helpful in preparing him for that. At Potomac Advocates, his work as a research analyst intern has seen him provide weekly reports on policy, budget and technology news relevant to the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and the armed forces.

“It's my first office job, so I've never had any prior professional experience,” explains Avila. “So it’s definitely a learning experience. And it's just getting my feet wet in the real world and discovering what it's like to work in D.C. and just getting this firsthand experience. I'm loving it completely.”

Like Avila, Carter also says his CLA courses helped him to understand and engage in conversations while he’s in D.C. For Carter it was specifically the statistics and research skills he learned in the classroom as well as courses on crimes and victims that have come in most handy.

“It’s because a lot of what I’m working on is focused on human trafficking, and I've taken classes on sex crimes and victimization,” explains Carter, “so it's helped me be able to add to the conversation inside and outside of the office. I actually know what I'm talking about.”

Speaking of outside the office, the students have also been able to take in the full D.C. experience. Carter praised the Washington Semester for enabling him to make a ton of connections in government agencies while letting him explore a great city that’s very walkable, much like Philadelphia. Confoy, meanwhile, said staying in D.C. felt like a happy medium between staying home and studying abroad.

“It's a great compromise between the typical semester and studying abroad because it's a little more accessible and affordable,” she says, “and you get that great internship experience and a full load of credits.”

For Avila, that great internship experience has shown him that while lobbying might not be what he wants to do for his career—he’s also considering policymaking or working on Capitol Hill—he definitely wants to work in D.C.

It's definitely been a big help to me in planning on what I want to do coming out of college 

And it’s perfectly OK if Avila’s biggest takeaway is that he wants a career in something other than what he did as an intern. College internships are all about discovering both what you like and don’t like doing, making connections for your future career and building up your resume with professional experiences, as Carter has discovered.

“The basics of working a standard 9-5 job over the course of a week has definitely helped me with what I am expecting to be able to do coming out of college,” says Carter. “I actually have work to do instead of a standard internship where you're either getting coffee or just making copies. I feel almost like an employee there, rather than just an intern. It's definitely been a big help to me in planning on what I want to do coming out of college because I wasn't sure.”

Students interested in applying for the Washington Semester should contact Michelle Atherton , associate director of the Institute for Public Affairs.

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