DETROIT TO DC: A Summer Lived to the Fullest

Written by Joe Starrs, Director – Institute on Political Journalism

When Elijah Baker arrived in Washington last summer to participate in the 2016 Institute on Political Journalism, he had one thought in mind: To get the most out of his experience in our nation’s capital. As a junior at Wayne State University in Detroit “Eli” had taken advantage of the opportunities that came his way in his classes and at various internships. Arriving for the first time in Washington, Eli jumped in with both feet.

The TFAS staff took notice of Eli as he began chronicling his experience with a video blog and regular updates on social media. Whether it was on tour of the Washington Post headquarters, a visit to the floor of the House of Representatives or weekend trip to New York City, Eli immersed himself in the experience and made sure he got it all down on video and often in print. At his internship with Radio America, Eli produced a long form video package on the cost of home ownership. Through a partnership with Radio America and the University of Delaware his project is now part of content offered by the University’ Center for Economic Education & Entrepreneurship.eli-1

At the end of his DC summer, Eli was awarded the Institute on Political Journalism’s Directors Award. This award is given to a student who embraces every aspect of the program with enthusiasm and commitment.

We caught up with Eli this week to ask him a bit more about his DC internship experience.

What surprised you most about Washington D.C.?
The most surprising thing about my time in DC was seeing everyone in suits 24/7. At the parks, people were super dressy. On the weekends, people were still dressed up. I honestly forgot what it felt like to wear jogging pants and a t-shirt on a daily basis. It sounds so minimal, but seeing everyone dressed up–especially those who look like me–made me feel important and think differently on how I carry myself.


Eli hams it up with his mentor Jim Forbes, Communications Director, Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL)

What did you learn about yourself?
The biggest thing I learned myself is that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I didn’t allow fear to stop me from getting the most out of my TFAS experience. I refused to have a mediocre experience. Without God, I wouldn’t have been bold enough to do things I never thought was imaginable had I not stepped outside of my comfort zone. Fear did not stop me from fulfilling my purpose in DC.

Did you have a favorite neighborhood or monument in DC?
Every time I went to church on Sunday, I always sat and ate breakfast at Denny’s after service. I never ate at Denny’s before, but I fell in love with their omelets. So, that kept me coming back for more. I would go alone because it was far away from the business of downtown and I was able to spend time with myself.


Eli does NYC for the weekend.

What advice would you give to a student thinking about applying to DC Internships?
If you’re thinking about TFAS, simply remember to remain true to who you are. Don’t feel like you have to be like somebody else. At the end of the day, you were created for a purpose and nobody else can do what you were destined to be.  

For more information on our summer and semester programs, visit

Balancing Act: Keeping up Without Getting Overwhelmed

Written by Emma Polefko – Program Advisor, IPJ

wake up. metro. work. class. metro. sleep. repeat.

The daily grind can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes it becomes such a routine that you don’t even realize the days have passed, and other times you’re so busy you feel like you can barely keep up. How do you balance it all?

Most of us are overachievers in one way or another. We did, after all, volunteer to give up our summers to intern full time, take classes, and attend countless other events. But, overachievers are only human. And we inevitably need help to balance it all – whether or not we ask for help is another blog post for another day. Without having to ask, here are some tips and tricks to keep everything in balance. Even if you’ve heard them or read them before, they bear repeating.


Buy a planner or utilize the calendar on your phone or email. They are quite helpful. There’s something to be said about rote learning, and the nice thing about technology is that it can send you reminders – even for little things like picking up your drying cleaning or writing a blog post.

That said…

Put down your phone.

Constant interruptions make it harder to accomplish your tasks in a timely fashion. Do yourself a favor and put your phone down. Snapchat, social media, news blasts, sports updates and texts can all wait. The more focused you are on the task at hand, the easier your life will be.

Books before bed.

Between working, commuting, watching another episode of your favorite show on Netflix, staying in touch with friends, and keeping up with the news, we all stare at our screens far too much. Here’s an interesting concept: read a book before bed. Something that is so simple and obvious that is forgotten too often. It’s easier on the eyes, and it’s a nice break for the brain (depending on what you’re reading). Develop a better vocabulary, learn something new, start a great conversation.


Beware of the black hole that is Netflix. During finals one year, I watched a whole season of Scandal. That’s almost 24 hours. Those 24 hours could have easily been put to use in a much more productive way.

Good company.

Call home (or FaceTime). Write a letter to a friend. Eat dinner with friends. We’re all busy and we all get tired, but sometimes good company is all you need. Be present (read: put down your phone, again). Be grateful and enjoy the little things.

Make time for things you enjoy.

Go to your favorite museum and stare at your favorite painting. Take time to go on a run or do yoga. Go sit in your favorite park or on the National Mall. Call a friend. Try new food. Go grab a cupcake or gelato. Drink a cup of coffee because you like the taste of it, not because you need an energy boost. Take care of yourself, and everything else will fall into place.

Guide to the 4th of July Weekend in DC

This summer’s Program Advisors put together a guide for YOUR 4th of July in our nation’s capital! Whether it’s fireworks, food, festivals or Fourth Tips, we’ve got you covered.4th of july 2

Friday, July 1st

  • Head to the Marine Barracks for The Evening Parade which starts at 8:45pm, beginning with a concert by the Marine Band.

Saturday, July 2nd

  • Check out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall. There will be a variety of cultural performances, demonstrations, workshops and food to experience.

Sunday, July 3rd 

  • If you’re serious about brunching, go to Ted’s Bulletin, a bustling eatery and a DC classic. The “walk-of-shame” breakfast burritos and home-made pop tarts are a must.
  • Go to the “A Capitol Fourth” full dress rehearsal concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol from 8:00pm-10:00pm.

Monday, July 4th


  • Do visit The National Archives from 10:00am-11:00am before the parade to listen to a reading of The Declaration of Independence.
  • Do attend the Independence Day parade at 11:45am on Constitution Ave. & 7th.
  • Don’t waste your time trying to find a rooftop – unless your spot is guaranteed.
  • Do spend 4th of July on the Mall (facing Lincoln), get there early and bring a blanket. *this is a must*
  • Don’t get to the Mall right before the fireworks – they stop letting people in.
  • Do Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Keep in mind that alcohol is NOT allowed through security.
  • Don’t think about taking the metro after the firework show.
  • Do take all the photos with your friends.
  • Don’t watch the fireworks through your phone screen (ie. Trying to take photos of them)
  • Do have a safety plan.

So you’re planning to stake out a spot on the National Mall? 4th of july 1

What to bring:

  • A Blanket
  • Camera
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • An umbrella just in case (or to use for shade)
  • Snacks! (also lunch and dinner depending on how long you will be there)
  • Hand sanitizer and your own toilet paper for the port-a-potties

Not planning to be on the Mall? Check out the fireworks from any number of locations. Here are some of the best.

No matter where you are or what your plans are for the 4th of July weekend, the most important thing is that you are in good company. Have fun and be safe!

Unique Ways to Explore DC

Written by Krista Gylling – Program Advisor, Leadership and the American Presidency

In case you haven’t heard it enough, your two months in Washington, DC go by fast. Remember to take time to see all the sights this city has to offer. Many students participated in the Monument Tour the first weekend, but there are other fun ways to see the city.

Krista SegwaySegway. I personally think that the best way to see The District is by Segway. The Jefferson Monument is a favorite of mine but is such a commitment to walk to from George Washington campus, so a Segway is the perfect way to get there. There are multiple Segway Tour companies in the city that offer general tours through the DC, monument tours, and highlights tour. I would recommend taking one of the night time slots because it is cooler, the area is typically less crowded, and seeing the monuments lit up at night is breathtaking. Tours are around $65 so it’s a nice activity to do when family comes to visit! krista kayak

Water. GWU is conveniently located within walking distance to the Potomac River. There are places along the river that you can rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and canoes. Last summer fellow TFAS students and I walked to Georgetown and rented kayaks for a few hours. Seeing the monuments from the water versus on land is surprisingly different. The double kayak we rented was around $20 per hour.

Krista DuckAquaduck Tour. This tour is one of the more unusual touristy things I’ve done. The vehicle is both a bus and a boat – the first half of the tour is on land and the second half is in the water – the best of both worlds. It is a thrilling experience driving into the water with that moment of panic wondering if this bus will really float. Spoiler alert: it does float. The tour even gives out free duck calls!

No matter the method, make sure you get out and explore DC this summer!

Program Advisor’s DC Bucket List

Written by the 2016 Program Advisors

Washington, DC is a city of many museums, restaurants and other popular sites to see. It has so much to offer that it can be difficult to visit squeeze everything in during the eight weeks you are here. The PA’s have shared their ‘DC Bucket List’ items they didn’t get to accomplish during their TFAS summer.


  • Watch the sunrise from the Jefferson Memorial
  • Go to the White House
  • Meet one of my state Senators
  • Go to an outdoor movie with friends
  • Try Ethopian food


  • Watch a performance at The Kennedy Center
  • Kayak on the Potomac River
  • Try different ethnic food
  • Bike around the city


  • Go to the top of the Washington Monument
  • See EVERY Smithsonian
  • See President Obama or Vice President Biden in person (even if it is from far away)


  • Go to the National Zoo and see the newest panda Bei Bei
  • Tour the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  • Go to the Arlington National Cemetery
  • National Cathedral stained glass tour


  • Go to the top of the Washington Monument
  • See the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives
  • Go kayaking on the Potomac River

What items are on your DC Bucket List?

Organized for Success

Written by Rachel Sullivan – Program Advisor, Institute on Business and Government Affairs

As I’m sure many of you have already realized, your summer with TFAS is JAM-PACKED! Between your classes, internship responsibilities, and all of the exciting opportunities the city has to offer, it is important that you stay organized. These eight weeks are going to fly by, and you don’t want to miss any of it! Here are some ideas for you to organize yourself and fully take advantage of your time in our nation’s capital.

Take notes. Whether it’s for a guest lecture, class or something your supervisor tells you, always write it down! It is perhaps the best way to get down all of the information that you need to and then sort through what is important. Make it a point to bring a notebook with you wherever you go. You will not only appear prepared to others, but you will be helping yourself in the long run because you can refer back to what you wrote if you are confused about anything.

Bring multiple pens. From personal experience, at least one pen will always fail, so come prepared with a few.

Make a plan. Keep a daily planner. Whatever system works for you, use it! It could be writing on sticky notes or notecards, or setting reminders on your email and phone. Going along those same lines, don’t just live day-to-day, but have a commitment to reaching your long-term goals. Ask yourself, why am I here this summer? What do I want to get out of this experience?

Make lists. It is very likely that during your internship supervisor and he/she will start listing off all of the various projects that you need to complete, as well as deadlines and important details. Lists are a simple way to take down information to make sure you are actively completing each of those items.

*Pro-tip: One thing that I found particularly helpful during my internship was keeping an Excel sheet with a list of all of the projects I had been assigned, the due date, the status (incomplete/complete), the priority of the project (long-term/short-term) and any important details that would help me later on to remember what the project was all about. You would be surprised how quickly you forget all of those details, especially when you become busy with new projects throughout the summer. Plus, keeping a list like this is an excellent way to show your supervisor at the end of your internship all of the hard work you did. 

Read everything and listen. Read what your professors tell you to read. Listen to what they have to say and think critically about it. Ask your supervisors questions. All of these things will not only make your summer with TFAS a success but will help you as you go through life.

One of my favorite sayings is, “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never give up.” Sometimes the hardest part of your day is simply getting out of bed because you are tired or you forgot to iron your dress shirt for work. Other days, the metro might be delayed or you spilled coffee all over yourself. You will face challenges this summer, but what matters most is our attitude about it. You have been given an opportunity this summer that many students all around the world only dream about. Don’t waste it! Embrace each day as a growing experience and an adventure. Stay organized, have fun, do your best, and make yourself proud of all of your hard work.



Pro-Tips: Working and Living in DC for the First Time

Written by Kate Kielceski – Program Advisor, Institute on Economics and International Affairs

Spending a summer in the District is an experience unlike any other. The grand federal buildings around every corner, the seemingly endless networking opportunities, the countless museums, and the rich history permeating this city attract bright young minds from across the country and world. But the fast pace and intense atmosphere of Washington can be overwhelming for newcomers. Based on my intern experience last summer, I’ve compiled a list of insider tips that I wish someone would have relayed to me upon my arrival in DC.

Embrace commuter shoes. You may feel a bit silly pulling on running shoes with your pant suit, but I promise you will feel sillier struggling to get to work in dress shoes. Washingtonians are always in a hurry to get where they are going. They don’t have time for you to be hobbling down the sidewalk in high heels or rigid loafers. Embracing commuter shoes provides the comfort of sneakers or sandals and cuts down on commute time!

Sometimes walking is the fastest mode of transport. This summer in particular, because of Metro construction, consider walking. Often times, especially when trains are infrequent (evenings and weekends), walking is a faster option than taking the Metro. Plus, walking allows for the chance to see new things and get oriented to DC’s neighborhoods. If you are underground on the Metro all the time, it’s harder to get a sense of the city.

Always have business cards. Without a doubt, you will find yourself networking and chatting with professionals across fields this summer. The conversation may go great and at the end you inquire about getting you new contact’s information. The person asks for your business card – make sure you have one at the ready. Better yet, have five. You never know who you will meet and when you will meet them. Don’t   leave home without your business cards and get stuck in an awkward situation. (Check out VistaPrint for a 500 free card promotion!)

Don’t pay for coffee. With internships, classes, and all the events you will be attending this summer, it is inevitable that you will get worn out and tired. If you are a coffee drinker like me, do yourself a favor and invest in a travel mug. It’s too easy to get into the         habit of stopping for coffee every morning on the way to the office or class. And             while it might be satisfying to be on a first name basis with the barista, this habit will cost a ton of money. Take coffee with you. If your office has a coffee pot or a Keurig, keep grounds or K-cups at the office. Better for the environment and your wallet.

Never be caught without an umbrella. Summer is a time of atmospheric instability here in Washington. Storms are both frequent and powerful. If there is a 15% chance of rain or more, it will pour, and it will be during the 15 minutes you are outside commuting or heading to class. Buy an umbrella and keep it with you for the rest of the summer. If you don’t, it will only take one storm and a soaked suit to change your mind for you.