Written by Rachel Sullivan – 2016 Program Advisor, Institute on Business and Government Affairs
During a semester abroad in Rome during the spring of 2015, I was trying to figure out what on earth I was going to do when I returned to the United States that summer. The constant gelato consumption and traveling had not distracted me from the fact that as a rising junior at University of Dallas, I still had never had a ‘real-life’ work experience. Fortunately, my friend Emma Polefko, a fellow UD student and this summer’s IPJ Program Advisor, recommended that I apply for a summer with The Fund for American Studies. I applied and was thrilled to find out that I was accepted to the Institute on Business and Government Affairs.
Where do I begin? To completely honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to spend a summer with TFAS. But I am so thankful that I did! In all the craziness of living, learning and interning in DC, I thrived.
I interned with the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) on their Public Policy team. ASAE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to representing associations and individual association professionals. My supervisor immediately took me under her wing and gave me a variety of challenging projects. On any given day, I was researching, writing, attending meet-and-greets with Congressmen and seeing my hard work make a real impact.
There was a lot of overlap between what I was learning in my internship and what I was learning in my Economics of Regulations class at George Mason University. We had to write a final memo paper on a pending regulation for the class. It was during this summer that the Public Policy team at ASAE was keeping a close eye on some troubling and vague legislation in China which would severely regulate foreign-based nonprofits. It was so refreshing to be able to apply what I had learned in the economics class to something I was doing in ‘real life’ and a real issue facing associations all around the world.
Besides my individual internship activities and attending class, perhaps the most important aspect of my summer with TFAS was developing close friendships. I became friends with students from all over the world–China, DR Congo, Slovakia, Singapore and more. It was incredible to be exposed to so many different backgrounds, beliefs and ideas. Since then, three of those close friends have already come to visit me in Texas!
I have so many memories of all of our adventures together in DC – getting caught in torrential downpours, eating far too much ice cream, watching the sunset from the Lincoln Memorial, sitting on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol for fireworks on the 4th of July, visiting all of the free museums, and of course, attending all of the events that TFAS organizes.
TFAS gives you every opportunity to pursue your dreams, get out of your comfort zone and have an incredible summer. That being said, you can’t wait around for good things to happen to you; you need to make them happen yourself. Work hard, learn as much as you can, and get to know the other students, professors, the TFAS staff and people you work with at your internship. These relationships will continue long after your eight weeks in DC quickly come to an end.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my summer with TFAS is that any experience is only what YOU make of it. So my challenge to you is to jump in with both feet this summer. Treat every single day like an adventure and an opportunity to thrive.