Written by Sarah Markley – Program Advisor, Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service
Since my freshman year of college, I knew that I wanted to work in international relations and travel around the world. Growing up and attending college in a small, rural Pennsylvania town, this sometimes seemed like an impossible dream. While studying abroad in Northern Ireland and experiencing other cultures all over Europe, I realized that in order to pursue a career in this field I needed an internship upon my return to the United States. I had always wanted to work in DC, since it’s the headquarters of most international organizations in the US and also happens to be my favorite American city. Trying to ward off the panic as I searched through countless online job postings in my student housing overseas, I came across an opportunity that seemed too good to be true. The more I learned about The Fund for American Studies and the Institute on Economics and International Affairs, the more I knew it was exactly the experience I needed to jumpstart my career.
My favorite aspect of the TFAS summer programs was the diversity of experiences they offered – not only did I have an internship, but I earned college credits and heard speakers from many important DC organizations. None of my friends from home could believe how much was offered in just one program, and I still feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to attend IEIA last summer. Living and working in DC gave me the confidence to go after my goals and to know that it’s possible to start a career here, and it was so encouraging to have TFAS supporting me every step of the way.
I had a really rewarding internship experience working at World Hope International, a nonprofit that does amazing work in struggling nations like Sierra Leone. The office environment was so welcoming and my supervisors tried to build projects around my skills to help me have a great experience. Eight weeks absolutely flew – I couldn’t believe I gained so much from such a short amount of time! Returning to school, I definitely noticed a difference in my confidence level while networking and connecting with professionals, and I also had a much more focused idea of what I wanted to do after graduation.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my introductory economics class at George Mason University, since I was honestly pretty nervous about it when the summer started. I’d never taken economics before, but Dr. Boudreaux made the topics easy to understand and relevant to everyday experiences. I also bonded quickly with my roommates who were my best friends throughout the summer – we had some great times exploring the city! Georgetown was our favorite spot, and it’s such a beautiful walk from GW’s campus. You can also reward yourself with cupcakes when you get there, so it’s a win-win.
Spending a summer with TFAS is one of the best things you can do with your time, so make sure you take advantage of every opportunity! Get to know the other students and reach out to people at your internship site – you never know what kind of helpful connection you could make just from getting coffee with someone. And don’t forget to make the city your own! Find your favorite spots off the beaten track and take time to enjoy the little things. You couldn’t ask for a better way to spend the summer, so enjoy it!