Written by Kylee Zempel – Program Advisor, Institute on Political Journalism
As one of the most indecisive people in the world, I vividly remember only twice deciding on things I knew for sure I wanted: broadcasting and Washington. The first occurred while I watched coverage of a Presidential debate, hearing the moderators and thinking, I want to do that. The second occurred during my summer in Washington, DC, with TFAS. Late one night, I stood on the steps of the Capitol looking out over the National Mall—the White House visible to my right, the Washington Monument glowing tall in front of me, the World War II Memorial, Lincoln, and the Potomac far in the distance. I had never been so sure of something in all my life.
Growing up in small-town Wisconsin, I never dreamed I would one day live and work in Washington, DC. My Junior year of college, I interned for Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, and I realized I wanted to continue gaining professional skills through another internship. I began searching for internships in Washington, but I felt intimidated and completely unqualified for everything I found—until somebody recommended The Fund for American Studies.
The Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) seemed almost too good to be true. An aspiring television broadcaster and political commentator, my placement at Radio America proved to be a perfect fit. At my internship, I had the opportunity to work on an economic radio story that included research, radio interviews, radio and TV script writing, audio and video editing, experience with a green screen and teleprompter, and real television stand-up experience. While all internships are valuable, Radio America provided me with more than simply a line item on my resume. I walked away from that internship with real experience and a working portfolio!
In addition to my internship, I loved my Economic Problems and Public Policy class at George Mason. My professor knew the material inside and out and regularly added comic relief. I left that class with a better understanding of important issues facing our country, and the class challenged my perspective in ways I didn’t think it would concerning topics like terrorism and protectionism. I also learned valuable practical skills by attending many of the Professional Development seminars TFAS offered.
My favorite part of the TFAS program is the doors it opens for students that extend beyond their internships and summer experiences. Beyond entering an alumni network of over 16,000 people, TFAS presents its students with job opportunities, continued professional development assistance, alumni activities, and more. Thanks to TFAS, since last summer, I have had the opportunity to return to Washington to participate in two TFAS-related events—the 50th Anniversary Gala and a co-sponsored “Liberty and Equality” seminar—both of which were excellent!
But TFAS students don’t always dress in business professional. Other fun summer activities included playing sand volleyball by the Lincoln Memorial, kayaking on the Potomac River, and visiting Mount Vernon. One of my favorite events was the TFAS BBQ. At that event, I met the people who would become some of my closest friends from the summer! We topped off the BBQ with a stop at Captain Cookie and the Milkman (one of my favorite DC treat stops), and the rest is history! TFAS is a great place to meet people who will become your best friends and impact your life in unexpected ways. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a summer than in Washington, DC, with The Fund for American Studies!