Meet Your Program Advisor: Jose

Written by Jose Montoya – Program Advisor, Journalism + Communications

Jose Montoya will be helping students enrolled in our Journalism + Communications Program Track.

Growing up in a town with less than 15,000 people, I never wanted to work in the city. I always spent my summers irrigating my Grandpa’s orchard and making sure the harvest was growing. As I was finishing up my sophomore year, I decided to look for internships that would challenge me in the field of journalism and communications. I met a TFAS representative at a conference in Indianapolis and was hooked on spending a summer working in journalism in Washington.

With two bags stuffed to the max and a backpack full of the reporting essentials, I headed out to a place where I didn’t know anyone. When I arrived in DC, I was nervous, but everyone I met was super friendly and willing to help me. On my first day in the program, a group of us decided to venture out for groceries, some of my best friendships started on that trip to the store.

During the day, I interned at Catholic News Service. I wrote for the national news desk and was able to tell some incredible stories throughout the summer. On one assignment, my co-worker and I ventured to Alexandria, VA to attend La Gran Boda (The Big Wedding) for 21 couples in a primarily Hispanic parish. I interviewed people in Spanish and was able to share a wonderful story about a couple who renewed their vows that day.

Jose Montoya meeting his mentor Jim Forbes for the first time at the Annual Mentor Breakfast.

Another rewarding aspect of my summer with TFAS was the Mentor Program. Shortly after I arrived in Washington, I met my mentor, Jim Forbes, who had many years of experience in television news. He helped me adjust to living in DC and inspired me to reach for my dreams. My TFAS mentor is still one of my biggest supporters and I always reach out to him when I need someone to talk to.

TFAS is also a wonderful program that helped me grow academically. I also learned a lot outside the classroom during our site briefings at places like the Washington Post and Newseum. I am amazed by the number of TFAS alumni there are, especially the ones at highly acclaimed news outlets throughout the country.

I’m excited to be back in Washington for another summer. I learned a lot in the eight weeks I spent in DC and so will you!

Last Minute DC Activities

It’s your final weekend in the Nation’s Capital! You’d think 8 weeks would be plenty of time to explore every corner of this amazing city, but we know that this is the fastest two months of your lives! We’ve rounded up a list of last minute favorite activities and places you can squeeze in during your last few days in DC.

Neighborhood Spotlight – Georgetown: 
Head down the road from your dorms to the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue to the District’s mecca of shopping and scenery. Colorful buildings lining brick sidewalks and ‘flower street lamps’ gives this section of the city a quaint, small-town feel. If you’re looking to buy some new (or vintage) clothes, there is no shortage of options for you. The streets of Georgetown are filled with a variety of clothiers ranging from top tier stores like Brooks Brothers and Cusp, to unique vintage and secondhand shops. If you are hungry, you are in luck! To satisfy your sweet tooth, stop by famous sweet-spots Georgetown Cupcake, Thomas Sweet (a favorite of president Obama) and Baked and Wired. If you’d like to test your luck at spotting a politico, grab a table at Café Milano. Other local favorites include Il Canale, Clyde’s, Thunder Burger, Farmers Fishers Bakers, and Filomena’s. The Graham Hotel rooftop offers stunning views of Georgetown and neighboring Arlington across the river. On that note, head to the waterfront to stroll along the Potomac and enjoy the breeze.

Other Popular Local Favorites:

  • POV at the W Hotel Rooftop – the views of the White House and Nation Mall can’t be beat!
  • The Willard Hotel – walk in the lobby where the term ‘lobbying’ was coined
  • Old Ebbitt Grill – a historical DC institution
  • Ted’s Bulletin in Eastern Market or 14th Street – while all the food is good, they are known for the homemade pop-tarts.
  • The Wharf – DC’s newest neighborhood with amazing views and awesome eats
  • Union Market – whether you are in the mood shopping or eating, this place has it all!

Cultural Activities:

  • Get lost looking at portraits of the past presidents and other exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery
  • Go view the founding documents of our country and the National Archives
  • Watch the sunrise (or set!) at the Lincoln Memorial
  • Explore Roosevelt Island
  • See a show at the Kennedy Center (note: there’s always a free show at the Millennium Stage!)

Historical Spots:

Calling all history nerds! If you haven’t already, check out some of these locations to get a greater understanding of the city, its architecture, and the people who lived here before us.

  • Frederick Douglass House – Visit the home where Douglass spend the last 17 years of his life.
  • Ford’s Theater – Tour the infamous theater and schedule a history talk from a National Park Service Ranger to learn more about the events surrounding the assassination of President Lincoln.
  • Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Garden – You don’t want to miss out on this beautiful estate and immaculate garden located in Georgetown.
  • Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden – Originally the home of Marjorie Post (owner of General Foods, Inc.) this decorative arts museum houses various collections, and is home to one of the country’s finest orchid displays.

This list should be plenty of activities to fill your final days in the city. However, you’ll slowly realize there’s never enough time to explore everything DC has to offer!



A First-Timer’s Guide to DC

Written by Holly Focareto, PA – Institute on Economics and International Affairs

DC is an incredible city and there are tons of things to do here! However, fitting them all this summer is not going to happen. Last summer was my first time in DC and I absolutely fell I love. Here are some of the top things you have to do if it’s your first time here!

  1. Visit the Monuments at Night

The monuments are gorgeous any time of the day, but at night they are incredible. (Also, it’s cooler out!) They are all lit and usually a little less crowded.

  1. Visit the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is free to visit and has incredible exhibits! Currently, there is an exhibit showcasing original documents that inspired the lyrics to Hamilton and James Madison’s copy of The Federalist Papers. If you want to enter the main reading room, head across the street to pick up your Library of Congress card for free!

  1. Visit the Capitol

There is a tunnel that connects the Capitol and Library of Congress, so check them out at the same time! You can reserve a tour time through your Representative or you can get a red coat tour at the Capitol all for free.

  1. Visit a few of the museums

There are so many museums so you may not visit all of them in one busy summer. Try to visit the ones that interest you such as Air and Space, American History, African-America, etc. There is a lot of history and amazing exhibits all for free!

  1. See the Fourth of July Fireworks

Independence Day in the nation’s capital is an awesome experience whether you watch festivities from a roof-top, on the national mall, or on a paddleboard on the Potomac. There is also a free concert and parade the day of before the fireworks begin.

  1. Walk Georgetown and Stop for a Cupcake

History and pastries, what else do need? There are cool historical sites in Georgetown including the Old Stone House, the oldest structure on its original foundation in Washington, D.C., Julia Child’s first home, and many more! Make sure to stop by one of the famous cupcake shops while you are there too!

  1. Visit Arlington Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service men and women along with former Presidents, astronauts, Chief Justices, etc. It is the only Arlington national cemetery where servicemen from every war in U.S. history rest.

  1. Visit the National Zoo

The zoo is part of the Smithsonian, which means it’s free! Go see the famous Pandas, which are on loan from China symbolize cross-cultural collaboration between the United States and China.

  1. Visit the National Archives

The National Archives are home to the most famous historical documents of American history, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. There are many other exhibits where you can see original documents throughout American history. It is also free!

  1. Visit the Old Post Office Tower

The top of the tower gives an incredible view of DC! It is open 9 am – 5 pm daily, but last entrance is at 4:30 PM. Head over for some amazing photo opportunities.

7 Ways to Stand Out at Your Internship

Written by Jackie Rogers, PA – Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service

Whether this is your first internship, or your final experience before entering a full-time career, make sure you’re following these 7 tips to excel in the office.

  1. Arrive slightly early
    The staff at your internship site will notice if you consistently arrive 10-15 minutes before you are scheduled to start. Arriving early will allow you to situate yourself and be prepared to begin at your start time. Also, if there is a commuting delay you will have enough lag time to get to your internship on time.
  1. Ask for feedback
    Asking your supervisor for feedback can be extremely valuable. You want to make sure that you are being a productive member of the team. This internship experience is a learning opportunity, and you want to see what you can do to improve.
  1. Take all assignments seriously
    Treat each assignment with care and diligence. Your supervisor is watching how you handle each task, and in order to gain more responsibility, you have to demonstrate your ability to complete each small assignment well.

  1. Take notes and stay engaged
    Bringing a notebook wherever you go will allow you to stay engaged and focused. Taking notes will allow you to jot down any information you will need in the future.


  1. Anticipate the needs of your supervisor
    Go above and beyond by watching your supervisor’s work style so you can better aid them throughout the duration of your internship.
  1. Be kind to everyone you interact with throughout your day
    Radiating kindness to others will make a huge impact on how you are viewed in the office. Helping fellow interns or staff on assignments will make a positive difference, and will demonstrate your ability to be a team player.
  1. Write thank you notes to show your gratitude
    Showing your gratitude to others will go a long way. Writing thank you notes anytime a professional takes time out of their day to meet you for coffee or lunch will help you stand out. I would also suggest writing thank you notes to each staff member in the office before you leave your internship. The staff will remember you long after your departure if you take the time to show your gratitude.

PA Testimonial – John (IBGA)

Written by John Foulkes – Program Advisor, Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA)

Growing up I loved reading about history. Learning about the Romans or the Ottomans, about revolutionaries and freedom fighters, really stirred my imagination on the effects people can have on the world. Eventually, this led me in high school to start reading about international relations and current affairs, and I haven’t looked back since.


Perhaps inevitably, this passion brought me to DC last summer, as a student with The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Economics and International Affairs program. The program drew me in through its unique premise which seemed like the best option for me to learn about world affairs, both in the classroom and in the office, and launch the international career I have always wanted. From Washington, the world’s sole superpower conducts its foreign policies. It is also where Andrew Jackson beat a would-be assassin half to death with his cane, Teddy Roosevelt swam in the Potomac every day, and JFK asked us to do what we could for the country.

This might have been my favorite aspect of coming to DC. On the way to my internship every morning, I’d follow Pennsylvania Avenue and see the White House. Some of my favorite memories of last summer came from walking around the historic city to museums and monuments with the great friends I made. You really can’t beat the National Mall for its Smithsonian Museums and national monuments. I loved going to the Sculpture Garden for Jazz in the Garden every Friday, as well as visiting the new African American Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and more. Not to mention, you haven’t lived until you watch the sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial. And this doesn’t begin to describe how amazing it is to work in the city.

I had the pleasure of having two internships this past summer. Arriving in DC I was working with the Free Russia Foundation, an organization of Russian expats working to highlight the human rights abuses of the Putin regime, and his danger to free elections and world stability. Working to bring attention to these important issues alongside my boss was a true pleasure. Since the Free Russia Foundation lacked an office, I worked remotely at the time, and so took the opportunity to join the Jamestown Foundation as their Global Security Intern. Jamestown works to inform the public and policymakers about societies that are strategically important to the US and which restrict access to information. I had the opportunity to analyze global events and organize meetings of foreign policy experts to discuss these issues. Both of these experiences were a true pleasure.


TFAS gives you the chance to learn at George Mason University as well as work in Washington. My favorite class was American Foreign Policy with Dr. Gary Armstrong. This is a great class on the strains of foreign policy thought in the United States and the current struggles the country faces internationally. Dr. Armstrong leads the class expertly and guided the class through complex ideas and problems.

Overall, TFAS was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I met amazing professors and DC professionals, made some lifelong friends and had the experience of a lifetime. I highly encourage everyone coming to this year’s summer program to make new friends and explore the city! Also, make the effort to connect with professionals at your internship site, I still contact the employees I worked with and it is very rewarding. You could not have made a better choice on how to spend your summer, and I am excited to meet everyone!

PA Testimonial – Holly (IEIA)

Written by Holly Focareto – Program Advisor, Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA)

Growing up in a military family, I found a passion for national defense that led me to my degree, where I grew my passion and gained a love for international affairs. After spending one summer studying abroad in Ireland and Morocco, I knew I wanted to spend a summer interning. I always wanted to visit Washington, DC and when I found about the incredible opportunities TFAS offered to intern in DC I was so excited. The program is amazing because of all the opportunities and experiences they offer.

Through TFAS and the Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA), I interned at the National Defense University, The Dwight D. Eisenhower School, where I developed friendships and learned life lessons from an incredible supervisor. I conducted in-depth research and helped prep classes for the upcoming classes that included Air Force colonels, CIA agents, and foreign military leaders. It was especially awarding for me to see materials I worked hard on over the summer to be incorporated into the incredible classes. My fellow interns (many from IEIA) became a small family and went on many adventures together around Fort McNair and DC. I had a supportive supervisor who challenged me and helped me grow my professional profile. He worked for the Department of Homeland Security and always tried to provide me opportunities to meet new people and enjoy DC life, including taking me for a briefing at DHS

Headquarters.  He was always open to questions and gave me advice that helped me not only for my summer in DC but in my life since then. It was also fun to watch all the helicopters and ospreys that would land right in front of our building throughout the summer.

At first, I was so excited for the internship component of IEIA, but I soon realized there was so much more. The academic focus of the program is hard to beat. The International Economic Policy was one of the best classes that I have ever taken. It challenged me to look at the world through a new lens. I also really enjoyed the Foreign Policy Symposium that TFAS hosted at George Mason University. It brought people from various backgrounds discussing various issues. The panels were awesome and I learned a lot. I loved sitting there and just listening to the speakers and the well thought out questions my fellow peers asked.

Now, of course, I had plenty of fun during my summer in DC. It was my first time in the city, so I tried to do as much as possible including going to museums, trying all the different restaurants, walking down the National Mall, and finding the best cupcake shop. My favorite moment was when a few of my friends and I biked from Georgetown to the Capitol Building and back to GW. We just went exploring and it started getting dark. The mall is incredible when all the lights come, and biking by all national monuments, the Capitol and the White House was an experience I will never forget. It was just a spur of the moment thing, but it was one of the most memorable moments of the summer.

Overall, this program is amazing and provides so many opportunities to meet people and grow your professionalism. My favorite part was building connections with peers and mentors through all the opportunities that it provided. There is so much you can do through the program and it goes by fast, so take advantage of every opportunity.

PA Testimonial – Abby (ICPES)

Written by Abby Nugent – Program Advisor, Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES) 

I completed my summer internship with Child Care Aware of America in Arlington, Virginia as a governmental affairs intern. My daily role was to assist in researching legislation that would impact the goals of the organization, which include advocating for affordable child care options and safe learning environments for children. I had the incredible opportunity to frequently attend meetings on Capitol Hill with my supervisor, and discuss the climate of child care legislation and funding with congressional staffers. This experience gave me a first-hand view of the legislative process, which was even more valuable given the time I had spent researching the issues.

My favorite academic component of TFAS was the economics course I took with Professor Chris Coyne, the Director of Graduate Programs at George Mason University. Having never taken an economics class prior to the summer, I was intrigued to learn more, and the class exceeded every expectation. The focus of the coursework was how incentives based on economics could be applied to public policy decisions, which was applicable not only to my internship but to my coursework in college. I still find myself referencing principles I learned in this course, and it gave me the economics background that I needed to have a firm foundation in my support of capitalism and the free market.

My favorite social event of TFAS was the weekend visit to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. Given the fact that I have a deep interest in history, this opportunity was incredibly meaningful. The visit was a mix of a guided tour and free time to explore the grounds and farm-land. I left with a greater knowledge of Washington’s life, insight into his personal values, and more respect for arguably our most vital founding father.

TFAS is unique in the fact that it brings together a group of students who all share a foundational common interest, despite our varied backgrounds in journalism, economics, international relations, or other fields. Each and every TFAS peer I interacted with over the course of my summer had a deep desire to learn. Each and every moment of the summer, whether it was taking the metro to an event after work or even sitting in the dorm in the evening, was filled with challenging debate, discussion, and sharing of knowledge and experiences. I met students who challenged my worldview, given their outlook having grown up in a completely different area of the country or perhaps outside of the United States, and yet we all shared respect each other and an interest in expanding our perspectives. TFAS is more than an internship program, and it is more than classes and speakers, although those exciting opportunities make up much of the daily routine. My favorite part of TFAS was experiencing the summer with friends who challenged me and made every moment a chance to learn and grow.