When I first heard about The Washington Center, my recurring thought was that it sounded like a cool way to get an internship. Who wouldn’t want to have someone help you find an internship in D.C. and provide you with pretty affordable housing for a semester?
It’s true: TWC is best known for its extensive internship network. However, I’ve learned there’s so much more that TWC offers to help college students prepare for life after graduation. Since starting at TWC, I’ve been given the chance to take advantage of awesome opportunities like these.
Exploring Different Cultures
During your first week at TWC, you’ll hear about a lot of programs and events that you can get involved in, ranging from community service and tutoring programs to Extended Learning Opportunities (more on those in a second). The one that caught my eye most was a seminar that runs concurrent to the Academic Internship Program, called TOMODACHI.
This program, sponsored by Morgan Stanley and offered only through TWC, brings 12 Japanese students to the U.S. for two weeks. During this time, they work with a group of TWC students to learn about civil service and non-profit organizations and to better understand how to work across cultures towards a common goal. At the end of the program, participants present their thoughts on ways to help rebuild sections of Japan that were devastated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, to a panel of industry and US-Japan Council leaders.
To say that this program was amazing is an understatement. Yes, it is a large amount of work in a small amount of time (in the final week I was up until 3:00 a.m. working on our project), but the reward and experience it offers is incomparable. It was honestly amazing to spend two weeks with fellow students from the other side of the world, to compare experiences and share memories, to understand their culture more and examine the way I think about solving problems. For everyone who comes to TWC, you need to consider applying for the program. Plus, there’s a lot of free food, which definitely doesn’t hurt.
Prepping for the Next Step
While the TOMODACHI program is limited to 9 students in a specific area of interest, TWC’s Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs), have something for everyone. Headed by the ever-resourceful and wonderful Laura Koepsell, TWC offers 21 different short sessions covering a wide range of topics, from creating a federal resume to networking with industry professionals.
As a senior who recently had a major shift in what I expect to do after graduation, these events have been a godsend. The ELOs I’ve attended have been a huge help as I search for a job in D.C. and consider attending graduate or law school in the future. One of my favorite sessions to date was a part of the Grad School Series, where I and a dozen other interns sat down with a panel of current and former grad school students and discussed their experiences. We covered everything from balancing classes with full-time work to how to make a resume stand out, and it’s proved to have been extremely helpful as I continue comparing schools and deciding what path is right for me (even if that path doesn’t include grad school). Every time I walk away from one of these events, I always look forward to the next one.
Getting Advice From Those Who Know
Last, but certainly not least on this list, are the alumni mentors on staff at TWC. These individuals are TWC alumni who are now working or going to school in D.C. In addition to RA-style duties (like conflict resolution and making sure nobody is lighting the building on fire), these young professionals have the distinct pleasure of serving as fountains of wisdom for us current TWC students.
TWC offers 21 different short sessions covering a wide range of topics, from creating a federal resume to networking with industry professionals.
While talking about alumni mentors, I have to give a shoutout to Austin Ferrer, the alumni mentor for the 4th floor of TWC’s Residential and Academic Facility. Freshly graduated from college, he now works every day in the White House as the Associate Director for the Office of the Staff Secretary. This man is on call 24/7 with his job, which needless to say is probably one of the more stressful ones in D.C. Despite that, every Monday morning he wakes up in time to meet with me and a handful of other interns at 6:00 a.m. to share how we can capitalize on our internships, encourage us to create daily and weekly goals for ourselves and provide a way to start the week on a productive note.
So, yes: the main component of TWC is in fact the internship experience, and for good reason. The chance to intern in a career field you’re interested in is unparalleled and one of the greatest things you can do during college. But TWC has so much more. From once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to individualized advice and mentoring from near-peers in your dream job (or at least a few steps closer to it than you are), the benefits these additional opportunities provide is unparalleled.