James Webber discusses his summer in Washington D.C. learning and working through the Fund for American Studies Program.
This summer I embarked on a journey not too different from the Oregon Trail game of our youth: it was long, grueling, emotionally testing and someone unexpectedly died of dysentery. Well, not really. It was actually none of that. It was a mere fifteen minute car ride from my family’s suburban home in Alexandria, Virginia to the nation’s wonderful capital, Washington, D.C. While in the capital this summer, I interned for a nonprofit called DC SCORES and also studied at the Institute for Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES) through The Fund for American Studies (TFAS).
My internship at DC SCORES was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I distinctly remember being told that there was no such thing as an average day at DC SCORES and that I would be doing different things virtually every day. After I got off the phone, I had assumed that was just a stretched truth; though my job might not be repetitive, I’d be doing the same general tasks every day. I was wrong. I didn’t necessarily do something different every day, but there were very few days that were similar. One day I’d be doing typical intern fare, like stuffing envelopes, sending mail, or getting coffee, and the next I would be at one of the program’s summer camps helping translate for Spanish-speakers. In addition, I had my activities for TFAS and ICPES, which required me to attend various guest lectures and site visits (one being a visit to the CIA Headquarters in Langley) on top of nightly classes at George Mason University.
I may have been worked to the bone, and many nights I simply collapsed onto my bed and fell into a deep sleep, but the experience was truly worth it. Though I have lived in the DC region the majority of my life, I got to experience a completely different side of the city. It’s one thing to ride the Metro casually downtown to see some museums or monuments. It’s a different experience during rush hour, which is completely surreal during the summer. Watching Metro novices getting chewed out by the veterans for not obeying the “stand right, walk left” rule in the Metro escalators was beautiful to behold (even if very frustrating). At the end of the day, my summer was very chaotic but very rewarding. My internship, classes, guest lectures and site visits were worth every single drop of stress that I felt.