A College Days staff writer’s letter from an off-campus study program
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of columns from Caitlin Marsch about what it’s like to study abroad for a semester.
Greetings from Washington DC!
Next semester, you will see my name next to more College Days stories. But, this semester, I’m participating in the Washington Semester Program. For the first half of my senior year, I get to live, study, and intern in our nation’s capital.
I first heard about the Washington Semester Program during my freshman year of college through the Political Science (at the time, the Politics and Government) department, but I started college in the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns, so unfortunately, I did not have the chance to apply. I also wanted to strengthen my application, so I waited to apply until I felt I had the best possible chance to be accepted, which meant getting generally good grades and participating in activities. I finally took the leap to apply during my junior year, and when I received the email that I was accepted, I was overjoyed, but also very nervous. Once I figured out important details like finances, requirements for my majors, and transportation, I officially made my decision to attend the program. So far, I’m glad I did!
I am taking three seminar classes at American University. I’ve had awesome field trips and opportunities from these classes, such as a tour of the Embassy of Japan, hearing guest speakers from international human rights organizations, and visiting the U.S. Institute of Peace to discuss the Afghanistan War with experts. This has just been within the first few weeks of classes, so I’m excited to see what the rest of the semester will bring!
I’m also participating in an internship. I’m a communications intern at Girls On The Run DC, which is a chapter of the international nonprofit organization Girls On The Run. It is a program geared towards girls in third grade through fifth grade that seeks to inspire empowerment, social-emotional learning, mental health, and other important life skills through physical education and team building. The organization has a mission I resonate with, so this internship is a great opportunity. I get to use the skills I’ve learned from College Days (and my major in Communications) to write weekly newsletters that go out to the hundreds of participants in the program, along with creating fun social media graphics and blog posts.
All else aside, it’s cool to be in the nation’s capital. It has such a rich culture, and although I don’t work on the Hill or have a political
internship, it’s easy to be on top of current political happenings just by being here. It also has great public transit, and many free museums and monuments, not to mention the mouth-watering variety of cultural foods. Plus, I’ve met a lot of diverse people in this program, not just from around the country, but from around the world.
I won’t lie and say that I never get homesick. Sometimes people chuckle at how I pronounce “bag” or when I ask where the bubbler is, and some days I just can’t beat those cravings for Culver’s and Kwik Trip, or for a classic Friday Fish Fry. I do miss riding my bike through the rolling hills of the countryside, and I miss my friends at Ripon. But, overall, I would recommend this program to anyone looking to study off-campus, and not just to those interested in politics. It can definitely be a unique experience to study in a foreign country, but, so far, it’s been a great experience studying “abroad” in my own country.