This past spring semester, I had the amazing opportunity to do the Penn in Washington program. Along with eleven other Penn students, I was able to live, work, and study in Washington, DC. It was like having a semester abroad, except I was only a short train ride away from Philadelphia and even came back to campus a few times to see friends.
As part of the program, I was interning four days a week. I am a Health and Societies major, and my internship was at the American Public Health Association, one of the oldest public health non-profits in the country. I was working in their Center for Schools, Health and Education, and I got to learn all about their program to improve graduation rates in high schools across the country in a broader effort to improve student health. The most exciting assignment I had while I was there was designing a flyer highlighting the results of the graduation program for a funding request meeting with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Two days a week after work, I had class with all the fellow members of the Penn in Washington program. One of our classes was on international relations, and each week we discussed a different topic that was relevant to current events. We had some amazing guest speakers with experience as foreign service officers, and we practiced writing action memos on foreign policy issues as if we were really advising the Secretary of State. Another class focused on political communications, and when we weren’t meeting New York Times journalists and CNN correspondents, we were analyzing the State of the Union address and writing op-ed pieces about media coverage of the president.
Outside of the classroom, the program allowed for an amazing amount of exploration in and around DC. My office was right near the National Portrait Gallery, which quickly became one of my favorite places in the city to go see amazing art. I never got tired of walking past the White House all the way down near the Capitol Building and the botanical gardens. And on weekends, I was even able to go visit such historic sites as George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
The entire semester was truly an amazing experience that gave me a real sense for what it is like to live and work in DC. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that I got to meet Joe Biden twice!
-Hannah R, C’19