I knew I wanted to participate in the College of William and Mary’s DC program prior to attending the College. As a government major, finding a college with an excellent government department was important to me. I also wanted proximity to DC based on the assumption that I would eventually want to complete an internship there. I had considered the urban settings of American University and George Washington University, but both of those schools lacked the college community feel that I wanted. When I heard about the DC program at the College, I was very excited. It meant I could have both the feeling of a college community and the DC internship experience I wanted as a government major. I had high expectations going into the program this past summer.
My experience in DC met some of those expectations. Internship experiences varied but I heard mostly positive things from others about their internships. I interned with the National Criminal Justice Association and loved it. Additionally, the program found us incredible apartments in good locations in the city. We also were able to room with others in the program, so we had a built-in group of people to explore the city with throughout the summer. But the program has two main flaws in the way it is presented to students.
First, it is advertised to seem like the Washington Center would do more to help its students find internships. The website boasts that each student in the program will have a “guaranteed” internship. The Washington Center provided students with a database with a fairly extensive list of internship opportunities last spring. The list was helpful in the sense that it gave us somewhere to start. However, the list included many internships that were extremely competitive. I was able to secure an internship from that list after applying to about 30 places. The applications were very time-consuming and exhausting on top of my heavy spring semester course load. Some people did not even get an internship from that list in the spring. I know of at least five people who did not have internships when we arrived in DC. The “guarantee” was not guaranteed in a timely fashion. I believe everyone ended up getting one eventually, but some people were in DC for about a month before they did.
Second, the class element was never properly explained to students. I was under the impression, as were most other people in my class, that over the summer we would be taking an intensive two-week speaker series course and then would complete an internship for academic credit for the remainder of the summer. However, we were assigned a good amount of classwork on top of our internships. We had to write a memo almost every weekend and a 10-12 page paper, while working between 20-40 hours a week. I feel I could have handled this work better if I had been more prepared for it. We were given the syllabus of how much schoolwork we would have about three days prior to our internships. It was also frustrating that the amount of classwork was not explained because it cut back on the time we could spend enjoying the city. However, this was not the case for everyone. My American Politics course was more rigorous than the other two courses offered through the DC Summer Institutes, but the Washington Center never mentioned this difference in workload between the classes. These aspects of the program are important to keep in mind when considering participating in a William and Mary DC Summer Institute. The DC program should do a better job of explaining and preparing students for what the program actually entails. I would only recommend it to people who are aware of the elements of the program the DC center does not adequately explain to students interested in studying in DC. It can be worthwhile, but it is also very intense.
Caitlin Noe ‘24 is a Government and Psychology double major. She is also a member of Amnesty International and Film Society. She participated the DC Summer Institute American Politics program this summer. Email Caitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.