Each year, thousands of young leaders from around the world travel to Washington, D.C., for a chance to shine in the nation’s capital. Whether they are looking to make connections on Capitol Hill or gain policy experience at one of D.C.’s many think tanks, these eager students always leave Washington with a boost to their resumes and a lifetime of memories.
The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) D.C. Summer Programs takes the typical summer internship one step further. Over the course of two months, participants have access to exclusive guest lectures, networking events, professional development seminars, and rigorous economics coursework that provide them with newfound leadership skills and the tools to jumpstart their careers. Many TFAS alumni return to D.C. upon graduation having secured full-time roles with their internship sites.
A “LIGHT-BULB MOMENT”
Rebecca Lind ’18 was unsure of her future career path when she was in college. Though she was always interested in U.S.-Asia relations, the Denver native sought an experience that would give her that “light-bulb moment” when exploring her professional interests. After finding out about the TFAS D.C. Summer Programs her junior year through the Denison University career center, Lind was confident the International Affairs program track would give her the clarity she needed. She applied and was accepted to the summer 2018 program in Washington, where she interned with the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council and assisted staff with member correspondence and administrative support.
“I wanted to do something involving international relations, but I didn’t know exactly what,” Lind said. “I applied to a few different academic internship programs, and when I got accepted to TFAS I knew I had to pursue the opportunity. I saw this program as the most beneficial to my long-term goals.”
After graduating from Denison in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a concentration in East Asian studies, Lind accepted a full-time role with the sponsor of her TFAS internship as a staff assistant. She believes that the connections she made through her TFAS experience helped her grow as a young professional and ultimately led her to return to Washington, D.C.
“Now I run the Council’s internship program,” Lind shared. “It’s definitely a full circle moment having the chance to mentor TFAS students who intern with us now.”
TFAS programs not only connect students with internship hosts, but also provide a vast network of alumni and staff to help answer questions about the job search. Director of the International Affairs program track and TFAS Law Fellowship, Colin Parks, served as a mentor to Lind when she was finishing her final year of college. She shared that Parks’ advice helped her feel more confident when applying to jobs.
“I knew getting a full-time role with the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council was a possibility, but I continued to apply to other places around D.C. while getting advice from Colin on what he thought I should look into,” Lind said. “His insight was very helpful.”
After returning to Washington, Lind fully realized the importance of establishing professional connections through internships. She hopes future TFAS students will seize each opportunity with excitement and a willingness to learn from their experiences.
“If an opportunity presents itself, take it,” Lind said. “A lot of times we’re conditioned to think that we have to follow a certain major or a certain career path, but getting a foot in the door somewhere is the biggest step and the most important thing you can do for your own future.”
BRIDGING THE GAP
Bryce Leech ’19, ’19 is one of the many students who got his foot in the door by participating in the TFAS D.C. Summer Program.
Before moving to D.C., Leech began his TFAS Journey with a trip to Chile for the two-week 2019 TFAS Santiago program. The experience opened his eyes to the study of economics, free societies and leadership development. Following the program, the Oregon native then decided to pursue an internship in the nation’s capital by applying for the 2019 TFAS Academic Internship Program.
A security and intelligence major at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Leech wanted to pursue an internship that would build on his undergraduate coursework. He joined Virginia-based information technology and intelligence services company, Praescient Analytics, as a TFAS student in the summer of 2019. Later that fall, he began working there full-time as an analyst consultant where he now helps run Praescient’s internship program and instructs technical training for industry professionals. He, like Lind, is excited to have the opportunity to serve as a mentor to TFAS students who come through the doors at Praescient.
“It’s impactful being able to relate to the TFAS interns that we have,” Leech shared. “It really bridges the gap for them to see that there are actually people out there who have transitioned into a full-time role from their internship, and are able to apply what they learned not only from college but from TFAS as well.”
As Praescient’s internship coordinator, Leech shared that the one thing that sets TFAS students apart is their willingness to work hard and build those connections that could lead to future opportunities.
“Being successful in D.C. takes not only building connections, but also work ethic and determination,” Leech shared. “I see those qualities reflected in a lot of TFAS students. So many of us in the TFAS network have relatable qualities across the board, and even if we disagree starkly on certain issues, we can still find common ground in our goals.”
PREPARING FOR THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD
The TFAS D.C. Summer Programs bring together top students from around the world for an eight-week academic internship experience in Washington, D.C. Students choose from a variety of program tracks based on their areas of interest and experience, and are placed with an internship site in the D.C. area.
If an opportunity presents itself, take it. A lot of times we’re conditioned to think that we have to follow a certain major or a certain career path, but getting a foot in the door somewhere is the biggest step and the most important thing you can do for your own future.” – Rebecca Lind ’18
Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the 2021 D.C. Summer Program will be offered both virtually and in-person, with internship sites offering students fully remote internships or in-person experiences. Upon completion of the program, students join a global network of more than 42,000 TFAS alumni, providing them with limitless access to mentorships, networking events and a plethora of professional resources.
Lind shared that participating in the D.C. Summer Program allowed her to enter the professional world with confidence and a new perspective on her future.
“TFAS really helped me break out into the professional world, obviously through the internship, but also through the site visits, panel discussions, and networking events,” Lind said. “The expectations of the program really pushed me to think about my future. I had such a positive experience through the people I met and the things that I did while being in D.C. with TFAS.”
TFAS is currently in the process of placing our outstanding summer 2021 students into internships across the D.C. area. You can hear more from Leech on how organizations benefit from hosting interns in this recent webinar hosted by TFAS’s U.S. Programs team. If your organization is in need of qualified, driven students, please complete this form to learn more about connecting with a TFAS student intern this summer.