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Making The Most Of Your TFAS Experience: Recent Alumni Share Keys To Success


As the summer quickly approaches, more than 550 incoming TFAS students are preparing for programs in Washington, Prague and Hong Kong. But before they take their first steps of becoming responsible young leaders through internships, academic courses, networking and professional development opportunities, they’ll need to know the ins and outs of TFAS programs and their exciting locations. Who better to share these tips than those who navigated the programs themselves?

This spring, we’re reaching out to outstanding TFAS alumni for advice, sprinkled with a bit of nostalgia, to help the summer 2016 class succeed. Now in part two of our “Top TFAS Tips from Alumni” series, we’re sharing more advice from those who made the most of their time as students and want to pass their knowledge on to the next generation.

Do you have some advice you’d like to share with a current TFAS student? Send us a note at alumni@TFAS.org.

Megan McCormick ’14, ’15

Megan is a graduate of University of Notre Dame. McCormick says she had such an incredible, eye-opening experience at TFAS Hong Kong that she returned for a second TFAS summer to attend the TFAS Prague program.

What advice do you have for students traveling to a new country? “I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to study abroad. For a rewarding experience, my advice to students transitioning to life abroad would be to interact deeply with people from the country, explore your surroundings to the extent it is possible, and embrace the culture with each of your senses. It is important to live in the present, and it is entirely possible that you can and will make lasting relationships with the other individuals in your program.”

Austin Sheehy ’15

Austin Sheehy ’15 speaks with TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 before a guest lecture on Capitol Hill.

Austin is a rising senior at the University of Central Oklahoma. This summer, he’s interning in Oklahoma City at Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, a polling and research firm founded by TFAS alumnus, Chris Wilson ’90.

What advice on TFAS academic coursework and guest lectures would you give to current students?
“With both the lectures and your classes, the best advice I can give is to really dig in and try to learn all you can because you’ll come out of your TFAS summer with a whole new frame for how to see the world. That’s what it did for me. It gave me a new lens for how I look at everything, whether it’s a government policy or a business that made a big decision, I feel like I have a much better understanding because I paid attention in class and all of the guest lectures.”

What is the best “D.C. spot” for students to visit during their TFAS summer?
“My favorite place to go consistently was the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a cool place to get away. It’s kind of quiet, and you can see the entire National Mall from the steps. It’s practically in your backyard while you’re living at George Washington University.”

Van Cao ’14

Van is a junior at the National Economics University in Hanoi, Vietnam. Along with her academics, Van is currently leading a startup nonprofit to help her peers in neighboring countries study subjects in different languages.

What advice do you have for students traveling to a new country?
“Dream big, work hard and believe in yourself. Most importantly, be open to the culture of the new country. Try to join in on the local lifestyle, food and language – it’s actually very fun and educational.”

Brandon Fogel ’15

Brandon is a rising junior at Miami University in Ohio studying political science and leadership. This month, he’s returning for his second D.C. summer to intern with a lobbying firm.

What is something TFAS students can take away from their summer?
“I think TFAS was a great introduction to D.C. for me. TFAS gives you a network. It’s not only a network of people who are already working in D.C. and have established careers, but it’s also a network of friends. Through TFAS you make friends with people who are going through the same experiences as you. Obviously we all had different internships, but we had the same classes, lectures and special events each week.”

What is the best advice you have for incoming TFAS students?
“Smile and be happy. That was the key of my success last summer. With each opportunity I was presented, I looked at it positively and I dove in headfirst. Come to your internship with the positive mentality of ‘I want to work, I’m here to work and I’m happy to work.’ This presents yourself in such a positive manner to your internship supervisor and coworkers. Even if the work doesn’t exactly match your interests, it’s still a great experience no matter what.”

Emma Polefko (ICPES 15) (second from left) tours the Capitol with her TFAS classmates on Capitol Hill Day.
Emma Polefko ’15 (second from left) tours the Capitol with her TFAS classmates on Capitol Hill Day.

Emma Polefko ’14

Emma is a recent graduate of the University of Dallas. This summer she’s returning to TFAS to serve as the program advisor for the Institute on Political Journalism.

Polefko recently shared her advice to future students on the DC Internships blog:

“All summer long, you will be constantly surrounded by greatness. Nothing should stop you from achieving your dreams. Be young, driven and passionate. D.C. is yours, and the summer is what you make of it. Make it unforgettable.”


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