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TFAS Builds Friends For Life: How One Group Has Stayed Connected Over The Years


“The pivotal moment of my college career was my TFAS summer. I just grew into my own person through that program, and I grew into my own person with the help of these TFAS friends of mine.” – Jessica Ching (IBGA 10)

When Jessica Ching (IBGA 10) first applied for the TFAS program, she was worried about many aspects of spending her first summer away from home. She heard testimonials from alumni and recruitment counselors, but she still wasn’t sure if D.C. was the place for her.

She wondered how would she succeed on her own in a new city, if she would find her “true passion” and if she could really make “friends for life” in just eight weeks. She even admits to not believing one alumna who told her, “You’ll make friends for life! I’ve even been in my TFAS friends’ weddings!”

Regardless of her nerves and uncertainty, Ching decided to enroll in the TFAS program in 2010. She packed her bags at the University of Southern California and headed east for her first big trip alone. During her TFAS summer, Ching and her peers experienced a lot of “firsts”: their first internships, first times away from home and, for Ching, even a first time doing laundry alone. She says her TFAS friends were with her for a lot of these “firsts,” and it allowed them to grow even closer while they learned from TFAS – in and outside of the classroom.

(l.-r.) Ching and MaryRose Mazzola (ICPES 10) hike the Sedona desert in Arizona.

“TFAS teaches people how to vote and how to understand political views and economic theory,” Ching said. “It’s teaching us how to be smart. And I think that is missing in a lot of students’ education – the civic education, understanding the political processes and the impact it has.”

Six years have passed since Ching was a student in the Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA) during the summer of 2010, and she can’t believe how correct those alumni testimonials were. Currently, Ching serves as a strategist for Raytheon Company, a defense contractor, in Washington, D.C., and she now has her own TFAS testimonial to share.

“Whenever I meet a current TFAS student, I will be so enthusiastic to the point that it kind of scares them, but I want to make sure they know that they’re getting this once in a lifetime, amazing opportunity, and they need to take it for all it’s worth and maximize the value of it.”

TFAS impacted her life in positive ways both personally and professionally.

“Professionally, it gave me that push in the right direction,” Ching said. “I studied politics and business in school, but I had never put it into practice until I did TFAS. I ended up having an amazing internship, and I got really excited about going into the private sector and understanding how to connect the dots between business and government.”

Not only did TFAS help kick start her career, it also gave her some of her closest lifelong friends.

“Personally, [TFAS] has given me a group of best friends, and I don’t know where I’d be without them,” Ching says. “It’s given me a network of people who I can rely on. We’re a solid group of individuals who are amazing, ambitious and are doing big things.”

Ching’s ‘TFAS crew’ consists of a tight-knit group of two sets of TFAS roommates who met while living at the Henley Village apartments during their summer in Washington. The group’s members represent each of the TFAS summer institutes and each of them have succeeded in vastly different professional fields.

Ching says she is proud of her TFAS friends and the many accomplishments they’ve had since TFAS graduation.

Ching gives her student testimonial to TFAS students and supporters during the 2010 Congressional Scholarship Awards Dinner.

“I think that’s what makes TFAS unique,” Ching said. “In eight weeks, you’re able to make these deep, personal connections with people who are doing amazing things. I have friends who have graduated from Harvard, are working on Capitol Hill and are working at great companies. It’s so cool that TFAS brings different individuals together and gives them this experience that bonds them forever.”

Through the group’s many accomplishments, they have stuck together and are always there to support each other during their “big life moments.” They attend each other’s graduations, weddings and have taken trips across the world to celebrate important milestones.

Ching’s TFAS crew has been there to support her from the beginning. During her TFAS summer, Ching was selected to give a student testimonial during the annual Congressional Scholarship Awards Dinner. It was an honor, but Ching was worried she would get stage fright while taking the podium. After confiding in her TFAS roommates about her fears, they surprised her at the event to cheer her on and lend their support.

“It was a really sweet gesture,” she recalled. “At the beginning of the program they were there for me, and that has carried on way past the program.”

When their TFAS summer ended, Ching and her friends made a promise to not let their bond end with graduation.

“We all decided to hold each other accountable and told each other to ‘make big moves, make big waves and go do big things,’ ” Ching says. “In a way, we all knew that because we were in TFAS, we were all going to go on to do great things.”

(l.-r.) Mazzola, Ching and Becky Weissman (ICPES 10) pause for a photo while touring Union Square in San Fransisco last year.

Six years later, Ching says she’s pleased to report that they stuck to that promise.

“I’m so proud of all of my TFAS buddies,” she says. “You know that these people are going to go out into the world and lead big companies, lead big nonprofits and make big social impacts in the world. It’s kind of amazing to see.”

Ching has served on the TFAS Alumni Council since 2014, and stays involved through the many adventures she takes with her classmates and by participating in alumni programs and events. She says staying involved is a critical part of her TFAS experience.

“I think it’s important to stay in touch because [TFAS] is one of those organizations that is made up of a good group of people,” Ching says. “In any professional situation, networking is the best way to create more opportunities for yourself, and I think TFAS alumni go on to do amazing things, so if you have access to that network, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that by staying in touch?”

Do you stay connected with your TFAS friends? Send your reunion photos and highlights to alumni@TFAS.org.


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