Evelyn Clark and Mathilda Nassar Share Their Experience on the Washington D.C. Semester

Story by James Owusu

A week prior to Spring Break, the Public Affairs  Newsletter team got in touch with two students who have recently participated in the Lutheran College Washington Semester Program.  The feedback from both Mathilda Nassar, who is a junior IR major, and Evelyn Clark, a senior POLI major, are inspiring and motivating for students hoping to spend a semester interning with an organization of their choice.  Through the program, Mathilda interned at the General Delegation of the PLO to the United States (essentially the Palestinian Embassy).  Evelyn completed both an internship with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), in Spring 2013, and a summer internship at Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide.  Here is what they have to say about their experiences.

What was it like?

Mathilda describes her semester in Washington DC as “preparatory.”  When asked what the difference between a semester at Roanoke College and Washington DC was, she replied: “DC was different from Roanoke in so many ways. First, I was able to see what an actual job in the Capital would be like. I learned about being professional and meeting aggressive deadlines. I also learned about politics and international IMG_20131108_095821relations in the field rather than in theory. Second, the transportation, of course, was challenging. I learned how to rely on myself to navigate an entirely new city (in heels). And third, I was able to get a small taste of the “real world” which is sometimes hard to experience in college. Therefore, I am more prepared for life after graduation because I already spent time away from college while in college.”

Evelyn Clark describes her semester as vital in making connections. For her, the differences between a semester at Roanoke College and Washington DC are many. She says: “A semester doing the LCWS is very different. It focuses more on experiencing the city, working hard at your internship, and making personal connections.  Although I did enjoy my classes, it was nice to not have the entire focus on academics. You learn a lot from exploring the city and working in a professional setting.”

Was it worth it?

Both students have spoken highly of the Washington semester and recommend it to anybody who may be looking for learning outside the classroom. Evelyn says, “Washington, D.C. is an incredible place with lots of opportunities. What I learned and experienced can’t be measured with grades, and the networking opportunities will be greatly beneficial in the long-run.”  Mathilda echoes her and adds, “My internship and coursework in DC complemented my IR major because I was able to see the “real world” side of politics. In class we learn about theory and methods, but in DC I learned about practice and implementation. Although Roanoke does not have a Middle East Studies concentration, that is my area of interest and the Washington Semester further added to my knowledge of that region of the world.”

How did you make it happen?

If Mathilda and Evelyn’s stories inspired you to take the challenge and experience the adventure of a semester in D.C., talk to your advisor, professors, and to Dr. Todd Peppers, the LCWS coordinator on our campus.  To be eligible, you will need second semester sophomore standing and a 3.0 GPA.  Beyond that, everyone’s path to a great experience in the Capital is a bit different.

For Mathilda, here’s what happened: “Dr. Willingham at Roanoke put me in touch with one of his contacts at the Embassy, but he resigned in early March. So I contacted his replacement and sent in my application by mail. They contacted me for an interview in late June/early July. I had two interviews: one with the supervisor of my position, and the other with the Ambassador himself.”

And this is how Evelyn secured her great internships:  “Applying for a Senator on the Hill took a while. There is a whole process with the application and interview and some agonizing time waiting to hear back.  My summer internship was different – I EvelynClark1 (1)spontaneously met the Federal Director of Freedom to Marry on the steps of the Supreme Court while they were hearing the marriage cases in March 2013. I still applied and sent my resume, but it was much more personal as I met her before even applying.”

Now it’s your turn!  We look forward to your stories from the nation’s capital!