What Happens During an Internship?
A Washington internship is a very intense experience. Essentially, students do the following activities in the course of a typical week
- 36-hour work week. A Washington internship should be viewed as a full-time work experience. Interns work alongside regular professional staffs at their placement sites. Internships are designed to provide real, hands-on experience and development of para-professional skills. The Washington Center requires that at least 80% of an intern’s work assignments be substantive. If interns find that they are spending more than 20% of their time answering phones, photocopying, or performing other menial tasks, they should speak with their Program Advisor at The Washington Center, as well as Stockton’s Campus Liaison.
- Monday afternoon activities. Every Monday afternoon all The Washington Center interns are released from their placement sites at noon, in order to attend activities that are sponsored by The Washington Center. These include lectures by prominent public officials, panel discussions, focused presentations (e.g. developing a professional resume), or embassy visits. Throughout the internship semester, students will be required to write short papers on some of these activities. The papers are included in an intern’s portfolio.
- Internship class. The internship class meets once a week for three hours (from 6:30-9:30 pm). Classes are typically held on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. As with any class, attendance is mandatory, and interns are required to do the reading and writing assignments on a timely basis.
- The internship portfolio. Every week interns work on some aspect of their portfolio with supervision from their Program Advisors. This is a bound compilation of an intern’s written work throughout the semester. This includes an IDP (Individual Development Plan), a Defense Letter (a self evaluation at the end of the semester), reaction papers on some of the Monday afternoon activities, a work sample, a report on an informational interview, a resume, the course syllabus, course papers, etc. The portfolio is a very important component of the internship experience. After the internship it can be shown to prospective employers or graduate schools as a demonstration of a student’s career potential, para-professional experiences, and analytical ability. Interns work closely with the Program Advisors throughout the semester to develop their portfolios.
- Social activities. During any given semester, as many as 500 interns from throughout the United States and several other countries are part of The Washington Center’s program. The opportunities to make enduring friendships are innumerable, as are the opportunities to enjoy the vibrant social and cultural life in the nation’s capital.
Stockton students need to be aware that Washington, D.C., is a very expensive city. One of the biggest concerns for Stockton interns is that they invariably spend more money than they anticipated, particularly on meals and social activities. It is very common for interns to be invited to restaurants during the workday and to clubs and other social venues at night. An active social life can be exceedingly expensive. Students need to exercise caution and discipline in how they budget and spend their money. For the most part, interns do not have paid internships, and it is very difficult to hold down a part-time job while doing an internship in Washington. Interns are generally advised to budget approximately $150 a week for commuting expenses, meals, social activities, and personal expenses.
Before the internship semester begins all students attend a one- or two-day orientation. A great deal of attention is paid to the do’s and don’ts of living and working in the Washington, D.C., area. Suffice it to say, Washington, D.C., is a highly complex, and cosmopolitan urban center, as well as the nation’s seat of power. For students who are unaccustomed to living in an urban environment, they should know that it is always safer to explore Washington, D.C., in the company of fellow interns.
It is certainly a bit cliché but true nonetheless: An internship is what one makes of it. A Washington internship has the potential to be a uniquely transformative period in a student’s life. There are a great many examples of Stockton alums whose personal and professional development were immensely enhanced by their Washington internship. It is up to each individual student to make the most of the experience. This means that students should be especially diligent in performing their internship responsibilities. They should volunteer for additional work assignments and seek out the mentorship and advice of Washingtonians who have achieved professional success. Washington, D.C., is a city of very prominent and powerful people. It is incumbent upon Stockton students to “rub elbows” with these folks, to learn as much as is possible from them, and to emulate their strategies and philosophies for achieving success in one’s career.