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Welcome to Washington Semester Program

The Washington Semester Program at American University offers, through internships and relevant seminars, a unique immersion in today's most complex and compelling national and international issues. Students study and work at the heart of the nation's capital or, as part of some programs, even in selected locations around the world. Our academic and experiential approach helps students refine their interests and jump-start their careers through unparalleled opportunities to connect with people, policies, and programs that are creating the future.

More than 35,000 students have furthered their career and life goals in the Washington Semester Program since its inception in 1947. Our alumni serve as living proof that the Washington Semester experience has a significant, valuable impact on future accomplishment.

The Washington Semester Program Experience

Seminar (8 credit hours)

Under the leadership of a Washington Semester professor, students participate in intellectual, real-world discussions with professionals engaged in their field of study. Washington Semester Program faculty members are leaders at the local, national, or international levels who are passionate about their work. They present unique viewpoints on their fields and welcome inquisitive students who want to gain a more complete understanding of their efforts and perspectives.

Internship (4 credit hours)

Six weeks prior to the start of the semester, students will receive online access to an unequaled database of potential organizations for internships, all relevant to their selected program. Students will work closely with faculty to create a resume and cover letter to secure interviews and an internship.  While students will be able to apply for internships after their arrival, most students take advantage of the chance to search early for the best opportunities.

Research or Elective Course (3 or 4 Credits)

Students have several options available to cover the elective credit portion of the program. They may choose an in-depth research project using Washington, D.C., as a laboratory. [I am not sure what the next sentence means] Students also have the option of selecting one of the Washington Semester Program topics. To meet home institution requirements, students will find hundreds of evening elective classes available at American University that accommodate internship schedules. 

Washington Semester Programs 

American Politics

Washington, D.C., is the capital of politics. Policy makers, non-profit organizations, lobbyists and the government all call Washington their home. Study the impact of the two-party system, the relationship between the executive and legislative branches, the role of the courts in decision making, and the management of campaigns and elections in this exciting program.

*Islam & World Affairs

Experience a rigorous, in-depth investigation into the role of contemporary Islamic affairs in American politics. Students will develop expertise on Islamic perspectives, strengthen professional skills, and gain valuable political experience from an internship at a key Islamic organization. Students will emerge with practical knowledge about effective cross-cultural communication and a better understanding of Islamic approaches to complex policy making. This program includes a three-week field excursion to Amman, Jordan.  

Foreign Policy

Students will explore current and emerging issues in foreign policy and how the position the United States takes towards a country may be impacted by the policy [I am not sure if this 'it' refers to the US or the other country…] it implements. Topics include the war on terrorism, conflict prevention in the post-Cold War era, responses to the collapse of states, religious and ethnic conflicts, NATO, the United Nations in the 21st century, and regional conflict in the Middle East, including the War in Iraq.

*Global Economics & Business

Discuss business and trade with corporate executives and U.S. and foreign government officials in their offices at headquarters and embassies in Washington, D.C. To gain a true international perspective, students spend 13 weeks in D.C., followed by three weeks in China, where they visit major political and economic centers, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Ningbo. Students unable to travel to China may still participate in this program.

*International Environment & Development

Students spend time in Washington, D.C., studying global environmental policy issues and the roles of major international organizations. They visit with executives of major international organizations, such as the World Bank, [it would be stronger to reference at least one other organization here] to discuss key issues related to development and the environment. Students then spend three weeks in Ecuador, studying country-specific issues at the national and local levels.

*International Law and Organizations

Explore the nature of international law in [interstate makes it sound like within the US] interstate relations by studying the activities and performance of major global organizations. Topics include security and terrorism, international trade and economic development, the environment, human rights, and humanitarian assistance. Students spend three weeks visiting the United Nations in New York City, the International Court of Justice at The Hague, and NATO and the European Union in Brussels.


Meet a diverse pool of national and local media figures, including newspaper and wire-service reporters, magazine editors, television and radio personalities, public relations executives, and political press secretaries. Open to students of all majors, this program attracts many who have studied communications, English, and print/broadcast media.

Justice & Law

Through discussions with policy makers, legal experts, law enforcement officials, psychologists, criminals, and clergy, students will gain exposure to all sides of the issues facing today's justice community. Topics may include criminal and civil justice, morality and justice, and the use of the legal system to define and enforce justice. The Justice and Law program offers [say unique only if AU students are the only interns they hire] unique internships at the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

*Peace & Conflict Resolution

After examining social and political conflicts around the world, students will travel to Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. There, students develop a special perspective regarding how the theories of conflict resolution and peacemaking initiatives learned on campus actually work in real-world situations.

Transforming Communities

Washington, D.C., is a distinctive learning laboratory for exploring how leadership, grassroots action, advocacy, litigation, and government programs can improve communities. With American University rated as the Nation's Most Politically Active Campus, students will gain experience in urban politics and social change. 

*Denotes Study Abroad component