American Politics students in front of the U.S. Capitol

Paige Brigham American Politics

October 9, 2017 | Hi everyone! It has been a crazy week full of class, work, and meetings. But it is starting to feel like fall, and I couldn't be happier! I'm sure my first fall and Halloween experience in D.C. will be full of adventures, so stay tuned:)

Reflecting on my time here and what I have learned in such a short period of time, one thing stands out: the importance of networking. Over and over again, from my professor, speakers, and colleagues, I am reminded of the importance of networking in this city. Making lasting impressions and taking the time to express interest in the advice or opinions of others will take you a long way. Especially in the realm of politics, making connections with those in a position of power could give you an edge when applying for jobs.

Just this past week, I decided I would like to intern in my home state Senator's office. I expressed this interest to a colleague in my office to find out he had interned for Senator Bob Casey. Through him, I found an employee within his D.C. office that attended Allegheny College, where I go to school. Using this connection, I set up a coffee date with her to get advice on how to make myself more competitive for the internship. This is just one example of the many opportunities to network in this bustling and competitive city.

Former Vice President Joe Biden with American Politics students

Perhaps one of the most fun (and lucky) ways to connect with important figures in this city: run into them on the street! Every day without even noticing, you probably pass the CEO of a major corporation, the head of a renowned lobbying firm, or maybe even a Congress-member. Personally, my experience was more exciting than any of those. On our way to meet with a speaker off of the Union Station metro stop, my class ran into none other than JOE BIDEN! Clearly on a tight schedule, he kindly stopped to speak with us, ignoring the repeated "we have a train to catch" from his assistant. Already grateful for the mere opportunity to speak with him for a few minutes, he took it a step further. Joe Biden took a selfie with our class! After getting past wondering who his dentist is (seriously…his teeth are so white), our class made sure to thank him for his time as his assistant exchanged cards with our professor. Just by walking down the street, my professor now has a connection to former VP Joe Biden. What other city could that happen in?

I am so excited to continue building my professional network while in D.C. Who knows…maybe next week I'll run into Obama!

Blog History

Adams Morgan Day in Washington, D.C.

Paige Brigham American Politics

October 2, 2017 | Hey blog-readers! I have been in D.C. for about a month now, and things are really picking up. My internship has begun, so I thought I would talk about that. My decision to intern with The Normandy Group, a bipartisan lobbying firm, came from my desire to work in the private sector and the firm's wide array of issues covered and partnerships.

My first day was nerve-wracking as I wasn't sure what to expect. Having everything ready the night before and waking up early enough to get to the office an hour early eased my nerves because I knew I was prepared. As the rest of the office arrived, I was greeted warmly and excitedly. I got a tour of the office, meeting all the partners along the way. I was happy to meet my two fellow interns. Having others there to bounce ideas off of, ask for help, and share the experience with is a great addition to the office. The small size of the firm was helpful to me; I got to know everyone quickly and asking for help is far less intimidating.

Paige and a friend at the Yankees vs. Orioles game in Baltimore

(Picture on right: Paige and a friend at the Yankees vs. Orioles game in Baltimore.)

After only two weeks, I already feel comfortable and familiar with my work. I have had the opportunity to watch and write briefings on Congressional hearings, sit it on meetings with clients, and send letters to Senators. My supervisors, former Congressman Henry Bonilla and ex-CIA member Louis Dupart, have much experience and knowledge to share. Making connections with these men, and the other partners, is important for networking-I am grateful for such an opportunity.

(Pictured on left: Doing homework at the Library of Congress.)

Doing homework at the Library of Congress

As I mentioned in my previous blog, interning and academics are important, but it is always important to make time to experience the city and have fun with friends. When enough of my work was done, I found time to stop by Adams Morgan day-a festival in a nearby neighborhood called Adams Morgan -- that was full of food, vendors, and live music. I also attended my first MLB game in Baltimore, watching the Yankees beat the Orioles with some nachos and good friends. But if your work seems more pressing at the time, you can always make that fun too. This past weekend, a friend and I loaded up our homework and traveled downtown to the Library of Congress. While you have to register beforehand to get a library card, it is a super cool experience and very a motivational place to get work done. No matter the task at hand, there is always a new and exciting way to do it in D.C.!

Closeup of a male student's face with a group of people in the background (text overlay

Paige Brigham American Politics

September 18, 2017 | Hi everyone! My name is Paige Brigham, and I am a junior Political Science/Math double major and track athlete at Allegheny College. Growing up in a small county in Erie, PA and developing a passion for politics and history at a young age, I have always been drawn to D.C.

After reading over the program, I knew right away it was the absolute right choice for me. I applied as soon as the application opened and started packing the second I got accepted. After being here for only two weeks, I already know it was the right decision.

New faces, unfamiliar surroundings, different lifestyles--settling into a new place is a unique experience. Yet it doesn't take much but a positive and open mind to make it a positive one. Adjusting to American University, and more broadly to D.C., has been nothing shy of amazing. From endless museums and monuments to diverse food and shopping to countless political leaders and government buildings, D.C. is the perfect backdrop for a semester of political academia and experience.

As a student in the American Politics concentration, I could not have chosen a better location and program for my studies. Beginning my seminar this past week, I was introduced to classmates of all different backgrounds and views, yet all with the same passion and knowledge of politics. My peers, all with vast interests and extensive political knowledge, have introduced me to conversations and engagement that I would not have otherwise experienced.

This week I was introduced to my professor and our tentative schedule for the semester. As a highly respected professor of politics for 27 years, Professor Semiatin's teaching is accompanied by his considerable experience, adding more substance to our learning. Learning American politics from a professor immersed in D.C. society is a unique and supplementary aspect of the program. It also allows for a booked schedule full of accredited speakers including Congressmen, policy analysts, Congressional Committee members, the guy who made Bernie Sanders's campaign ads, and more. From gaining practical political skills, to learning to write memorandums, to hearing from speakers, I can already say with confidence the Washington Semester Program is truly a remarkable opportunity to gain practical experience and political skills.

While plenty of opportunities are built into our academics here at American University, it is equally important to supplement learning with memories made on your own. If there is a place to try new things, D.C. is it. The students in the Washington Semester Program are very diverse, coming from different countries, states, cultures, upbringings, and more. Putting myself out there and engaging with my peers from the get-go was essential to my first couple weeks here.

Coming from a small home school, I was worried about making friends. Instead of continuing to worry, I decided to open myself up to people I normally wouldn't. With this mindset I immediately found a fun and solid group of friends while being surrounded by several other familiar and warm faces. I mention this because: what fun are all the D.C. experiences if you have no one to share them with?! Deciding how to spend your down time with so many available options is better with a group to bounce ideas off of, and of course to do them with.

Young elephant playing with a ball at the National ZooJust in my first two weeks here, I have had authentic food ranging from Mediterranean to Thai, visited 4 museums, traveled to 3 monuments at night (it's a whole different experience after the sun goes down), used public transportation by myself, made countless friends from 4 different countries and several states, met a senior polling analyst, got up close and personal to an elephant at the National Zoo, and much more. This semester is an amazing opportunity to develop professional skills, but also to explore all our nation's amazing capital has to offer. I can't wait to see what else this semester holds for me!