Maddie visited a bakery in NYC during her semesterMadison Parker
Public Health policy

April 8 | Hello, everyone! Welcome to my fifth and final blog post.

While brainstorming what I wanted this blog to be about, I tried to identify one common theme or message that I wanted to convey. After reading through my previous blogs and reflecting on the semester, one word stuck out to me.


Washington D.C. provides opportunities like no other. This semester has given me the opportunity to: explore my interests, take classes outside of my major, intern on Capitol Hill, live and explore a city, test out what I like and don’t like, meet people from all over the country and world. D.C. has let me explore the opportunity to see what going to a small college in the city would be like, the opportunity to work on my social media and communications skills, to write these blog posts, and the opportunity to fall in love with serving people and the health field more than I ever thought it could. I have had the opportunity to network and listen to incredible speakers as well as visit cool places. For the first time, I had the opportunity to march in the Women’s March and see the cherry blossoms for the first time.

Maddie at a Healthcare MuseumI came to D.C. because I wanted to learn more about myself and ignite my passions. I wanted to explore if D.C. was a city I wanted to live in after college, expand my career interests, intern for a semester, and get a glimpse of what going to college in D.C. would look like. I came to D.C. for so many reasons, but I am glad I came for dozens more.

Every week, everyday, is refreshing, and filled with thought-provoking, inspiring, or simply joyous things. Recently I have gone to the FBI Headquarters with my Political Communications class after a discussion on national security policy earlier in the day. On the way to our next stop, we passed through Union Station for some lunch and I was ecstatic when I learned that there is a Magnolia Cupcake there! I have always been a huge fan of cupcakes, which goes along with my mantra that it’s little joys that make life happy.

Magnolia Bakery in NYC, just a short bus ride away from Washington DC!So with both happiness and sadness, I say goodbye this time. I am grateful for my time here and thrilled to be here for another eight weeks for another internship at the beginning of the summer. I am looking forward to some long-awaited time with my family in New Jersey, and I cannot wait to return to my Clemson family for another undefeated football season. While I am sad that my time in D.C. is coming to a close, I know that this blog post is not an end to my time here, but rather the Washington Semester Program has created the first pages of my story here.

I thought that after four months I would feel like I had taken one long vacation as a tourist here, but instead I have found myself to unknowingly have put down roots in D.C. I can’t wait to come back and to fall in love with this city even more than I already have.

Blog History

Maddie in the DC MetroMadison Parker
Public Health policy

March 25 | Hello everyone! These past two weeks have been quite busy, and the days seem to be passing by faster than I can keep track of them.

A few students from Clemson came to D.C. on a trip for their spring break with our career center. I travelled downtown with them for a Clemson Young Alumni Social at Mission - Navy Yard. The opportunity to meet and network with Clemson Alumni was unique to anything I have done in D.C. yet. It was neat to be able to meet people who were in my shoes not too long ago, to hear about their experiences and passions, and to bond over a love of Clemson and Washington, D.C. While speaking to various Clemson Alumni, I could envision myself here, living in D.C., just like them in a few short years.

Mission is as popular restaurant in the Washington, DC neighborhood of DuPont Circle Over my own spring break, I flew down to South Carolina for a quick visit with friends at Clemson. It was crazy to be back and compare my life at Clemson to my life in D.C. Sometimes it is hard to believe that all at once I am interning, taking a full course-load, and working part-time for the school, while balancing a social life and exploring all that this city has to offer. Since coming to Washington, I have pushed my own limits to discover all that I can do. I am grateful for my time in Washington because it has helped me to look into the abounding possibilities for summer internships, as well as internship and research opportunities for the fall.

Being in D.C. has challenged me and helped me grow in ways I never would have expected. I came to D.C. with hopes of figuring out what career I may want to pursue after college. Instead of narrowing it down, I have discovered more possibilities. I came here passionate about healthcare and with an inkling of an interest in health policy. Between my classes and working on Capitol Hill, I have come to realize my interest in other issue areas such as environmental, immigration, and gun policy, as well as my interest in different sectors and job fields. D.C. has shown me career paths and opportunities that I didn’t even know existed before my semester in Washington.

In two short months I have gained experience and knowledge unlike anything I could have ever expected. It is crazy to think that this semester is already halfway over, but I am excited for all that the rest of the semester (and hopefully the summer) may hold.

Until next time!

Maddie with fellow students and a guest speakerMadison Parker
Public Health policy

March 11 | “There’s something in these hills.”

This decades-old saying is one that Clemson students come to learn and live by in the Blue Ridge Mountains. While the saying is vague (as “something” always is), our Clemson family forms around this quote.

While there are no hills in DC, there’s an energy in this city unlike any I have ever experienced before. There’s a unique buzz that runs through the streets and the metro, and flows through the veins of the people here.

People pour passion into what they do. No matter the issue or the job, their drive, hard work, and determination are unparalleled. I see it everyday at my internship, hear it in the lectures of my professors and the presentations of our guest speakers, and feel it in the rich history and culture.

A portrait of Michelle Obama at the National Portrait GalleryWhether being presented to in class or visiting a museum, there is inspiration everywhere. Human Rights Activist Ms. Remaz Mahgoub Khalaleyal spoke to our Human Development class about her identity as black, Muslim, Sudanese immigrant. We watched a video of her asking Senator Bernie Sanders about how to combat racism, and this year she spoke at the third Women’s March in DC. I hope to one day be as impactful as Ms. Khalaleyal.

My mom and sister came to visit and my sisters and I stopped in the National Portrait Gallery before going to dinner. I really enjoyed soaking in America’s history in the President’s exhibition. My favorite exhibit is one that includes Michelle Obama’s portrait. She is one of my biggest inspirations, with one of my favorite quotes of hers being “the only height to the limit of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.”

A portrait of John F. Kennedy at the National Portrait GalleryThe people here are doing good work. While it’s all for a purpose, it can be stressful when you are surrounded by people doing incredible things, with seemingly no effort, every single day. Ms. Remaz spoke of how even she feels as if she is not good enough DC can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes you just need to take a break from it all, and find some moments of clarity and mindfulness. Recently, I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming on the Metro ride home. It is a relaxing and enjoyable at the end of a long day. After hopping off the Metro and onto the bus, I find peace on my walk back to my apartment, listening to the cars zoom past and allowing myself to feel the cold wind hit my skin. And as I walk home, I reflect on this insane yet incredible semester.

Until next time.

Maddie in front of the United States Capitol BuildingMadison Parker
Public Health policy

February 25 | On a Tuesday morning, my alarm blared loudly at 6:30am. While I am not a morning person by any means, I was bubbling with excitement for this day.

This semester, I am interning in the Office of Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12). The experience has been a surreal but incredible one. On this specific Tuesday, I was going in on a day when I usually wouldn’t to help assist and witness the craziness of State of the Union Address. The Congresswoman had announced the week prior that she was bringing Ms. Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant who previously worked at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ.

At 3pm that afternoon, Ms. Morales arrived to the office in Rayburn with her lawyer and she was seated on a couch. The next few hours were crazy with news reporters coming in and out of the office, but before that all began Ms. Morales was left alone on the couch. I decided to go up and introduce myself and a smile grew on her face when she realized I spoke some Spanish and that we could actually communicate! She joked while holding my hands, a sign of trust and comfort, as we talked and laughed. Before I left to go back to my office, she asked me to thank the entire office for serving as a voice to tell her story.

A framed US Flag inside a congressional office. Later that afternoon the other interns and I huddled in the doorway of the Congresswoman’s office to watch an interview with the Congresswoman and Ms. Morales. It was inspiring to see the Congresswoman provide the utmost support and respect and to see Ms. Morales come to tears as she spoke of her gratefulness and her desire to fight for immigrants rights.


At 6pm that day our supervisor let us know we could go. Before leaving I went up to Ms. Morales, sitting once again alone on the couch, and through broken Spanish again told her it was nice to meet her, wished her buena suerte (good luck), and thanked her for what she was doing and for being so tremendously brave. “Si se puede,” I said before squeezing her hands one last time and leaving for the day.

These are the moments and the memories that being in Washington is all about. I walked out of Rayburn that day and down to the Metro feeling incredibly inspired, and remembering the power that those in office have. It’s days like these that make the prior week of constituent phone calls, the 6am wake up, and the long days so worth it. It’s about having the opportunity to be a small part in helping voices like Ms. Morales be heard. It’s knowing that you are contributing to causes larger and more important than yourself.

Until next time!

Washington Semester students at the Freedom Forum InstituteMadison Parker
Public Health policy

February 11 | Hello everyone! My name is Madison and my passion for healthcare led me to study Public Health at Clemson. I knew I wanted to spend a semester at American University after my parents and I visited DC this summer. Despite the fact that we were only here for less than 48 hours, I absolutely fell in love with the city. I came to Washington this semester to immerse myself in the rich culture as well as the political atmosphere to learn about the policy side of healthcare.

The Washington Semester Program is unique in that we intern three days a week while maintaining status as full-time students. The curriculum in WSP consists of two seminar classes, an internship class, and an optional elective class. As a Public Health Policy concentration, my seminar classes are U.S. Politics and Policy and Human Development and Global Issues, and I am also enrolled in the Political Communication elective.

A big focus of the Washington Semester Program is going on site visits. For my Political Communication class, we went to the Newseum for a panel discussion on the United States paying ransom for journalists. Diane Foley, whose son was beheaded by the Islamic state, and David Rohde, who was kidnapped by the Taliban, were two of the guests of the night. At the end of the panel discussion, I went up to Mr. Rohde to introduce both myself and my class. Mr. Rohde and Ms. Foley were excited to meet us and even gladly posed for a group photo with us. Through experiences like this one, I have learned that everyone in Washington got to where they are with help, and usually they are so kind and willing as to return the favor to you.

Women's March in Washington, DC (Healthcare, Human Rights)One of the experiences I have found most unique to DC was the events the day of the Women’s March. I was ecstatic to go to the Women’s March as I have wanted to go every year since the first march three years ago but never had the opportunity. It was empowering to be surrounded by so many strong women standing up for a better future. My roommates and I marched with arms linked, laughing, crying, smiling, and dancing.

This adventure so far has been an amazing one. I cannot believe it has already been four weeks since I moved in. I have learned so much about the city, policy, and even myself, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store. Until next time!