Cherry blossoms

Rachel Dennis
Journalism and New Media

March 21 | Spring has finally arrived in DC, bringing with it warmer weather, sunshine, and flowers. With the semester drawing to an end, I couldn't be happier that I chose to apply to the Washington Semester Program and got to live in such a beautiful city for the past three months. My Journalism professors and classmates have made being a part of this program such a memorable experience. Throughout the month of March, speaker visits, seminar lectures, and papers kept our class busy. Professor Krasnow and Professor Klein arranged for us to meet with Jacob Scherr, who worked as an attorney and advocate at the National Resources Defense Council. Mr. Scherr talked to us about his work as an environmental activist, which was interesting to hear about because his line of work differed from those of past speakers. We also heard from WSP alumna Casey Mendoza, who works for a national news network called Newsy, and from DiDi Schanke, who went to Africa to spend two years in the Peace Corps. I love the fact that in the Journalism and New Media seminar we get to speak with such a large variety of individuals. Another one of the highlights has been our visit to the Council of Foreign Relations. While there, our class had the opportunity to be briefed by various staff members.

A string exhibit at the Sackler Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. One weekend, my friends and I went to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian Castle, and the Freer Sackler Art Gallery. I still haven't been to all of the places in DC I'd like to visit (there are so many!), and although I'd passed by the Hirshhorn Museum a couple of times before, I'd never been inside. I'm really glad that I finally did stop in because they have a lot of interesting art installations to appreciate. Some of my favorite installations were the miniature moving dioramas that were accompanied by a short audio story. The Freer Sackler Art Gallery showcases pieces of Asian art work. For example, a large portion of the basement is dedicated to showcasing statues of Buddha. My friends and I also decided to swing by Georgetown one day. If you're in the mood for baked goods or just looking for great places to shop, Georgetown is definitely the place to go!

Street in Georgetown In the time I have left at my internship, I've been doing all I can take to maximize my experience. I've been spending more time getting to know my co-workers and the other interns and asking as many questions as possible. I've also had the chance to work on more different assignments than I usually do, like editing the videos that cover the news in America and Africa. I've had the chance to improve both my writing and editing skills a lot this semester, which I'm grateful for. This internship has been fulfilling in so many ways, and I really have my supervisors, co-workers, and the other interns to thank for that. All in all, I know that it will be a very bittersweet moment when the semester comes to an end. I will definitely miss being in DC and being surrounded by so many wonderful people, but I am also happy knowing that I'll be taking many wonderful memories of my time in the Washington Semester Program with me.

Blog History

Washington Semester Program Journalism and New Media student Rachel Dennis poses in front of a giant street art piece in Washington DC

Rachel Dennis
Journalism and New Media

March 7 | My time in Washington, DC, continues to be an incredible experience. At my internship, I've been settling into more responsibilities, while in my seminar we've continued to visit many different places all over the city and talk with a range of professionals. Along with the nicer weather, these past couple of weeks have been an enjoyable balance of work and fun.

As part of my seminar, our class had the chance to meet with investigative reporter Michael Isikoff and American University Journalist in Residence Lynne Perri. The conversation we had with Mr. Isikoff was relevant to the Stormy Daniels allegations against President Trump, since part of Mr. Isikoff's coverage as a reporter had been on the President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal. Likewise, meeting with Professor Perri, who discussed with us the ethics of journalism, was insightful. Some of the points that were brought up in our discussion with her related well to the assignments we were working on. It was informative to hear about the best ways to handle any situations that might arise in our journalistic work, like what to do if our source decides they no longer want to go on the record. Since finding sources and interviewing people is part of our seminar, I appreciated the fact that Professor Perri took the time to talk to our class and offer us guidance with our work.

The ceiling of the capitol building dome I had the opportunity to tour the Capitol building for the first time when we assembled there as a class. One of my classmates who is interning this semester at Senator Murray's office led the tour and gave us a thorough rundown of the building's history. Getting to take in the incredible aesthetics of the Capitol, not to mention taking advantage of all of the great photo opportunities was a great way to start the day! Later on, we had the chance to go to Fox News and sit in on the Tucker Carlson show. Being behind the scenes of the shows opened my eyes to how much work and effort goes into producing a night segment. Between breaks, we even got to chat with Tucker Carlson personally. Another opportunity we had was going to NPR. The newsroom at NPR looked very much like the newsrooms do in movies. After leaving NPR, my friends and I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the great weather and taking pictures in front of street art pieces.

At my internship, I've continued to gain more knowledge in video editing. This has quickly become my favorite part of my internship, even though it was all new and slightly intimidating at first. I've been continuing to work on my original news piece about female emcees, for which I've scheduled a couple of interviews. I'm very grateful for the freedom I have to explore different topics and to write about something I find interesting and meaningful at my internship. Assisting with other responsibilities like adapting news stories and voicing articles for audio listeners in the recording studio has allowed me to gain exposure to different aspects of media and has kept my work varied.

Before I go home for spring break, I'd like to visit the botanical garden and Georgetown. I've heard that Georgetown has some of the best bakeries around! I've also been wanting to visit the Smithsonian Zoo and the Spy Museum, which I hope to do this weekend. With only two more months of the program left, I'm focusing on enjoying the time I have left and crossing off all the places I'd like to visit from my bucket list.

The Chinatown arch in downtown Washington DC

Rachel Dennis
Journalism and New Media

February 22 |

It's amazing how quickly my time here is passing, and I've been doing my best to enjoy every minute of it. I'm glad that this past week brought more great experiences.

As a class, we had the chance to talk to David Martin, who is a veteran CBS national security correspondent. Mr. Martin had a lot of experience to share with us from his professional life, the most memorable being his proudest reporting moment. He told us that after interviewing injured military personnel who were recovering in a burn center, his published interviews on their aspirations for the future garnered a lot of positive attention from people wanting to support them. Hearing Mr. Martin share the impact that his journalistic work had on others was a perfect reminder of the importance of this profession and the ability of journalists to positively impact the lives of other people.

After meeting with Mr. Martin, my class assembled at the German Embassy to meet with the communications director and embassy officials. What made this particular site visit even more exciting was that it was arranged by a former Washington Semester Program student. Being briefed by someone at the embassy who not too long ago was a part of the program herself shows just how much being a part of this program can influence your life.

Washington Semester Program student ambassador Rachel Dennis at her internship site, Voice of America As I continue to settle into my work at Voice of America, I'm finding that my video editing skills are becoming exponentially better. Considering I had no previous experience working with the video editing software they use, I'm really proud of how much information I've been able to absorb with the support of my supervisors and colleagues. Within the Learning English division, which is the other department I work in, I've been working on an original piece for publication. Working on my own material has been a great opportunity for me to refine my skills as a writer and researcher, as well as explore the different topics I'm interested in.

Sidney Harman Hall in downtown Washington DCIn my free time, I've enjoyed exploring different spots around DC. Recently I took the Metro to Gallery Place/Chinatown, where, on my way to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, I happened to pass by the Harman Center for the Arts, which is currently putting on Shakespeare's Hamlet. At the museum, I gave myself a self-guided tour. I enjoyed having the opportunity to see the various showcases and admire the beautiful pieces of art they had on display. One of my favorite displays there was a stunning construction of a throne that was put together using gold and silver colored aluminum foil, wood, glass, paper, and plastic. Exploring Gallery Place/Chinatown reminded me of just how many places I haven't been to yet. I'm really looking forward to exploring more of DC!

Washington Semester students at Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, DC

Rachel Dennis
Journalism and New Media

February 7 | It's been almost three weeks since I first arrived in Washington, DC, and I have yet to experience a dull moment here! Between settling into my classes and internship and spending time with my new-found friends, my experience as part of the Washington Semester Program has been incredible so far.

As part of the Journalism and New Media concentration, I've already had the opportunity to go on site visits with my class as well as hear from a number of interesting guest speakers. In just three weeks, I've been to the Supreme Court, the Newseum, the National Press Club, and WTOP-Radio. To be able to sit through an entire case at the Supreme Court was an experience like no other. Not only was it fascinating being able to see the inner workings of the highest federal court in the US, but it was really exciting to see the justices as well. As a bonus, the case we sat in on happened to be compelling, and our class was lucky enough to be briefed afterwards by Patricia Estrada, the chief public information officer.

Washington Semester students at National Press Club in Washington, DC Apart from the site visits, the best part of the seminar so far has been the guest speakers. One of those speakers was Valerie Strauss, who works as a reporter for the Washington Post Metro. It was amazing being able to hear from someone, who has covered everything from national to foreign news over the span of her career and has such a wealth of knowledge to share with us. Some of my biggest takeaways from her talk were the importance of not feeling intimidated by how knowledgeable other people may seem in a topic, always asking questions - no matter how simple they may seem, and always being persistent and transparent.

As much fun as classes have been so far, another important part of the semester program is the internship component. In order to have a successful internship, it is necessary to learn how to make the most of the experience, which is part of what our seminar is dedicated to helping each student achieve. Another crucial aspect to having a great internship is showing up willing to take that first step outside of your comfort zone - and taking those steps has definitely been something I've had to do.

Since starting my internship at Voice of America (VOA), I've been asking a lot of questions, which I think is one of the best things you can do for yourself as an intern. Even though I've only spent two weeks at my internship site so far, I've already learned so much from being there. From learning the basics of video editing to learning how to adapt a news story, working as part of VOA's Learning English team and as part of their Media Lab has given me a glimpse into the scope of services Voice of America provides as a news service. Although there has definitely been a learning curve I've had to tackle within those two weeks, I feel extremely grateful to have such an incredible opportunity to learn and grow as a young professional.

Enjoying brunch with friends at Tryst in Adams Morgan, Washington, DC Some of the other highlights of my experience so far have been the moments I've spent connecting with the other students in the program and exploring the streets of the city. From exploring AU's campus to taking the bus into Tenleytown to visiting the National Air and Space Museum on Independence Avenue to grabbing brunch in Adams Morgan, we've already made so many great memories. Having a class of nine means that we can also do fun things together like eat a large, family-style dinner at Carmine's Italian Restaurant and indulge in spicy half-smokes at the historic Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street.

As January comes to an end, I know I can look forward to the many more exciting, fun, and challenging moments to come as the semester progresses.