November 17, 2015 | By Ray Collins
I was spinning my wheels at my college--and felt like I needed a change. I knew since I was ten years old I wanted to be a broadcast journalist, but I felt I wasn't getting enough of a challenge on campus.
I saw an ad on the bulletin board about the Washington Semester Program and it caught my eye. Within months, I was moving into a dorm on the campus of The American University and meeting a whole new caliber of 20-year old. Suddenly it was all right to be articulate and polite. I felt like I had joined an All-Star team of amazing students from across the country.
The program's reputation was so stellar, I had a choice of internships--and chose a television network's capital bureau.
Two days a week, I was dressed in a suit and commuted to the National Press Building. I was then sent to shadow reporters or take notes at either the White House, State Department, or Capitol Hill. (I'd often stop at the sidewalk of each facility as I left at the end of the day and look back at the iconic facility--and shake my head in a mix of disbelief and exhilaration.)
Our field trips during the two other days of the week were top-notch. Many of the people I grew up watching or reading, were now allowing us to come to their respective newsrooms to ask them questions. The fifth day of the week, classroom discussion, helped us digest and sort out our experiences, each week more amazing than the last. Our professor, Lincoln Furber, was a calm respected former journalist who set the tone for this life-changing experience. He treated us as adults, and we tried to rise to the occasion. My classmates and I learned with each other--and from each other. It is no surprise many of them are at the top of our industry.
When I returned to my college after the semester, I was a new person. I had simply "grown up," and found my footing during the Washington Semester Program. I realized that life is what you make of it.
I haven't looked back since.
In the past 30 years, I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed an award-winning career as a TV news anchor and now a communications consultant in Florida.
By the way, my college inducted me into its radio station "Hall of Fame."
I owe it all to the Washington Semester Program, a defining juncture of my life.
Ray Collins/Class of Fall '83