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

Rachel Dennis
Journalism and New Media

February 7, 2018 | 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.