I remember hearing about the Wisconsin in Washington (WIW) program in my History of American Foreign Policy class sophomore year. It seemed like exactly the type of program I’d want to participate in, and yet, I wasn’t sure about it. I had been to Washington on family vacations, but could I really live there? In a city? With all its hustle and bustle? Take the train to work every day? Away from the warm smiles and kindness of the Midwest?
After a lot of thinking, consultation, and color-coded pro/con lists, I decided to take the plunge and was eventually selected for the 2007 cohort. In every way possible, the program changed my life.
Not only did that internship at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) eventually lead to my first job after graduate school, it also created the beginnings of my professional network, numerous opportunities to learn and explore, and long lasting friendships. During that immersive three months, I learned how to write, think, and work in new ways. I learned how to collaborate and coordinate. I learn how to connect people and ideas.
Perhaps most important about that time in my life and the opportunities it afforded was that the university provided support, without being overbearing. From day one, the program was about our own agency and judgment to make the right decisions for ourselves. Sure, the classes and structured curriculum were instructive and built our skills, but the intangibles mattered just as much. The self-reliance fostered growth. The out of class experiences informed those in class. And ultimately, that’s what brought me back to Washington and has kept me here for a decade.
Washington, D.C. is a high-stakes, competitive city filled with bright people. The program provides exactly the right entry point to learn it safely and explore it fully. I recommend it often, and contribute to it whenever they ask because it was formative for me and I want to ensure that it is for each student who is a part of it. I know for a fact that I would not have the career I have without it, and am forever grateful for it.