For Megan Arendt, the Semester in International Affairs in Washington, D.C., delivered “an amazing internationally routed experience only a short plane ride from home” – an experience that also opened the door to a career in the nation’s capital.
“I interned at the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation during the fall semester of 2008 and was immediately introduced to the fast-paced international sphere by getting my birth certificated overnighted to me, a rushed passport, and joining a four-day staff trip to Jamaica to debrief on the Sullivan Summit in Tanzania that had just concluded.”
Organized by the UW–Madison Division of International Studies and offered each fall, the Semester in International Affairs program combines an internship with an international affairs focus—in an agency, corporation, non-profit or embassy—with regular seminars that feature prominent speakers and distinguished UW-Madison alumni working in professional, academic, and diplomatic fields related to international affairs.
In addition, students visit major institutions such as Congress, the State Department, and the World Bank, private industry and non-governmental organizations to learn about the operation and goals of these organizations.
Arendt talks about her experience with the program and where it led: “That semester, I helped develop and carry out a curriculum for DC students in a Sullivan entity job training school called Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC), among other programmatic initiatives.”
The following summer, she returned to the Sullivan Foundation: “I interned in the Events Department and took care of logistics and registration for the Sullivan Honors, a black-tie event at the Kennedy Center that honored Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Mia Farrow, and Winston Duncan.”
She learned firsthand about the importance of connections.
“The Semester in D.C. Program advisers continually reiterated to us the importance of making and keeping contacts. So I stayed in contact with the Sullivan Foundation through my senior year at UW–Madison and received an offer in the spring to return to the Foundation on July 1, 2011, as the full-time marketing and development specialist.
“I have since become the associate director of summit affairs and outreach and was able to continue working with the UW-Madison Division of International Affairs by ensuring that we had space for another Wisconsin intern this fall. We were given one resume, interviewed her, and thought she would be a great fit from the beginning. Laura is passionate about our work, driven, friendly, very organized, and definitely carrying the Wisconsin name well!”
Arendt’s experiences have given her some perspective on the value of the Semester in D.C. program.
“Knowing how much I have learned and benefited from my time here in D.C., I was beyond excited to be able to help facilitate that experience for another Wisconsin student. The program forced us to get out of our offices from time to time and attend local events to see some of the different international organizations in which we could one day work.
“Washington, D.C., is flooded with opportunities and under the guidance of the Semester in D.C. Program, everything was somehow manageable. I went to events that I might have otherwise shied away from as an intern, because I wanted to write interesting reports and to not ask to leave my office for just any old event.”
She praises key individuals who work to make the program successful – Leon Weintraub, adjunct professor of political science at George Washington University; Anthony Carroll, counsel for Manchester Trade, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in international trade and investment issues; and Cynthia Williams, International Studies director of external relations.
“Tony Carroll and Dr. Weintraub were more than encouraging in telling us that we could really sign up for any event and taking us on amazing field trips (including briefings at the Pentagon and State Department). They also worked very hard with Dr. Williams to ensure that we had meaningful speaker presentations from different sectors and were continually expanding our horizons.
“I am truly grateful for my experience as a Wisconsin intern in D.C. It launched my career and made me completely comfortable moving here after graduation to continue my international development-based life.”
For more information about the Washington, D.C., Semester in International Affairs, go the program website.