Penn State Washington Program: My Experience Interning in the Nation’s Capital

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By: Rachel Tasker, THON Chair

I can remember the first semester of my freshman year of college, a time when I was desperately trying to find my niche at Penn State. I chose the school because of the great opportunities it offers students – and my goal was to get involved in all of the wonderful things on campus. Little did I know that Penn State offers students more than just the ideal college lifestyle within the boundaries of Happy Valley.

When I first heard about the Penn State Washington Program from my adviser, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Being a Public Relations and Political Science dual-major, I felt the opportunity to intern and live in the nation’s capital would be an experience I just couldn’t miss.

By November of my freshman year, I had committed to the program for the following Fall semester. I had no idea what opportunities would lie ahead.

As an intern at QGA Public Affairs, I have been given the opportunity to experience the overlap of public relations and politics in its truest, purest form. My responsibilities include examining polling data, covering Senate and House hearings, keeping clients up-to-date on the latest changes in policy, as well as various other communications-oriented tasks, like social media management. More than just grabbing coffee or filling a printer, I am able to experience what a career in this realm would really entail, all while networking and making connections with leaders in the field.

Outside of the office, I am able to connect what I’m learning through my internship with my coursework. The Penn State professors who teach the classes offered through the fall Communications and Democracy Semester are an extremely valuable resource, and work diligently to provide meaningful, applicable lessons and projects. Topics discussed in meetings at my office easily make the transition to classroom conversations. Pressing issues that I cover in Senate and House hearings oftentimes make up the material presented for case studies by my professors. Seeing the real-world application of classroom lessons in action allows me to grasp a better understanding of some of the most important aspects of politics and political communications alike.

As much as I truly enjoy attending my internship and classes each day, free time in D.C. can be just as educational. In just 6 short weeks, I have visited 20+ museums, many historical sites and memorials, as well as some of the best restaurants, coffee shops and markets. As a lover of nature and athletics, I have also been able to visits state and city parks, as well as participating in a half-marathon. Whether it be enjoying a good read at the park across the street from my apartment, to taking a tour of the West Wing of the White House, Washington, D.C. has many amazing opportunities to offer.

I applied for this program as a freshman, not knowing where I would fit in the large community that is Penn State. I am so incredibly thankful for this program that has allowed me to grow – professionally, and personally – in the city of my dreams.

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