Penn Arts & Sciences Logo
Events, alumni networking, courses, and internships for Penn students on campus and in D.C.

Students Say... Do the Semester Program!

Fall 19 Student Evaluation Highlights


How did your experience during Penn in Washington influence your interest in policy or your overall career?

  • I pretty much already knew what policy areas I was interested in, but taking the Diplomacy class sparked an interest in foreign policy that I otherwise wouldn't have considered

  • PiW made me interested in certain aspects of policy. My full-time internship made me extremely passionate about communications. Getting the message out to citizens is important; every job that I did for them felt meaningful and with a purpose. However, this program sort of reinforced the idea that I am way more interested in the law and not so much working for the government. While I would not mind working for the government or agencies that develop policy by any means, I truly believe my heart is in the law and helping people in court and through litigation.

  • It was extremely influential in giving me insight into which options actually exist to be involved in policy/advocacy as a career. It also gave me valuable work experience that allowed me to gain mentors directly in my field of interest, something I don't think I could have gained on my own.

  • I am interested in working in DC after this experience.

  • This experience has helped me hone in are what are some potential jobs/what I want my career to look like in the future. This was an eye opening and enriching experience I will forever be grateful for. 

  • My experience during PIW has made me want to stay in D.C. after school.  It has also convinced me that going straight into my preferred career path would be more beneficial than going into a job that pays well but isn't that interesting to me.

  • Because of my background in political science and international relations, I had extensive knowledge on the topics, so the classes assisted to reinforce certain concepts, as well as expand my knowledge. However, being able to personally meet and interact with individuals in the fields and discuss the subjects based on current events was an enriching experience that captivated my imagination. Having that opportunity truly enhance my interest on policy and is encouraging me to continue to pursue a career in politics or the public sector.

  • This semester has opened my eyes to the diverse array of careers in policy and DC in general. I can definitely see myself working in Washington at some point in my career.

  • The semester was amazing. Going back to DC after graduation is definitely an option I am considering now.

What was the greatest lesson you took from PIW?

  • There isn't one straight path to being successful in DC

  • Every boss is going to have a different structure for the same type of task that you might have done for a previous job. Ask copious questions before beginning so you make sure you are performing the assignment correctly. For example, I have written memos four different ways this semester for four different people, none looked remotely similar. In fact, there were huge differences between many of them. 

  • Relationships matter! Present the best version of yourself to anyone regardless of their position - you never know who you are talking to.

  • Time management is key.

  • I learned that I can be hard on myself and need to remember that I'm doing enough.

  • To make connections and ask people for advice/favors! People actually want to help

  • Being able to communicate ideas both verbally and through writing are quintessential skills to possess. Although I was confident in my presentation skills, my writing capabilities were limited, therefore, with the various assignments throughout the semester, I was able to improve my ability to relay information in the most effective way possible.

  • Ask and you shall receive! From professors to other interns at work, everyone is very willing to help if you just reach out and ask. Even if they personally cannot help, they can refer you to someone else they know who would be a better fit.

  • If you work in politics you’ll jump around jobs a lot but there’s no one clear career path.

What stood out most to you in your PIW coursework?

  • Each professor expected our policy memos to look a different way

  • I loved the guest speakers in Professor Rodriguez's class! We got to actually talk to people immersed in their field and get the inside scoop on their political opinions.

  • The policy process is far longer and more complex than meets the eye - the fact of policy taking 10 years to have an effect has not left my mind.

  • We had to complete a lot of essays. The sheer quantity of writing was quite intense.

  • The coursework was really challenging and pushed me to think about issues in ways I never considered. 

  • I was surprised how much the class content, the news, and my job all connected. 

  • The nuances of disseminating information, as well as catering to a specific audience. 

  • Although memos are widely used throughout DC to summarize many different things, there are many styles depending on the subject or the person receiving the memo. Additionally, there was a wide range in length of papers and memos as well.

  • Most of the assignments for the classes required outside research not just information from the readings and class.

What would you tell a student who is considering doing the PIW semester program?

  • Apply even if you aren't majoring or minoring in political science. The courses don't require an advanced knowledge of psci, and the gains of the program are well worth having a semester that doesn't fulfill any major/minor requirements. 

  • Take an international politics class before trying this program. I made the mistake of not and the Diplomacy class was a lot of new information that I have never encountered before. It was a bit overwhelming. 

  • If you want a preview into what the professional world looks like, you would be hard pressed to find a better way to do so.

  • You should definitely participate.

  • Do it. 

  • I would tell them that if they are considering a career in politics, sociology, law, communications, or interested in D.C., they should definitely apply. There are so many unique opportunities that only PIW students get access to, so definitely apply.

  • If a student is interested in Penn in Washington and wants to experience a plethora of opportunities, expanding further than academics, then PIW will deliver. 

  • PIW is truly a once in a lifetime experience that unfortunately too many students at Penn don't take advantage of. The semester is challenging in a very fulfilling way that gives you a clear insight into what a career in D.C. might look like!

  • Definitely do it



“Not only do we have some amazing professors who are very well-versed in the policy realm, but we are also given the opportunity to meet with other political leaders and policymakers in the city as part of our schoolwork. A few weeks ago, we were given the opportunity to visit the White House West Wing and meet White House staff members in the process. Hearing their insight and visiting the Oval Office was definitely a memorable, once in a lifetime experience!”

“Once a week we attend a two-hour lecture where we engage in conversation about our weekly reading and discuss with a guest – who is an expert on the topic – how everything works in real government. It’s given us an eye-opening understanding of how Congress works and has opened up networking opportunities with brilliant, successful, powerful people in Washington.”

“Having an instructor who was an instrumental member of the Obama administration and who now works on the lobbying side of politics has provided our class with insight we simply could not gain on campus. We are able to ask hard questions and receive frank answers from Professor Rodriguez as well as from the many guests he invites. We can always voice our own political opinions and know that someone else in the room will have a dissimilar response, forcing us to reevaluate or reinforce our reasoning.”

“I have greatly appreciated the ability to learn from not only our professor, an experienced member of the political world who consistently challenges our opinions, but also many other guest lecturers who candidly share their varied experiences. Speaking with and learning from experienced members of both political parties involved in a variety of aspects of government allows me to challenge my political thoughts and gain a deeper understanding of politics.”

“PIW allows you to meet so many people, make connections, and learn about DC and where you can see yourself in it. The balance between the internship and classes gives you the feel of working full-time while taking courses, something I see myself doing when I attend graduate school. The instructors for the courses are greatly knowledgeable and bring in some of the most fascinating speakers for each class. Unlike classes on campus, these classes teach practical, real-life lessons about life in DC and future careers. I would highly recommend this program for anyone who is remotely interested in policymaking in any way.”

“It is the best way to learn about DC careers and get practical knowledge about how to get a job in DC. I now know what to expect moving forward and trying to get a job in government.”

“As I was sitting in my Presidential Power class talking to Rob Nabors (White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy for U.S. President Barack Obama) about reactive policy decisions, it hit me: we've been exposed to some very powerful individuals. I can honestly say I could not have had this kind of opportunity anywhere else. This has truly been a fantastic experience!”