SIA launches internship program in D.C.

The Penn State School of International Affairs now offers a formal program to give students the opportunity to intern in Washington, D.C., during the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Through a partnership with the College of Communications, the Penn State Washington Program offers students the chance to tap into all the professional and career resources the city has to offer.

The Washington program was started to give students a complete Washington experience, including internship placement and credit, housing, and special events and programs. SIA students can now join students from other areas of the University and participate in the Washington Program. Over the years, students have worked for organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, CNN, the Environmental Protection Agency, the office of Sen. Arlen Specter, and the Organization of American States.

SIA student Jonathan Reich participated in the program this past summer and has applied again for the fall semester. He notes he gained invaluable experience from his internship at Western Skies Strategies, a special interest group for U.S. agriculture that sometimes sent him to the Capitol Building to take notes on congressional hearings about agricultural policy.

“I got insight on how D.C. works,” Reich said. “I had seen it on the news, but here was policymaking right in front of me.”

In addition to observing congressional hearings, Reich’s internship responsibilities included keeping current on news and information about agricultural policy, and drafting lobby reports and press releases, which honed his technical writing capabilities.

“This may seem like introductory level work, but you don’t learn this from a textbook,” he said. “I had to learn to write concisely, making my point quickly, but comprehensively.”

The program also provides housing to participants. Reich lived in Pentagon City, Va., with about 20 other Penn State students involved in the program, which provided him with a community of people having the same type of experience. At the end of the day, they would all compare notes about their internships and daily experiences.

The Washington Program is open undergrads who are juniors and seniors, and to all graduate students. Students are selected based on interest, academic standing, writing samples, references, and an interview. If selected, students are placed in internships according to their majors, interests, experience, and career goals. Application materials include a resume, two letters of recommendation, a transcript and a personal statement. Once accepted into the internship, students are scheduled for interviews with various D.C. organizations.

“This program helped find opportunities that I wouldn’t normally find,” Reich said. “I’ll be able to apply what I learned in my internship, through this program, to my future career.”

For more information about this program, contact SIA Career Services director Grant Littke at