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Do an internship

Students are given this advice from the moment they start college.  It is sound guidance. According to a 2012 Chronicle of Higher Education survey, internships topped the list of attributes that employers are looking for when hiring recent graduates.  Internships enable students to gain on-the-job experience, develop marketable skills, and make contacts for securing a permanent job.  Unfortunately, internships are out of reach for many students.  Most are unpaid.  And between housing costs, tuition and fees, and other expenses, a typical internship requires a substantial financial commitment.  As a result, many students cannot afford to take what is widely seen as a crucial first step toward launching a successful career.

The JMU Washington Semester program provides an ideal platform for taking this first step.  The program enables students to pursue a full-time internship while completing upper-level coursework.  Because participants work full time for the entire semester, they are in a good position to get the most out of their internship experience.  Yet because of the significantly higher costs in terms of housing, transportation and meals, Washington Semester participants spend an estimated $4,300 more than they would during a normal semester on campus.

The additional $4,300 is a wise investment.  Washington Semester participants gain all of the advantages that come with completing a long-term internship.  Because they earn a semester’s worth of JMU credits, participation does not delay their progress toward earning a degree.  Interning during the semester relieves them of the pressure to intern during the summer, freeing them to earn money between semesters.

Investing in our students

Your contribution to the Washington Semester Scholarship fund will support need-based scholarships for students seeking financial aid to participate in the program.  Each scholarship will be awarded in the amount of $4,300 to cover the estimated cost difference between a semester on campus and a semester in D.C.  In short, your generosity will help us extend this potentially life-changing opportunity to students who otherwise could not afford it.

Give Now to the Washington Semester Scholarship Fund

Ruth Esther Johnson and U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa

Reflections of a scholarship recipient

In the fall 2016 semester, Ruth Esther Johnson became the first recipient of a Washington Semester Scholarship. She interned in the office of U.S. Representative Rubén Hinojosa. Ruth Esther shares below some reflections on her experience in the Washington Semester program.

Where were you born?  When did you move to the U.S.?

I was born in Samaná, Dominican Republic.  I moved to the U.S. in 2007.

Why did you transfer from community college to JMU?

I transferred to JMU because I wanted to challenge myself. I needed to get out of the norm that we should go to school with people with a similar background; I wanted to make my own decisions regarding other people’s culture and personality.  At JMU, I discovered diversity at another level. Diversity is more than color and culture; it includes religion, political party, and beliefs. People within the same culture are different and that is something worth experiencing.

Why did you decide to participate in Washington Semester?

The Washington Semester is a great opportunity to advance in your career and I would never let that opportunity pass me by.  Additionally, it is close to my hometown and I could spend some time with my family. The Washington Semester gave me a life-changing experience that I would never have had if had stayed on campus. Frankly, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.   

What have been the highlights of your internship?

The best highlight of my internship happened during the final week.  I was called in the Congressman’s office to present some of my projects. I was very scared because I had completed some of the projects several weeks earlier and I feared that I was not prepared. Even though the Congressman saw this as normal, I felt out of my comfort zone, which is knowing my information. I was terrified when I went to his office, but I managed. Fortunately, all of the information I learned during the whole internship came to mind.  I defended my research and explained to him why he should pursue my project. Then, he asked me to convince him why should Congress fund those bills. I gave the Congressman an important perspective from a student and future employee. It was a great challenge that I managed well, which reminded me of my purpose on the Hill.

What advice would you offer to future Washington Semester students?

Do not be afraid. Washington is a great place to be. Enjoy your internship; try your best; and remember your goals. Always be proud of yourselves -- and be ready for a new life.

What are your long-term career plans?

After I graduate from JMU I will go to law school. My goal is to become an international relations or business lawyer. I aspire to become a Supreme Court justice like Sonia Sotomayor.  If I become international relations lawyer, my expertise is going to focus on Latin America. However, if I decide to study business law, I will specialize on the private sector more broadly.


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