This space reflects on our students' experiences studying public & international affairs at JMU.

Below is an interview with Ruth Esther Johnson, a student in the JMU Washington Semester program during fall 2016. 

Ruth Esther shares below some reflections on her experience in the Washington Semester program where she interned in the office of U.S. Representative Rubén Hinojosa. 

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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