Students Get Insider’s Guide to Working in Washington, DC

group of students in a radio station
(l-r) Jake Ahearn, Sara Taylor, Bella Harden, Jacob Dill, Farah Ibrahim, Maggie Scott, Tofu Schmude, Joon Hwang, Jennifer Sciubba, Logan Rogers, Sarah Eiland

What is it like to work and live in Washington, DC? What are the relevant skills and motivations needed? What kinds of internships are available? Rising juniors and seniors at Rhodes got to boost their career prospects and gain insights from industry leaders, think-tank scholars, and public officials on a recent trip to the nation’s capital. 

Ten Rhodes international studies majors—Bella Harden, Farah Ibrahim, Jacob Dill, Jake Ahearn, Joon Hwang, Logan Rogers, Magdalene Scott, Sara Taylor, Sarah Eiland, and Tofu Schmude—made the journey May 12-16. Prior to the trip, participants were instructed on dress code and decorum and were provided with their own business cards. 

“It was a professional development trip and a huge success,” says Dr. Jennifer Sciubba, Stanley J. Buckman Professor of International Studies, who organized and accompanied the group. “I also helped them revise and shape their résumés and LinkedIn profiles and talked about interviewing strategies throughout the week. One takeaway was the need for students to develop a ‘personal narrative’ that demonstrates why they are suited for the position for which they are applying.” 

Whether seeking a career in diplomacy, international business, human rights advocacy, or other related fields, participants were encouraged to seriously think about their own motivations and intentions for a career in DC. Now in its third year, the trip is formally known as the Rhodes Washington Connection Program and is made possible through the generosity of the Buckman family. “The goal is every other year, and I would like to take a group in 2021,” says Sciubba.

This year, students took a tour of National Public Radio, observed a heated Senate Arms Control hearing, and visited the Council on Foreign Relations, among other activities in the metropolis bustling with governmental affairs, history, and culture. 

Students also got to interact and dine with Rhodes alumni whose résumés included working at the White House, Pentagon, and State Department, and for Politico, the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, the Education Development Center, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“The trip opened my eyes to what opportunities are available to me in DC, beyond the Smithsonian Museums,” says rising senior Sarah Eiland. “We visited renowned think-tanks, organizations, and governmental bodies. Before, I never really considered a move to DC post graduation, but now I think that making the move may be the smartest decision I can make to start my career path. It was also wonderful to be able to meet with so many Rhodes alumni to see where their post-Rhodes lives have taken them. Hearing their grad school stories and job search stories was extremely helpful. Even just hearing about what life in general is like in DC was so beneficial. This experience couldn’t have happened at a better time for me. I am going into my senior year and have been trying to decide what I want my next steps to be, and this trip has helped in that decision-making process.” 

Adds rising senior Bella Harden,“It was incredibly helpful to be connected to successful people in our career field who understand the Rhodes experience, and who could really give us invaluable advice. My biggest takeaway from the trip was how versatile an international studies degree from Rhodes is. There isn’t one set path. I could work for the government in foreign affairs, certainly, but there are so many opportunities I didn’t know existed that I could pursue, such as consulting, research, and programming. This trip was by far one of the most meaningful experiences I have had at Rhodes, because it highlighted the real-world applications for the skills I’ve been learning these past three years.”