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Students travel to DC for fall

Midyear observed his peers' experiences for the semester

Special to the Justice

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012

Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 19:09

DC Internship

Courtesy of James Hayward

Many midyear students chose to study and find internships in Washington D.C.

When many midyears first open their acceptance letters from Brandeis, telling them that they can attend college starting in January, they are unsure of what to do during fall semester. They have the option to study at a local college, travel somewhere new or find work. Some, like the midyear students who chose to spend their semester in Washington D.C. before arriving on campus, chose all three.

Students faced with midyear acceptances are given the choice of a variety of programs to participate in instead of attending Brandeis during the fall semester. Midyears can choose to study abroad in China, England, France, Spain or the District of Columbia.

I chose to study in D.C. and work on Capitol Hill because of my interest in political science as well as my desire to see firsthand and up close the events unfolding during an election year. Studying in our nation’s capital has been a remarkable experience and has given me an appreciation for what it means to be an American. I took a step back and decided to see how other midyears had found the experience in D.C.

At the Washington Mentorship Program, midyear Brandeisians take four courses and participate in an internship two days a week. Students are responsible for finding and applying to internships they find related to their future careers or academic studies. The process begins at the “internship bazaar” where students are introduced to opportunities in finance, government, diplomacy, lobbying and nonprofit groups which need interns to help in their institution’s day-to-day functions.

“Honestly, I was incredibly upset at Brandeis for making me a midyear” said Ethan Harris ’16. “I felt rejected and it put me in an awkward situation. But now that I’m in D.C., while being at Brandeis first semester would have been my number one choice, being in D.C. with other midyears has given me a completely different opportunity.”
While some were disappointed, others had a mixed reaction to the idea of starting their college careers one semester later. “I didn’t know what to think, I had never heard of getting accepted somewhere as a midyear and I honestly did not really love the idea. It originally put me off wanting to go to Brandeis, but then I realized that Brandeis is a really great school,” said Peri Novik ’16.

The midyear program began when the Office of Admissions “began to seize the opportunity to accept more of the students we desired by offering some students the opportunity to join our community in January,” according to the University’s website. The midyear program is not unique to Brandeis. The University of Miami and Colorado College have midyear programs with students also attending and studying at American University where the Washington Mentorship Program is hosted.

Louise Cafiero ’16 is spending her fall semester working in the development department of a nonprofit organization called Americans United for the Separation of Church and State that is trying to uphold and protect the First Amendment. “It gets involved in local ballot initiative-type issues and local politics also on a national scale,” Cafiero said. “Right now we’re organizing 79 concerts in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They’re all folk concerts geared toward getting our message out and raising money.” While other midyears are working for lobbying groups and nonprofits, some have chosen to work directly for the federal government.

While some intern clichés still occur on occasion, most interns do more than get coffee and make copies.

Novik chose an internship with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy from the fourth district in New York. “I have learned how to give tours of the Capitol, in addition I write letters to constituents, answer phone calls, sort mail and go to briefings and hearings on a wide variety of subjects to take notes for staffers,” Novik said. “The experience has been very interesting; it’s exciting to be working on Capitol Hill and to be in the District during an election year. I’m really enjoying the fact that I have the opportunity to do an internship especially because I am working for the congresswoman from my district.”

Even as midyears are looking forward to Brandeis, they are focused on their present tasks of completing their internships and academic studies.

Students participating in the Washington Mentorship Program are recommended to take classes in college writing, American politics, culture and an elective. If students scored well on AP exams, however, they are allowed to take other courses instead. Cafiero is taking “Dance in Society,” Novik is taking “Sociology from the Third World” and Harris is taking “Introductory French.”

While midyears are enjoying their time here in Washington, these Brandesians still have their sights set on arriving in Waltham in January.

“I’m looking forward to meeting everyone, the classes and finally being able to settle into an environment. Right now I feel this is temporary, so it’ll be nice to settle down and try a bunch of classes,” Cafiero said.

—The writer is a midyear student in the Class of 2016. 

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