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Department ofPolitical Science

Washington Semester

The Washington Semester at American University (AU) enables students to combine coursework at American University with hands-on experience in an internship of their choosing. In the past, students have interned with the White House, the Justice Department, Fox News, the FBI, Congress, and with various interest groups and non-profit organizations.

Course Concentrations:

Students select one seminar and one internship within one of the following concentrations:

American Politics

Foreign Policy

Justice and Law

Journalism and New Media


Students may then pick a second course that is either an elective OR a second seminar featuring a research project. All students must choose an internship by making their own arrangements or by attending AU’s Internship Fair. The internship must correspond to the course concentration the student selects.

Get Credit Toward Santa Clara University Requirements:

Information about specific course credit equivalency is available on the Study Abroad website and from Dr. Anne Baker in the Political Science Department. Depending upon the course, students can receive Pathway and Civic Engagement credits. Some seminars also fulfill the Advanced Writing CORE requirement. Some seminar options that feature a research project also fulfill the senior seminar requirement for Political Science (with a grade of C or better). Internship credit is available for Political Science, ENVS, and Communication* majors. Other credits are available with your major department’s approval.

*The internship must be a Communication internship to qualify for credit toward the Communication major.

How to Apply:

  1. Students must have at least 88 SCU credit units completed by the time they would begin their Washington Semester and a GPA of 2.75 or higher
  2. Complete the Study Abroad application by December 14, 2023, 11:59 PM PT.  Your application will be forwarded to the Political Science Department for final approval.
  3. Once the Study Abroad Office and the Political Science Department approve your application, you may apply directly to American University on their website. SCU is a member institution. Our CEEB code is 4851.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Will my financial aid apply?

Students with financial aid who are approved to participate in the Washington Semester program can use financial aid on their program. In some instances, the total aid amount may be adjusted, based on the total cost of the program abroad. Students should work directly with the Financial Aid Office with questions about their specific package. Students will pay the Study Abroad Semester Cost, which includes SCU Tuition and a Program Fee, directly to SCU during their time in the AU program. On-campus basic housing at AU is included in the Program Fee. See the Understanding the Cost of Participation on the Study Abroad website for financial details. 

Should I go as a sophomore, junior, or senior?

Students usually attend the program in their junior year. Sophomores must obtain approval from the Political Science department before applying. Seniors who have completed the CORE requirements and are not short on credits in their major(s) may elect to go in the Fall or Spring.

When should I go?

Most students attend in the Fall because they only miss one quarter at SCU, and return to SCU with more, rather than fewer, course credits than they would have taken otherwise. Seniors who have completed the CORE and who have completed or can fulfill their major requirements via the program, might want to consider attending in the Spring with the hope of continuing their internship in the summer. This would enable seniors to search for jobs in D.C. and secure a position after graduation. Since AU’s semester ends in mid-May, seniors have time to return to SCU for graduation.

How do I find an internship?

The Political Science Department has an internship bulletin board on the second floor of Vari. Internships are also posted on the department's website. American University holds an Internship Fair at the beginning of the semester for students in the program. Many students find an internship at the Fair. AU’s staff also have excellent resources and connections to help students secure internships. Students are required to work 20 hours a week at their internship.

Additional Questions?

Please feel free to contact Dr. Elsa Chen ( directly with any questions about the program. You can also contact American University directly with questions at 202-895-4900 or by email. The American University website also contains more specifics about the program. The Political Science Department will host a table at the Fall Study Abroad Fair as well as an information session during the fall quarter. Look for announcements about these events via email or contact the Political Department Manager for more info.