Student Spotlight: Robbie Nunes '21
Learn about the Washington Semester Program
Each fall, several students travel to Washington, DC, to participate in the Washington Semester Program (WSP) at American University (AU). This program 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.
Political science major Robbie Nunes '21 participated in the program this past fall and shares his experience below.
1) Please tell us a little about your experience.
My experience in Washington, DC, was something I wouldn't trade for the world. When I decided to go to DC instead of traveling abroad, I was initially really worried that I would be missing out. That quickly changed once I started taking classes and working on the Hill! I enrolled in the American Studies program at American University and took an American Politics and Policy class with Professor Richard Semiatin. In addition to the curriculum, I regularly attended talks featuring lobbyists, political analysts, Members of Congress, and clerks of Supreme Court Justices! Our seminars focused on outside-the-lecture learning; I gained so much from my interactions with different people in our American political system.
As an intern, I worked three days a week for Congressman TJ Cox (D-CA-21), the same Congressman for whom I worked for over the summer (in his district office). It was a great opportunity to continue the work that I had started in the district office and seeing it being legislated in DC! My daily tasks included greeting guests, answering constituent correspondence by phone, handling office clerical duties, attending briefings, writing memos, and delivering packages to other Congressional offices or the House floor. Whether it was exploring DC or working in my official capacity as an intern of the California 21st District, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time in the program!
2) What was your favorite aspect of the WSP?
Definitely the opportunities it created and the doors it opened for me. I made many connections in DC that I would not have made studying abroad or staying in California. I now have access to many people in the DC area who will help me in the future. As someone who caught the "DC bug" and loves working in a city focused on politics, I know I will be returning. Having these connections will be extremely beneficial in the long run.
3) What did you take away from the program?
I learned what I want to do with my life after graduating. I have always known that I wanted to work in the public sector as some kind of elected official, but was never sure how to do it or how to talk about myself doing it without sounding selfish. After being around so many people who were doing what I wanted to do, I figured out how to bridge the gap between my education and experience and what I wanted to do with my life. Working with such bright people helped give me a sense of confidence that I could do what I want to do with my life, and the many learning experiences helped me plot out my path to get there.
4) Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in the program?
Just do it! Do not consider the WSP program as something "lesser" than study abroad programs. All of these opportunities have their own positives and negatives. I would also encourage you to dive wholly into DC--do not go into the program looking to hold onto everyone you knew from Santa Clara. Take this opportunity to make new connections, especially with your peers in the program. I met many students from other universities who will provide me with many more connections in the years to come. I also lived in an apartment in Chevy Chase. Having an apartment away from campus made the work life feel more real and provided me with a taste of what life would feel like after college!
5) What extracurricular activities have you been involved in at SCU?
Initially, SCU Men's Water Polo, SCU club water polo, off-campus greek life and now the Santa Clara Mock Trial team, SCU Pre-Law Society, Associated Student Government, moMENtum, and Campus Ministry. I've also worked as a research assistant for various Political Science Department professors.
6) Do you have any advice for new POLI majors?
Always search for which aspect of political science interests you the most--once you've identified this, continue to explore why it excites you and hone in on it. Knowing that American Politics is my passion allows me to actively seek out and thoroughly enjoy every learning opportunity!
The Washington Semester Program is offered through Santa Clara University's Study Abroad Program. Applications are due in early January.
Learn more about the Washington Semester Program.
Feb 11, 2020
Robbie Nunes '21 with Congressman TJ Cox (D-CA-21).