When I graduated from high school and came to Concordia, I never imagined I would study away. However, this changed in fall 2019 when the Lutheran College Washington Semester (LCWS) program advisor gave a presentation in my political science and global studies classes. After hearing her talk about the LCWS experience, I was instantly intrigued. I knew it would be an amazing opportunity that would provide me with once-in-a-lifetime experiences – and I was right.
After completing my study away application and being accepted into the program, with the help of the LCWS staff I began updating my resume and writing a cover letter to begin applying for internships. Being a political science major with plans to attend law school, I knew I wanted an internship that would expose me to future career possibilities and provide basic skills that would prove useful for law school and a career in law. The process of actually applying to internships was tedious and, because I was applying to government internships, the deadlines for applications were earlier than most. Additionally, COVID-19 presented a challenge within itself as many internships and organizations were not accepting new staff or had canceled their programs for the semester. Despite these challenges, after many submitted applications and a few interviews, I accepted an internship with the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in the Family Services and Civil Litigation divisions.
The Lutheran College Washington Semester program offers some great benefits. It has similar pricing to regular tuition; you pay Concordia who then sends the money to the LCWS program. Once arriving in Washington, D.C., LCWS has a fully furnished penthouse in Arlington, Virginia – overlooking the Potomac River and the National Mall in Washington – for you to live in during your semester, which includes a living room, dining room, kitchen, washer/dryer unit, along with two bedrooms and bathrooms. In a typical semester, there would be four people living in each apartment; however, with COVID restrictions, they have limited it to only two so each can have their own room and bathroom. In total, there are 13 schools nationwide that participate in the LCWS program and each semester there is usually at least one student represented from each school. When being matched with a roommate, you take a quiz that gauges your beliefs, interests, and habits and they pair you with the best fit. My roommate is from New York City and attends Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Additionally, the program gives you $300 to fund your public transportation expenses throughout your semester; I split this between riding the metro, Uber, bike share, and scooters.
With the program, you intern from 9-5 four days a week for a total of 32 hours. At the OAG, I am paired with an attorney in the Family Services Division and tasked with a variety of projects that range from drafting motions and other legal documents, hearing orders, attending team meetings, reading and making notes of medical records for cases, as well as having the opportunity to observe court hearings/trials. Occasionally, I will also help in the Civil Litigation Division with research, attending trials, and observing depositions. Despite being virtual and not able to interact face to face with my co-workers on a daily basis due to the pandemic, the OAG has done a tremendous job of organizing meetings between interns and attorneys to give us a more fulfilling experience.
Along with your internship, you also take two evening classes once a week from 6-8:30 p.m. The classes are taught by professionals in the D.C. area who work in related professions. This semester, I am taking Controversy and the Supreme Court, taught by a lawyer who currently works for the U.S. Marshals’ Office and has held many other high-end legal jobs, and American Diversity: Issues in Race, Religion, and Gender, taught by a woman who has extensive studies in many topics related to race and diversity as well as 37+ years in the federal government working with her related studies.
A fun perk of the LCWS program is that Wednesdays are reserved for programmed field trips. Although many of the in-person group field trips are not currently happening, they have still organized many fun activities for us students. Some of my favorites included visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, along with participating in the D.C. Scavenger Hunt (with a $50 Visa gift card for the winning team!) and virtual paint nights.
Obviously, studying away during a pandemic may produce some concern for people. However, the LCWS program has taken many precautions to make sure their students stay safe and healthy. Although it is not the semester that I had originally hoped for, I am beyond glad that I decided to participate in the program this semester. The people that I’ve met and the experiences I have been able to be a part of could never be replaced.