Washington, DC Program Carries On During Unconventional Semester

Claire Jeantheau '21, Staff Writer

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Dickinson students studying away in Washington, D.C. this spring have been able to continue the semester and receive access to professional opportunities.

This is a pilot semester for the new “Dickinson in D.C.” program, which allows students to learn about subjects like foreign relations, public health, political science, and business in the American capital. All participants are matched to an internship, covering 31 hours a week, in their interest area.

“Living in DC during the pandemic has been pretty nice,” wrote Mason McIntyre ’22, a political science and law & policy double major. “It beats living at home and I feel more excited and focused on academic and career goals.”

Macy Hamlett ’23, also a student of both political science and law & policy, called her semester “eventful” so far.

It has been an adjustment of not having any sort of “normal” classes to taking in-person classes and having a 31[-]hour internship,” Hamlett wrote. “I think it is truly a growing experience where we are faced with the professional world, which many of us want to participate in after graduation, so there is this sneak peek at life after college which is a valuable experience.”

All students attend two in-person classes, which include distancing measures and sanitation, and a remote course taught by Dickinson Associate Professor of English and Film Studies Greg Steirer. The D.C. Seminar, which is one of the classes offered, has a significant experiential component in neighborhoods of the capital, including a recent visit to explore U Street, a historic center for black artists and culture. 

The conditions for student internships vary by partner organization. McIntyre is working remotely, while Hamlett is completing an in-person legal internship. Ana Matovic ’22, a Spanish and political science double major, is taking on virtual work with the Consumer Protection Branch of the Department of Justice.

“This program has made me very productive….I think it is a useful skill to be able to learn how to manage both a job and classes because many people will find themselves in the same situation at some point in their lives,” Matovic wrote.

While there are opportunities for hikes and outdoor activities on program weekends, an unexpected benefit of the pandemic conditions has been that students can take part in their Dickinson extracurriculars remotely. Matovic is participating in Mock Trial and as a Spanish language writing associate; Hamlett, meanwhile, has been continuing her involvement with Student Senate, Greek life, and Dickinson’s tour guides.

“I believe this is vital right now because having a support system is crucial in these unprecedented times,” Hamlett wrote about pursuing her campus activities. 

Katie DeGuzman, the dean and director of education abroad at the Center for Global Study & Engagement, said that precautions had been implemented to prevent coronavirus spread.

“Students had to take a covid test before arrival and then upon arrival,” DeGuzman explained. “They also had to quarantine for the first two weeks of the program and had their classes online during that time. This was based on DC regulations and the regulations of their housing.”

Nearly all students interviewed felt safe with current regulations in place. Matovic observed the safety protocols of the students’ residential facility, along with the easy accessibility of tests in the Washington DC area. “People in the program are expected to stay within the DMV [DC, Maryland, Virginia] area throughout the duration of the program to ensure that we are avoiding excessive travel and avoiding potential exposure,” she added.

Mac Khoury ’22, a Middle East Studies and Economics double major, described the measures as “fine”, noting that the program provided no regular testing. However, “the resources have been easily accessible to us and they take all necessary precautions for us by providing us with PPE and sanitizer all the time,” she wrote. 

The application deadline for the next round of Dickinson in DC, which would take place in the fall semester, is April 5th.