A chance to exit the “left coast” for a time and “begin to try to understand the center of American power” was how CMC alumni Henry Johnson ’14 termed his reason for attending the Washington Program in the spring of 2013.
“What I found most valuable in the program was the exposure it provided to the professional working world,” Johnson (a dual major in History and Government at CMC) says. “Previously, I hadn't ever had to wear nice clothes and go work a 9-5 on top of schoolwork. In a sense, it felt like homework became the extracurricular activity and my internship the core curriculum. Above all, it helped prepare me for the rigors of a demanding career field like journalism.”
After graduating from CMC, Johnson traveled first to Colombia with friends for a few weeks, then to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on a State Department critical language scholarship in Persian. He then traveled to Turkey for a three-week jaunt with another best friend from CMC.
“My singular advice to new graduates if they have the means to take it: Travel first, decide on a career path later,” Johnson says. “I eventually moved to D.C. for an internship with a law firm, but pursued an enduring interest in U.S.-Iran relations by writing for a Middle East blog on the side. I'm currently in a year-long fellowship with Foreign Policy magazine.”
Johnson says that participation in the Washington Program was invaluable in that it helped to narrow his job interests. “If it weren't for the program, I would've had less of an idea of where I wanted to look for work than I did after graduating,” he says.
Perhaps the fondest memory Johnson has of the Program was near the end of his stay in D.C. “Having dinner at a professor's house with the other students toward the end of the program and feeling bonded with them by the mutual experience of being thrown into the nation's capital as impressionable 20-year-olds was amazing,” he says.
That said, according to Johnson the most valuable lesson he learned during the Program is that taking personal responsibility for one’s own life has no expiration date. “You can rely only on yourself to be the person you want to be,” he says.
And that’s why the Washington Program pays such huge dividends. In Johnson’s words: “It helps students find themselves.”