The Benefits of Participating in Experiential Learning

By: Anne-Marcelle Kouame, Juniata College

As an international studies major and an aspiring diplomat, I decided to attend the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia seven months ago, which gave me the opportunity to see political ideas in motion in the policy making realm. I also understand that obtaining the right grades and grasping political theories is not enough. Henceforth, I decided to participate in the Presidential Inauguration program with The Washington Center (TWC) even though I do not support Trump.

Just like the DNC, the seminar was a great career opportunity to network. Thus far, Juniata has done a great job at providing me with a great understanding of political theories, but living in the Nation’s capital allowed me to visit my senators and representatives and interact with them. I was able to learn from experts in various political fields from economists, environmentalists, historians, journalists and lobbyists. For instance, if it were not for this seminar, I would not have been exposed to dynamic speakers like Eric Dyson and Greg Carr who represented the perspective of Black people in the US. As a liberal arts college located in rural Huntingdon, P.A., and a predominantly White school, Juniata College has only a few People of Color in its faculty body. The seminar also put in close contact with my fellow Juniatians hailing from a conservative backgrounds, whose voices often gets lost this predominant liberal institution. Our small group discussions allowed me to listen to their perspectives, and even after the seminar, I still reach to those conservatives whenever a political issue occurs.

One thing that surprised me came from Ruy Teixeira, a Senior Fellow at both The Century Foundation and American Progress. He said, “Counties that swamp towards Trump were dependent on low skills jobs.” In addition, he added that the inhabitants of such counties were “relatively in poor health and had high mortality, low education and were economically distressed.” In sum, Trump got the votes of the same people who voted for Obama in 2008 based on his health care reform plan. This was very eye opening for me because for the first time, I was able to understand and accept that many trump voters had a lack of basic human need, and they wanted their government to pay attention. Although I do not agree that many White Trump supporters blamed immigrants and other minorities for their current standard of living, the reality is that human jobs are being replaced by machines, and the challenge is finding ways to compensate for the lost.

I have been living close to D.C. in Germantown, M.D., for 8 years. However, I had never fully known the District until the inauguration program. I was able to see the amount of power in D.C. both through the sites visits in government offices and the expert lobbyist Meredith McGehee who argued that having money in politics offered you power. I enjoyed the D.C. bus tour and learning about the District’s history. Visiting the both the Holocaust and African American museum was a worthwhile experience, which made me humble to have such amazing opportunities available to me.

This seminar was not enough quench my thirst for passion for political experience, and I left D.C. still hungry for more. Therefore, I definitely see myself coming back to D.C. for a summer internship with TWC!

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