Washington College is a small school, but it offers huge opportunities. Just ask Danielle Sica ‘09, who interned at the White House in the fall of her junior year before jetting off to Hong Kong for a semester abroad.
“It was tough to commit to being away from campus for an entire year, but I enjoyed it,” Danielle said of her internship, offered through the College’s affiliation with the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC).
Danielle, a double major in business management and economics, interned at the White House National Economic Council (NEC), an office within the Executive Office of the President headed by the Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.
“One of the biggest projects I worked on involved health care policy, with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP),” she said. The program was set to expire in the fall of 2007, during Danielle’s internship.
“There were a lot of political issues regarding SCHIP’s reauthorization because several elements were slated to change, including expansion of eligibility to more than 4 million additional participants. The President vetoed the bill in October, arguing that it would federalize health care,” she explained.
“It was interesting because we got to see a lot of the policy debates firsthand. The President typically has a close relationship with the NEC, and critical policy research often came from our offices,” Danielle continued.
Danielle’s time in D.C. wasn’t all work and no play, though. She and the other White House interns attended Marine One arrivals and departures on the South Lawn, volunteered to guide White House Garden Tours, and picked the brains of high-profile White House employees, including the President himself.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience. We got to take a group picture with him and he stayed to chat for about 45 minutes, even answering questions about what’s on his iPod,” Danielle said. “It was cool because for once, there was no reporter and nothing was being recorded. That’s something I’ll remember forever.”
Once her internship was over, Danielle got to be a college student again—in Hong Kong.
“Out of all the places to go, I thought it made the most sense. It’s a financial capital of the world, and it’s someplace I wouldn’t go on vacation,” she said.
Danielle took economics classes at Lingnan University, located in the New Territories of Hong Kong, in a small town called Tuen Mun.
“There were exchange students from all over Europe and Asia, and everyone is placed with a local student so it’s very integrated,” she said. “I met so many great people. There was an element of culture shock in the beginning, but everyone was so friendly and inspiring that I got over it easily.”
Her time abroad opened Danielle’s eyes to many different cultures—not just Hong Kong’s—and gave her the opportunity to travel around the region, exploring Beijing, Macau, and The Great Wall of China, as well as visiting Thailand.
“Studying abroad in Asia is something most people are hesitant to do because it is outside their comfort zones and there are many obstacles. With every day that passed, though, I was really proud of myself for sticking it out and making it work. I think everyone should have an experience like this at some point because it teaches you a lot about your strengths and capabilities,” she said.
For her senior thesis, Danielle completed a strategic analysis of Starbucks, and she seemed almost in awe of everything she was able to accomplish in four short years of college.
“I couldn’t have predicted this journey if I’d tried,” she said. “But after experiencing the opportunities that the College afforded me, I feel extremely grateful and I’m excited to see what’s next.”