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A Year Across the Pond
Aldo Ponterosso ’16 has spent a year as an international exchange student at Washington College, and after capping it with a summer internship in the nation’s capital, he knows one thing for sure: he can’t wait to come back.
On a year abroad from the University of London Royal Holloway, Ponterosso says his time at Washington College has helped him broaden not only his knowledge of American history, but also subjects he never would have had the chance to study at university.
“When I first came to the U.S. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the education system, and it is quite different from the English undergraduate degree,” he says. “One of the main things that I like about Washington College’s education program—and perhaps the liberal arts education in general—is the huge amount of subjects you are able to pursue. At the University of London, while I’m able to pursue a lot of subjects in terms of history, it is quite confined to just history. At Washington College I’ve been able to take some acting courses, a SCUBA course, and even a piano course. So it’s a fantastic place to expand your knowledge in areas that you might know nothing about.”
His summer internship at the House of Representatives, Office of the Historian, has taken that notion one step further. So much of history, he says, is embedded in the small stories that few people ever focus on unless they’re guided in that direction. That’s what his internship enables him to do.
“Every day I get to do something different. We have long-running projects, and I’m free to conduct a lot of my own research on those, but on the side I get to do lots of tiny projects for my boss and colleagues. Last week we did something on American Samoa, and I didn’t know much about that topic, and it was great to learn about that.
And the week before that we did a little research piece on one of the first foreign-born Speakers of the House, David B. Henderson. So it’s all the different things you get to study that excite me most about this internship.”
It’s a focus that has renewed his love of American history and helped him define what his next steps may be; he’d like to pursue a master’s degree in U.S. history in America with an eye toward attending law school.
“One of the great things about this internship is that you’re working with legislation and so many different documents where you’re required to break down an argument and analyze an argument. You have a real opportunity to build your analytical reading skills and argument skills, and just working with all these old documents is a great experience for my future plans.”
He’s also had a lot of fun living in the thick of things in Washington D.C. As part of his internship, he’s attended several events in the Congressional Lecture Series, an ongoing series that invites high-level players in government and politics to speak to interns working in the House and Senate.
“In terms of living in Washington D.C. for the summer, it’s just a wonderful place to be,” Ponterosso says. “There’s a sense of power and opportunity here that is just palpable, and everyone here is so friendly as well.”
Ponterosso is one of 14 Washington College students who were named Comegys Bight Fellows this year. Offered through the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the program matches students with paid internships at nationally significant historic and cultural institutions. The students represented disciplines across the College’s curriculum, including history, anthropology, art history, political science, sociology, business management, Hispanic studies, and English. They interned at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the National Constitution Center, the National Archives, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Library of Congress, and the American Philosophical Society, among others.
Ponterosso credits the Starr Center and the College for helping him prepare for the internship, and he has special praise for the College’s Writing Center.
“That was something that I used heavily during my year abroad, and it’s definitely made me a bit more well-written,” he says. “It’s a fantastic resource to lean upon.”