Author: AU Gap Program

American University Gap offers an academic and internship experience in our nation's capital, providing the perfect springboard to develop a foundation for future academic and career success. The Gap Program is designed for students who are finishing high school early or for those who are taking time or want a different experience before transitioning to college. We based the Gap Program on our hallmark Washington Semester Program - a leader in providing internships for more than 70 years.

Reflecting on an Incredible Semester at the El-Hibri Foundation

Isabella, a AU GAP student, smiles behind a camera at her internship site.

Me at my internship in the El-Hibri Foundation

With just a few weeks left of this semester in the AU Gap program, I find myself reflecting on my gap experience and the lessons I will take away. Through classes and workshops, I’ve learned valuable interview and networking skills. I now have a polished resume, know how to write a cover letter, and feel prepared to apply for future jobs and internships. And, going to college, I’ll already have internship experience which will set me apart from my peers.

This semester, I’ve interned at the El-Hibri Foundation (EHF), an organization that equips Muslim leaders and allies with the tools to build thriving, inclusive communities through grants and various programs. EHF provides grants to nonprofits that serve American Muslim Communities. They also offer resources in areas like capacity-building and strategic planning. With my interest in international relations, social justice, and empowering marginalized groups, I knew before I even started interning that EHF would offer invaluable lessons.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of my internship has been working during the trainings that EHF offers their grantees. Earlier this month, I assisted the foundation during a Nonprofit Management Training, transcribing speeches, greeting attendees, and filming and recording the event. Each task provided insights into event work and how events run smoothly: picture that image of a swan, graceless and effortless above water, frantically paddling below. But in between running up and down flights of stairs with each new task, I had the opportunity to network with the event participants. I spoke to employees at think tanks, respected imams, and even a former diplomat! And in the moments where I was sitting, taking in each word the speakers were saying, I had the chance to learn alongside these notable people. Over my time at the El-Hibri Foundation, I’ve developed a profound appreciation for the work they, and other nonprofits like them, do. I’ve been welcomed into the foundation, learning valuable lessons from people I’ve come to deeply respect, and I have a sense that the work I’ve done is appreciated and valued. I feel grateful that I’ve had this experience; grateful to the El-Hibri Foundation and the AU Gap program. I can’t think of another place where I would have the opportunity to explore my passions in such a way. With just a few weeks left of this program, I can’t wait to see what my remaining time entails, and I’ll be sure to soak up every ounce of new information I learn. – Isabelle Moshiri- Elwood, AU GAP Program Student

What would you ask if you had the chance to sit down and chat with a diplomat?

AU Gap Students outside the Turksih Embassy

What do Turkish and Russian diplomats have to say about the refugee crisis in Syria? How about their opinion on the importance of cultural diplomacy and “soft power”? This month, GAP students got the inside scoop on what it means to be among the most influential global leaders in international politics, in two countries that have fostered unique relationships with the United States.

As Communications Coordinator for American University’s School of Professional & Extended Studies, my job is to highlight the stories of our students — be it an uplifting profile on a student fighting for veterans’ rights, or an event preview that discussed race, politics, poetry, and the internet age. At the Russian Embassy this month, students met with Deputy Head of the Economic Section, Grigory Zasypkin. At the Turkish Embassy the following week, they attended a private seminar on cultural diplomacy with Embassy Counselor Celil Erdogan.

At the Russian Embassy, students took part in a private tour of the opulent Ceremonial Building. Designed by Soviet architect Michael Posokhin, the 39-year-old construction is used for press conferences, public events, special receptions, seminars, and diplomatic meetings alike. Our tour guide for the afternoon truly said it best — the Russian Embassy is “a city within a city”!

Just a 20-minute walk away, in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s famed Embassy Row neighborhood, Mr. Erdogan and GAP International Relations professor Gul Gur lead an enriching discussion on the constructs of Erdogan’s work. He also went into depth about the success of past diplomatic campaigns and how they ventured to showcase Turkish national identity to a wider global audience. One such campaign is their annual “Turkey Home” event, where artists, journalists, clergymen, intellectuals and other “opinion makers” come together at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Ankara to network and forward the mission of culture-making in Turkey.

One of the most powerful takeaways from these visits was how receptive and collaborate these diplomats came across to our students. They were invested in opening the floor for enriching discussions — especially as they relate to the ways they can show the richness of their respective cultural histories. Perhaps much of the reason why they have achieved the positions they hold today is due to their pride and gratitude for being an visible representative of their home countries.

What would you ask if you had the chance to sit down and chat with a diplomat?

-Kelly Kimball, Communications Coordinator


AU Gap Student, Bobby Ramkissoon, attended AU’s Crucial Conversations talk with award-winning spoken word poet and actor Theo Wilson and Washington Post reporter and AU alumnus, Peter Holley. Holley and Wilson discussed Wilson’s undercover journey as a “digital White Supremacist,” what he learned about the impact of the internet, and the value of community dialogue.

Empathy and The Power of the Arts

Being accepted into the American University Gap Year program was an incredible opportunity for me. The program can be a home for political enthusiasts, and politics has been my passionate purpose and intended career path for as long as I can remember. I entered the program ready to jump into the political scene in Washington D.C. When applying to internships, I predominantly applied to congressional offices. I always knew I wanted a profession in politics and working on Capitol Hill just seemed like the most obvious first step. But after having interviewed with several congressional staffers where they had laid out my responsibilities as an intern, I didn’t feel as interested in the internships as I thought I would be. I wanted to be proud of the work I had completed at the end of the day and felt as if I was contributing to something greater then myself. I hoped that through participating in this program, I would be making a difference by impacting someone in a way that I’m not entirely aware of. I was hopeful that my presence would enhance or inspire, or even challenge, the people around me, and in turn, help me reach for the best that there is and give the best of myself.

As a result, I decided to look for opportunities to develop intellectually and professionally in a deeper way. Through much research and deliberation, I inevitably found myself in the realm of non-profits. Non-profit organizations establish themselves with the goal to meet a tangible need, instead of the goal to make money by meeting that need, which seems contra to our current political system. Out of the hundreds of non-profit organizations in Washington D.C., the one that stood out to me the most was Split This Rock.

The mission of Split This Rock is to cultivate, teach, and celebrate poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. I have always been fascinated by the power of the arts. All through high school, I was an active member of the Performing Arts department. As an actor, I spent time living another person’s life and seeing things from their perspective. I had prejudices about people and places that blocked me from seeing their uniqueness and individuality. But through theatre, I was able to get beyond these labels to appreciate the personal stories of the people in their circumstances. I am able to have conversations with people who I may never meet outside of a fictional setting. Acting has nurtured an unyielding curiosity about others and, in turn, broadened my sense of personal identity. Reflecting on this experience, I gradually became convinced that the most effective way to achieve social change was not through the traditional means of party politics and introducing new laws and policies, but through changing the way people treat each other on an individual basis, in other words, through empathy. And I have found, that there is no better tool to elicit an empathic response than art.

Art has a better chance of changing hearts and minds over black and white statistics. The numbers are readily available, but the stories are not. Stories are an empathic magus that can enable us to shed our own skin and step into another way of looking at the world. Empathy has the power to erode our cultures of violence and racism and extend boundaries of our moral concerns. It may just be that empathy is the key to what will change the political culture.

– Yougeshwar “Bobby” Ramkissoon Jr.
AU Gap Student, Fall 2017

From the Founding Principles to Separation of Powers to Civil Liberties, Media, & Beyond

The semester is half over and the AU Gap students have been busy taking advantage of all DC has to offer through their Seminar in American Politics. Below Professor Marie Fritz shares what the students have been studying the past few weeks and how they have been able to use DC as their classroom.

In an effort to address salient issues occurring in politics and society, we started off the semester in our Seminar in American Politics class with a visit to Arlington House Museum (the home of Robert E. Lee), adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.  In class we talked about political memory, the potential for reconciliation, and how some dominant ideologies remain in our political culture.  Like many other introductory courses in U.S. Politics, we shifted to an exploration of the Founding principles and the structure of American government.  Exploring philosophical ideas such as liberalism and republicanism, we visited the National Archives to view the U.S. Constitution along with other Founding documents of the United States.  In class the students worked together to draft portions of a new U.S. Constitution with the student groups based in specific geographic regions of the United States.  It was fascinating to see how students would design elections and change the representation of the people in Congress, as well as to establish the rights of groups that had been previously excluded.

After discussing the U.S. Constitution, we moved on to federalism and the separation of powers.  We enjoyed an educational boat tour of the Anacostia River on the east side of the District of Columbia hosted by Anacostia Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization with a mission to protect and restore the river, and discussed environmental federalism and the ways in which the structure of our government impacts public policy decisions at the federal, state, and local levels.  We even saw a bald eagle!

We examined civil liberties and media at the Newseum and watched a documentary about the Freedom Riders to learn more about the relationship between federalism and the promotion of civil rights.  As we turned to studying the three branches of government we had the opportunity to meet Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (a non-voting Delegate to the House of Representatives for the District of Columbia) with a talk on the floor of the House of Representatives, followed by a student-led tour of the Capitol building.  We visited the Supreme Court and enjoyed a lecture in the main courtroom where oral arguments are held.  Finally, we examined various theories related to the presidency and completed a project about budgeting decisions and the executive branch using the question, “If you were an advisor to the current President, which programs would you cut from the federal budget to advance your administration’s priorities?” to guide the discussion.

In the last part of the semester we will explore public opinion, campaigns and elections, interest groups, and social policy with professionals who work in the areas of polling, campaigns, and public policy.  I am excited to see how the final section of the semester unfolds.

– Dr. Marie J. Fritz, AU Gap Professor, Fall 2017



The Seminar and my Internship = the Perfect Combination

AU Gap Students enjoy a boat tour with the Anacoatia Riverkeepers.

It’s been about six weeks since we’ve arrived on campus, and finally all of us Gap students are settled into our working and class schedules. It was quite the transition from being a high school senior taking eight classes, to preparing for an internship fair and going on site visits my first week in D.C.

Our in-class site visits have taken us everywhere from the Arlington National Cemetery to the Newseum – my personal favorite. In between those two, we’ve seen the National Archives, National Monuments, and even been on a boat tour of the Anacostia River. When us Gap students aren’t exploring D.C., we’re usually discussing topics from our American Politics Seminar, or updating each other on all of our exciting internship opportunities.

The internship I have chosen to take this semester is in the Congressional Office of Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. Her office is located in the Cannon House Office Building, and she represents the 21st district of New York. She is the youngest Congresswoman to be voted into the House. Working in such a young and professional office is enjoyable and inspiring.

My biggest responsibilities in the office consist of speaking with constituents on issues the Congresswoman will vote on, and giving tours of the Capitol building. Getting to the Capitol at first from Cannon was a tricky task, but after doing it a couple of times, I’ve got it down. I’ve learned a ton of interesting fun facts, some being about how the Capitol is haunted!

I can easily say that the American Politics Seminar and my Hill internship make the perfect combination for me this semester. I am honored to be where I am, and am looking forward to the rest of this semester here at AU.

– Molly Kopp, AU Gap Student, Fall 2017

An exciting few weeks, but still so much ahead of us!

Madeleine at her internship at the American Red Cross

We are almost a month into the American University Gap Program with still so much ahead of us! In the meantime, we’ve explored Arlington National Cemetery, uncovered some of America’s most historical documents at the National Archives, and cruised along the Anacostia River while hearing about the current environmental issues plaguing our nation. When we are not engaged in our on-site visits, you can find the AU Gap Programmers studying American Politics or working at their individual internships.

Our first week at American University was devoted to making sure we were all well prepared for one of the most significant networking events of the semester – the Internship Fair. Held in early September, the fair was an excellent way to create an initial platform for our professional skills, to build off of throughout the semester. Although I was fortunate to already have an internship secured before the fair, such an influential learning experience allowed all of us to establish a foundation of success for future job searches.

This fall, I am interning at the American National Red Cross. This is the perfect internship for me since I have a strong passion for helping others and intend to follow a career path into medicine. While I will primarily be responsible for on-site disaster relief, other things I will be involved in at the American Red Cross include assisting with casework research and getting involved with their “Pillow Project”- educating children about what to do in a disaster. With the recent catastrophic events in Texas and Florida, the American Red Cross staff is busier than ever and it is truly an honor to be a part of such an effective and benevolent organization

– Madeleine Chow, AU Gap Program, Fall 2017

American University Gap Program Kicks Off a New School Year!

It’s a new semester and the American University Gap Program is excited to have our fall students on campus. This fall, 14 students are joining us from nine states and DC to immerse themselves in an academic seminar and internship.

After a two-day orientation last week, students kicked off the semester with the internship fair on Monday.AU Gap Students enjoying orientation At the fair, students networked with nearly 100 organizations to find an internship for their Mentored Field Practicum course. With a variety of interests, students are securing their internships in everything from Capitol Hill—working in their congresswoman’s office, to hospitality—working with the management of one of the highest regarded restaurants in DC.

Fall 2017 Internship FairYesterday, students started their American Politics Seminar where they’ll learn about U.S. government theories and practices in the classroom from lectures and guest speakers, and out in our nation’s capital!

Throughout the semester, you will hear directly from our students about their experiences living and learning in DC. Stay tuned!

The City Where It All Happens

In the closing weeks of my time here in D.C. I’ve come to really appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to experience the city where so much happens. My internship with Lobbyit, a small lobbying firm located near the Congressional office buildings, has taught me valuable skills about working in an office setting as well as giving me more knowledge on the political processes of our country. I have been able to see more closely the political process and have attended various hearings by the Committees of Congress, both house and senate. Every day of my internship I have the pleasure of being able to see my favorite building in Washington, D.C., the United States Capitol Building.

This week I helped Lobbyit with one of their “Hill Day” events, where they take a group from a client organization up to meet with members of Congress concerning a certain issue they hope to see action on. Even on the days away from my internship Professor Maisch keeps things interesting with thought provoking lectures and organizing meetings with fascinating speakers every week.

My semester here in the Gap Program has made me fall in love with this city and has been a great learning experience before college.

-Kyle Clements
AU Gap Student, Spring 2017