Published: Oct. 5, 2016
macarena and senator bennet
Senator Bennet and Macarena

This past summer, Melpomene Vasiliou (’17) and Macarena Villagomez-Tapia (’17) both experienced life in Washington D.C., interning in the Office of Senator Michael Bennet. The two IAFS majors were immersed in a robust and fast-paced work environment, and each found her own personal and professional connection to community in D.C.

Vasiliou accepted a 10-week CU in D.C. Program placement as a press intern, working alongside a legislative aide for energy and environmental issues in Senator Bennet’s office. Within the first few weeks, Vasiliou adjusted to the high-energy office climate, rushing to various briefings and giving enthusiastic tours of Capitol Hill. It was a change from her usual routine back in Boulder, but she was finding her place in a busy setting.

Meanwhile, Villagomez-Tapia also accepted a five-week internship in Senator Bennet’s office, per the advice of her colleagues at her spring 2016 internship at the State Capitol in Denver, CO. Interested in foreign policy and politics, she felt it was important to gain first-hand experience in the D.C. political scene. To gain a full internship experience, Villagomez-Tapia knew the importance of combining her learning experience with a living experience in D.C.’s complex and historical culture. 

Villagomez-Tapia sought out a community connection and found one with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). CHCI aims to educate, empower, and connect future Latino leaders through development programs and mentorships. Through this program, Villagomez-Tapia connected with the community, learning about D.C. culture, history, and daily life. As she combined CHCI with her internship experience and academics, she discovered her passion to one day run for office and strengthen the relationship between the public and the government. “My internship experience was more than just the work I was doing in the office,” shares Villagomez-Tapia. “It included living in a new city, discovering a support network, and creating a connection with the community impacted directly by decisions made in the Senator’s office.”

melpo and friend in dc
Melpomene and IAFS alum in D.C.

Halfway through her internship, Vasiliou received a phone call that shook up her well-adapted intern schedule. Months prior to living in D.C., she had applied for an internship with the US Department of State and was on the waitlist. So, when the US Department of State called to offer her an immediate internship for the remainder of her time in D.C., she practiced her negotiation skills to balance her commitments. Vasiliou’s final three weeks in D.C. were spent interning in the Office of Policy and Public Outreach within the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She had the opportunity to focus on projects such as International Coastal Cleanup Day and attend high-level meetings about international climate relations. “At both internships, I gained immeasurable amounts of experience through first-hand exposure to meetings and networking with people in domestic and foreign policy,” explains Vasiliou. “I wanted to feel the hustle and bustle of working in D.C., and in the end, I accomplished that—it wasn’t always easy, but it was definitely exciting!”