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Make the Most of Your Gap Year with a D.C. Internship

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Make the Most of Your Gap Year with a D.C. Internship

Oonagh Cavanagh grew up in a small Vermont town, hiking, camping, skiing, and loving anything that had to do with the outdoors. So when she was looking for a gap experience before college, she looked for a program where she could put her passion about protecting the environment to work.

The answer was American University’s Gap Program. AU offers gap students a chance to spend a semester or year in Washington, D.C., both studying and working as an intern.

“I was ready for a change of pace,” says Oonagh, who spent a semester interning at the Earth Day Network and worked on a rally that attracted 300,000 people. “I am used to small-town life and I was ready to experience life in a city.”

In the AU Gap Program, students attend class and work at internships while living on the 84-acre campus (just up the street from the home of the U.S. vice president). AU Gap is open to high school graduates, students do not have to plan to attend AU for their undergraduate degrees.

The program includes seminar-style classes about politics, global business, and international relations led by AU professors. Professors host guest experts and plan class visits around the city to nonprofits, agencies, companies, and even the FBI Academy. Students receive an American University transcript of credits earned (7 in the domestic program, 12 in the international program) that can possibly transfer to another college

Domestic students round out their gap experiences with an internship at one of more than 3,000 organizations (including on Capitol Hill). Mentors start working with students even before the semester begins to develop a resume and focus on the right internship. Instead of an internship experience, International students have a fuller course load that includes a service component and a focus on intercultural understanding.

“I love that through my internship I had the opportunity to do a variety of projects,” Oonaugh says. “I wrote blog posts, worked on climate literacy programs for schools and handled outreach to South America for Earth Day.”


Gap students live together on campus in a learning community and, are considered AU students with access to all that the school has to offer, including activities and clubs. And, of course, they also have the city of Washington, D.C., at their fingertips. (The Metro stop is just a shuttle ride up the street.)

The program has rolling admissions, which means you can apply now for the spring and fall semesters in 2016, or the year-long 2016-2017 program. Applicants hear an admissions decision within two weeks after their application is complete.

Oonagh did choose to attend AU and is now a freshman majoring in political science.

“I love that through my internship I had the opportunity to do a variety of projects,” she says. “I wrote blog posts, worked on climate literacy programs for schools and handled outreach to South America for Earth Day.”

For Oonagh, the city itself was a big part of making her gap semester a success.

“I really love that D.C. has so much offer,” she says. “You can find an organization or event in D.C. for just about every interest you can think of!”

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