Meet Our 2022 Summer Program Advisors: Riley Graham ’21

By: Riley Graham ’21, Program Advisor, International Affairs

Before the summer of 2021, I had only visited D.C. once or twice for volleyball tournaments in high school, taking the time to explore a few of the monuments, but not much else. As such, when I discovered the TFAS Internship Program, I could not think of a better opportunity to explore D.C. and determine if this city could be the place for me. I went to D.C., not knowing anyone in the program and after exchanging only a few texts with my five suitemates. I was nervous beyond belief, yet so excited for the opportunities to come. To my delight, accepting my offer into the International Affairs track of the TFAS Internship Program proved to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

During my summer in D.C., I was fortunate enough to live in the Woodley Park Apartments right by the National Zoo. My lack of knowledge about the D.C. area was quickly remedied as my roommates and I searched the city on our very first day, helping each other figure out the metro system and where the best coffee shops were located. I immediately fell in love with the hustle and bustle of the city, and I enjoyed the surprising number of quiet havens tucked throughout the city as well.  I also loved how walkable the city is. I often walked to the grocery store, Philz Coffee, and CVS as I developed a newfound love for Ben & Jerry’s during my time in D.C. However, on the days when I was feeling a bit lazier, I could easily metro to anywhere in the city.

One of the places I frequently took the metro to was George Mason University where I took Econ 380: Economies in Transition. This class was one of the first I was able to take in-person following the initial wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it proved to be a rewarding one. Not only was the class exceptionally well-taught and interesting, but I was able to transfer the credits as part of my major elective credit at William & Mary, putting me in the position to graduate early. The class enabled me to interact more with people in the International Affairs Program, and delve deeper into my understanding of economics on an international level.

Beyond weekly economics classes, TFAS provided a variety of distinguished guest speakers. In fact, I will always remember the riveting debate between Patrick Clawson and Barbara Slavin on US-Iran relations. It was events like these that made the TFAS experience like no other. The TFAS Internship Program is not solely focused on just securing its students with an internship. Instead, TFAS does its best to prepare its students for success after the summer ends by providing weekly guest lectures, fun networking opportunities, professional small group sessions, great trips, and several once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to hear lectures in the Hart Senate Building, go inside the Embassy of Chile, and get professional advice from people in the FBI and CIA.

Those at TFAS really went the extra mile to ensure I had a fruitful and rewarding experience while helping me obtain an internship with the Fusion Industry Association (FIA) under its CEO, Andrew Holland. I was lucky enough to intern in person, allowing me to engage with Mr. Holland and my fellow interns consistently. At the FIA, I was in charge of government affairs, enabling me to write blog posts on the company website, handle the FIA’s Twitter account, edit and upload videos to the FIA’s YouTube, attend large staff meetings, observe Senate and House hearings on energy, and conduct contact tracing of U.S. senators and representatives. At the end of my internship, I even got to email senators and house representatives directly to invite them to participate in the FIA Fusion Forum, an event that I got to be a part of as well.  Beyond a wonderful experience, my time at the FIA proved to have long-lasting benefits. For instance, Mr. Holland wrote my recommendation letter that enabled me to get into the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University to pursue my Master’s in Security Policy Studies.

I never would have been able to make the decision to attend the Elliott School if I had not participated in the TFAS program last summer. Through the plethora of trips, my favorite being to Mount Vernon, and the wonderful professional experiences and networking opportunities, I discovered a love for the city, the people, and the atmosphere that D.C. has to offer.

Beyond this, I met some of my best friends in the TFAS program last summer. Despite all being from different states around the country, my suitemates and I became fast friends, going on trips together, getting meals together, and our personal favorite, grabbing a pint of ice cream to enjoy while indulging in The Bachelorette together. I could not have asked for a better group of girls to live with, and I am so glad we have remained in touch since. I even got to visit one of my friends from TFAS in New York City this past semester, and we reminisced about our wonderful summer in D.C. with TFAS. Even better, several of my friends are planning to return to D.C. for a reunion this summer for us to all get together for the first time since July, and I could not be more excited.

Last summer served as one of the best summers of my life. I cannot wait to return to D.C. with TFAS to watch my fellow peers make their own lifelong friends and to help facilitate memories as amazing as I had during my summer with TFAS that I will always cherish. I hope to reflect the examples that my Program Advisors exhibited to help this summer’s TFAS interns grow professionally while having a fantastic summer.

Program Advisors, informally known as PAs, are recent TFAS alumni who live in student housing and help current students navigate the program and Washington, D.C. during the summer.