Washington Semester

Through a cooperative arrangement with American University in Washington, D.C., qualified students may spend a semester of study in Washington.  Housing is provided at the Tenley campus at American University.  The program consists of a field seminar, an individual research project and courses in the curriculum of American University. Five new programs also allow for a study abroad component in the semester. Students may apply for the program after four semesters of residence at Emory. Please click here for the application. There is an internal departmental review of potential candidates by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the fall and again in the spring. Generally, two-three students are approved for study in this program per semester. Students will receive sixteen (16) semester hours of satisfactory/unsatisfactory credit upon successful completion of the program. Eight of these hours may be used to fulfill requirements for either the Political Science or International Studies majors. A graded transcript will be provided by American University and may be used, along with the Emory transcript in the future for employment or graduate school applications.

HOW THE PROGRAM WORKSImage of the Washington Semester Logo.

The 16-week semester in Washington includes: a two-day a week internship, a 3-day a week seminar, and a research project. Those programs with a study abroad component offer a variety of field practicums.


The best way to figure out career options is to work (and network) with people in the field of interest. American University's 50-year reputation of superior programming has earned them a bit of clout in the DC internship arena. Their database boasts over 2000 different internships at thousands of sites-all in the DC metro area. Most of the internship sites are organizations that request to be listed in the database because they want Washington Semester students. Washington Semester students intern two days per week when they do not have seminar classes. For example, if a seminar meets on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the student will go to the internship every Thursday and Friday.


While the internship is excellent, it is the Seminar component that makes the Washington Semester unlike any educational experience students have ever had. Students have the same professor throughout the semester, but probably will not have the same "class time" twice. Seminars meet the same three days every week, like Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, for example - but the class might meet for two hours one Wednesday, and five hours the next. The class schedule is atypical because the program strives to give students an atypical experience. The professor will guide the class, set the foundation topics and direction for discussion and assignments, but the actual teaching of the seminars is done through the speakers.

Who are the speakers?
Some of the speakers are big names, some students may have never heard of, but the speakers will be major players on local, national and international levels.

Students traveling to see speakers with their professor.
These are influential people with jobs students may want to have some day. Often there is more than one side to every story, so the professors often seek out speakers to present different perspectives of the same issue. Of course, many of these professionals are very busy, so sometimes students will travel to their offices - like the Supreme Court, the Russian Embassy, CBS studios, or the World Bank. Here students see "behind the scenes" as well as meet the people who work there. Each class is exposed to 50-60 speakers throughout the semester. Each speaker adds insights to the readings and discussions that students simply could not get from books and professors alone. Through candid Q&A with the speakers, students will learn as much about themselves and their classmates as they will learn about the topic being discussed.

How do students know their schedules?
Each week professors will give a written schedule for the next week. This schedule often includes assignments to be read in preparation for the speakers, information about their background, time and place the class will meet, and even directions to the location (if it is off-campus). These schedules are also posted outside the main classrooms for easy reference. Students need to able to roll with a new schedule every week. It is not unheard of for students to get a phone call at 8pm saying, "The Ambassador from Uruguay can't come to campus tomorrow, so we're meeting him at the Embassy instead. Here are the directions." Our students learn quickly adapt to this kind of schedule. Most welcome the constant change of pace, and enjoy their forays into the city as a class.


The Research Project component of The Washington Semester is a tremendous opportunity to choose a topic and really delve into it. Together with a professor students will refine their ideas into a thesis, learn how to utilize the thousands of original and unique resources available here in DC, and craft the findings into a comprehensive work.

FAQ on the Research Project:

Do all Emory participants have to do a Research Project?
Yes. Students from Emory are required to take the Research Project in order to get credit for the semester.

What kind of topic should I choose? Do I need to know before I arrive?
Your topic should be something you are interested in that you couldn't research at your home school. What could you discover with the National Archives, Library of Congress, National Library of Medicine, hundreds of museums, historical societies, political action groups and other researchers available to you? This city is the information capital of the world-students are encouraged to seek out primary sources for their research. This opportunity is also offered to students who participate in the travel abroad semesters. It's good to have a few ideas in mind before you meet with your professor, but you will have help narrowing your focus if you need it.

How long does it have to be?
The final project is usually between 30-50 pages long, depending on the professor, the topic, and the enthusiasm for the research.

What is my grade based on?
Each professor has devised a grading system based on periodic evaluations of progress, as well as the quality of the final product.

How does the Washington Semester translate to Emory?
Emory students are registered for the Washington Semester by the department undergraduate coordinator when the rest of their class is registering. The Washington Semester is taken for 16 hours of Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory credit. 8 hours may be applied to the Political Science or International Studies Major. The Washington Semester does not fulfill the post-freshman writing requirement.