By Blake Eaton
Back in 2012, when I still hadn’t decided which college I would call my own, I visited UT Dallas and learned about something called the Bill Archer Fellowship. When I heard that the UT system sent its best and brightest students all the way to Washington, DC, to learn about our government through first-hand experience, I knew that UT Dallas was the place for me, and I knew I wanted to be an Archer Fellow.
This past spring, I fulfilled that dream. As a Archer Fellow for the Spring 2015 semester, I met amazing students and future leaders from throughout the UT system. I learned from professors and guest speakers like UT Austin’s Dr. John Daly and US Senator John Cornyn. (I also met some amazing people not named John.) Through it all, I worked as an intern in the federal court system. I have enjoyed every minute of my time at UT Dallas, but I think I can say pretty definitively that my semester as an Archer Fellow was the best four months of my college career.
As an aspiring lawyer, the Archer Fellowship naturally appealed to me. Studying and working in DC opens doors that don’t even exist in Texas. Along with 39 other students, I lived just two blocks away from the Capitol Building, right in the center of the US government. In DC, politics was more than just an interest or field of study; it was a way of life. I suddenly found myself immersed in a world where everyone knew who the Speaker of the House was, what cases the Supreme Court was hearing, and more. Needless to say, DC residents take a bit more of an interest in politics than the average Comet.
I did not just spend my days wandering the city, though. The Archer Fellowship is not just a chance to leave Texas for a few months. Every student accepted as an Archer Fellow has to find a full-time internship in the DC area. That’s forty hours per week even ignoring the three classes each week! It might sound like a lot for the average college student—and believe me, it is!—but all that hard work is more than worth it. Interning full-time as an Archer Fellow gave me the chance to experience the working world. I learned new skills, built a professional network that will help me kick start my career, and added a pretty darn impressive new bullet point to my resume.
My Archer experience taught me lessons that will stick with me for a lifetime, but more than the details of judicial confirmation politics or the history of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, I think I will remember the friendships I made in DC. Living with 39 students from across the UT system (including more than a few fellow Comets!) turned us into more than just fellow students. Over just a few short months, we became a family. I’m sure we will all move on to amazing careers, but that common bond of the Archer Fellowship will remain.
If you’re interested in the Archer Fellowship, check out http://www.archercenter.org/ and keep an eye out for the next information session on campus. You don’t even have to be a political science major like me to become an Archer Fellow. We had everything from journalism majors to biology students looking forward to medical school. There’s something for everyone in DC. There’s plenty to love.