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Students participate in domestic study abroad programs

| Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The morning of the government shutdown, junior Megan Kamm arrived at the State Department to watch her colleagues file out of the office, announcing they were on furlough. She assumed she too would head home for the day, but as she was leaving, her director stopped her and said, “Megan, you’re not paid, — you’re staying to help out.” So, during the government shutdown, Kamm worked in an empty office with her director.

Across the country in Santa Clara, California, the CEO of Thryve told junior Jonathan Xu, the company has, “one bullet in the chamber” and everyday he needs to hustle and get things done. Everything Xu contributes to Thryve has a direct impact on both the customers and the early-stage company.

Photo courtesy of Megan Kamm
Notre Dame students participating in the Washington D.C. program stand on the steps of the Supreme Court building. Students have the option to participate in programs in D.C. and Silicon Valley, in addition to international study abroad opportunities.

Kamm and Xu are two of the Notre Dame juniors who chose to spend their spring semesters participating in the domestic Notre Dame programs in Washington and Silicon Valley, respectively. The Notre Dame students at Menlo College in Palo Alto, California and UCDC in Washington D.C. have been balancing a full course load while also interning for various companies in their areas. The semester allows them to take their knowledge from the classroom and apply it to pressing situations in their particular industries.

Kamm, a political science major, now works in The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues — a department dedicated “to include women and girls in U.S. diplomacy, partnerships, and programs,” according to the State Department website. Kamm’s eight hour work day is filled with meetings, briefings and emails. But, regardless of the exhausting hours, she says she energized by the experience as a whole.

“The experience overall has been incredibly rewarding,” Kamm said. “Each day, I am part of a greater effort to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls around the world.” 

Recently, Kamm says she has been working on her office’s upcoming event: The International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony. Kamm says the event will honor ten women from across the globe who have overcome great adversity to fight for gender equality and human rights in their countries. Just this past week, Kamm finally had a chance to meet the honorees.

“After months of reading and learning about their work, it was really humbling and inspiring to meet the women in person, and hear their stories,” Kamm said.

Xu, a computer science major, is immersing himself in a very different field — software engineering in Silicon Valley, the United States’ hub of innovation and design.

Specifically, Xu is spending the semester working for Thryve, a venture backed health and wellness startup.

“Mainly I’m a software engineer, but I also help out with everything needed to make the business successful, from helping out with design and marketing to customer service,” Xu said. “It’s a very small company so we are all always busy, but we also have fun.”

In addition to the team going out to lunch on Fridays, having a Wii in office, and watching Netflix during lunch breaks, Xu loves the Thryve company culture.

“[It is] just regular people running a company out of an office the size of a closet, trying to make a product that delights our customers and improves their lives,” Xu said.

Xu also says that aside that aside from his internship, the highlight of the program has been visiting the Facebook and Google offices.

“It’s nice to see a different workplace and way of life than all the consulting and banking opportunities Notre Dame students frequently emphasize,” Xu said of the visits.

When reflecting upon the program, Kamm and Xu both said the programs have been remarkable and will continue to shape their career interests.

“If you’ve always wanted to work at a small startup and try to do something big, this [program] is a really good opportunity,” he said. “The Bay Area is a wild wild place. Everyone is talking about tech — on the trains people are coding. Even a lot of the ads and highway billboards you probably won’t even understand if you don’t have some knowledge of computer science.”

I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend a semester in the nation’s capital, and live in such a fast-paced, vibrant city,” Kamm said of her experience. “ My colleagues do a great job at keeping focused on the big picture, and the major impact our work has on communities around the world.”

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About Adrianna Fazio

Adrianna is a junior majoring in American Studies and Film, Television, and Theatre. She is originally from Palm Springs, CA but calls Boston and Cape Cod her pseudo-homes. She lives for "small world" connections and excellent bread & olive oil.

Contact Adrianna