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Student heads to heart of US political system

Undergraduate to experience cut and thrust of Washington, DC, in prestigious intern program

This January, at a time when most students are enjoying a break from the rigours of study, Montana Byers will be bound for Washington, DC.

The UOW undergraduate student will have a front row seat to the United States political system as the 2017 UOW representative in the Uni-Capitol Washington Intern Program.

Montana, who is studying a Bachelor of International Studies, majoring in International Relations, is excited to experience the intrigues and intricacies of the US political system only weeks after a new President is elected.

The Uni-Capitol Washington Intern Program, which has been running since 1993, matches select Australian university students with congressional offices, providing a chance for students to gain valuable work experience and enhance their studies on an international level.

Montana, who hails from Silverdale in South Western Sydney, is the only student from UOW selected in the 2017 program and will take up a placement with Democratic Congressman Mark DeSaulnier from California, who has previously hosted other UOW interns.

It is a dream come true for the Western Sydney student, who decided to pursue a Bachelor of International Studies at UOW as it captured her love of the humanities.

“I still can’t believe it,” Montana said. “It’s an amazing opportunity. A lot of the topics I’m really interested in, such as mental health and gun laws, are in the news in the US right now. To be there when a new president is sworn in will be an incredible experience.”

Ashley Tanks, Manager of Student Mobility at UOW, said the program provided an exceptional opportunity for students to add context to their studies and gain valuable experience in the political sphere.

Montana will be residing in northern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. She will be interning in Congressman DeSaulnier’s office for two months on Capitol Hill, the home of US Congress, and is hoping to visit the United Nations Building in New York City as well as the Congressman’s home state of California.

A member of UOW’s Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs Society, Montana said the opportunities she had discovered through her degree have provided her with a greater understanding and experience of the world around her. She is immersing herself in the “nitty gritty” of the US political system ahead of her internship, beginning in January.

“I love learning more about people and more about what is going on in the world,” Montana said. “I think it’s so difficult to make a difference without understanding the issues.

“I'm really excited to be taking part in this program. I’ve had so many opportunities at UOW that I would never have experienced otherwise.”

Montana is one of 13 interns from universities across Australia who will travel to the US for the 2017 program. Interns are offered placements in both Republican and Democratic personal offices in the House and Senate, Committee offices, and in on Federal commission attached to the legislative branch.

With the 2017 program, 197 students across Australia will have taken part in the Uni-Capitol Washington Intern Program. The program’s founder, Eric K Federing AM, was appointed to the Order of Australia in 2015.