“Everything about the shutdown is so irregular,” said Shorrow, who assumes that in light of the end of the shutdown Friday, everyone will return to the office Monday. He had not received an update as of Friday night.
Shorrow is one of hundreds of interns throughout the country affected by the partial government shutdown. Even as the government reopened, interns with federal agencies and federally funded organizations remained in a strange limbo. Some, like Shorrow, have been expected to work through the shutdown, despite furloughs and lapses in federal funding. Many are still unable to work at all, anxiously awaiting emails from their furloughed bosses and scrambling to find backup plans.
Hordes of students from local colleges and universities in the District rely on internships with federal agencies to earn credit each semester.
Rachel Brown, associate vice president for university career services at George Washington University, estimated at least 150 students at GWU have been affected by the shutdown, including those in federal work-study positions, field placements, externships and internships.
Brown said university staff members will contact federal agencies and students over the next few days to see if anything has changed with the government reopening. In the meantime, staff members have been working to find alternative internship placements and register students for classes before the looming deadline to add or drop classes.
Without an internship or a full course load, a student’s status could be reduced to part-time, possibly compromising graduation dates and financial aid.
Andrew Hutsko, a 22-year-old senior at American University, is registered for only two classes because he was supposed to intern at the Education Department of the National Archives this semester. Hutsko hasn’t received a new start date or spoken to his furloughed supervisor in weeks. Although President Trump announced Friday a reopening of the government, Hutsko doesn’t know when — or if — he can start working at the National Archives.
“It’s frustrating and kind of upsetting,” Hutsko said. “I’ve just been waiting it out and hoping a compromise is reached soon so I can start this internship and get the experience I need to get a job after graduation.”
Hutsko isn’t the only student holding out hope. Gihan Fernando, executive director of AU’s Career Center, said about 20 students have been waiting to start internships with federal agencies this semester.
“Students are caught in a bad situation, because it could be too late for them to register for classes or find an alternative internship,” Fernando said.
Many students are scouring the AU course catalogue for independent studies and open spots before Monday’s deadline to add or drop classes, he said. As of Friday, Fernando estimated that more than half of the students scheduled to complete internships with federal agencies this semester have already registered for classes or found alternative work.
“It’s a loss for the students and the government,” he said.
The shutdown has affected students’ post-graduation plans, too. Federal agencies typically post internship and job applications in the winter, but agencies haven’t updated their websites during the shutdown. Students at Georgetown Law who are scheduled to do externships at federal agencies must find alternatives with nonprofit organizations and open government offices or register for classes to fulfill credit requirements.
Caroline McHugh, a 28-year-old second-year student at Georgetown Law, can no longer complete her scheduled externship at the Department of Justice this semester. She registered for a class and postponed her externship, expecting the shutdown to continue into February. McHugh lamented the time and effort students invested securing externships that are on hold.
“We undergo long applications, paperwork, security screenings, fingerprinting, and as students, we have limited time to have these experiences, so it’s really disappointing this won’t work out,” she said.
Correction: This article incorrectly said students at Georgetown Law who are scheduled to do externships at federal agencies must find alternatives with nonprofit organizations and open government offices or register for classes to fulfill credit requirements. Those students had the option to complete their externships at their original sites once the government reopened.