GW Student Goes Inside the White House

Sophomore Gidon Feen answers 10 questions about his experience as a White House intern.

July 21, 2014

By Brittney Dunkins

For political and policy-minded students living in the nation’s capital, a wealth of internship opportunities with government leaders are available, providing a insider’s view of the cogs of the U.S. democratic system.

Gidon Feen, a 19-year-old rising sophomore in the Elliott School of International Affairs, is one of two George Washington University students who landed the most coveted internship experience of all— a spot in the White House Internship Program.

George Washington Today asked the St. Louis, Mo. native 10 questions about his experience working in the heart of American government.

1. What inspired you to apply for the White House Internship Program?

I wanted to get an inside look at how the government truly works. I thought that the best possible way to do this was working directly within the executive branch. The White House Internship Program is also aligned with my interest in working for the federal government.

2. When did you find out that you were accepted?

I found out that I had been accepted at the end of April. I was walking out of Funger Hall on the Foggy Bottom Campus and saw the email on my phone. When I opened it up and read that I was accepted, I screamed out loud. There was a campus tour group right next to me that gave me an odd look, but I was too happy and excited to care.

3. What are you studying at GW?

I am fascinated by global affairs, particularly what occurs in the Middle East. I am intending to double major in Middle Eastern studies and international affairs with a concentration in security policy, and I’d like to work on security issues professionally. I am also considering minors in philosophy and psychology, two areas that I am particularly fond of. Since taking an AP psychology class in high school, I became interested in the workings of the mind. I felt the same level of interest after my first philosophy class during my freshmen year at GW.

4. Where are you working in the White House, and what tasks do you manage?

I am interning with the Office of Public Engagement (OPE), focusing on Jewish, LGBT and international outreach. OPE is fondly called “the gateway to the White House,” which essentially means we handle outside engagement with the White House.

5. How does your internship relate to your academic studies?

I assist with events for the Jewish, LGBT and international stakeholder communities, such as Jewish American Heritage Month, the recent LGBT Global Human Rights Forum and the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. I also provide outreach support for the OPE’s collaboration with the National Security Council. My internship aligns with my academic work at GW because my major is concentrated in security policy, and I am very involved in Hillel and Chabad on campus. Beyond GW, I am also involved with Eshel, an organization that advocates for greater acceptance of LGBT members in Jewish Orthodox communities. The LGBT outreach work that I do at my internship was a natural extension of that.

6. What has been the most rewarding part of your experience so far?

I think that the most rewarding part of my internship so far has been the White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights. It was especially significant because no previous administration has taken steps to address the needs of global LGBT rights as President Barack Obama’s administration has done. As the intern working on the LGBT outreach portfolio, I saw the forum through to completion and helped organize everything, from agenda printing to reception planning. Seeing the physical embodiment of the administration’s work to promote LGBT rights around the world was particularly meaningful for me as a gay man.

7. What have you learned that you can leverage for your academic or career goals?

Most importantly, I’ve learned effective multitasking. There are always infinite things going on at once and to complete everything on time, I needed to do more than one thing at once. I learned to be flexible and spontaneous. Things almost never go exactly according to plan, and I often had to quickly think of creative ideas to keep things on track.

8. What is a typical day like?

I’m not sure that there is ever a “typical day” here at the White House. Some days I am running all over the building for an event, while other days I am at my desk completing a memo. I will say, every day allowed me to connect and engage with various communities and staffers, and they really made my time here special.

9. How has your experience inspired you?

My internship only reaffirmed my desire to go into public service and the security sector.

10. What three words sum up your experience?

 Not long enough.