Graduating senior Andi Israel has always been ambitious.
It was that ambition that made her pack up her belongings and head to D.C. from Los Angeles, and it was her ambition that landed her an array of high profile internships during her time at GW.
When Israel decided she wanted to intern at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she went knocking on the agency’s door.
“I wanted an internship at HUD really badly and they never responded to me, so I marched into their office and I told them that I wouldn’t leave until I got an internship, and I got it,” she said. “Then I did the same thing at the Housing Authority too. So I’m a true believer in getting internships by being really persistent.”
Although taking advantage of the District’s different internship opportunities is a major draw for many students looking for an urban-based college like GW, Israel said the lack of a campus environment was initially a turn-off.
“I was kind of taken aback by the fact that there was not so much community here, so I sort of tried to embrace the larger community, and that’s why I started doing internships and volunteering a lot,” she said. “It just took me a little while to get adjusted and figure out how to make it work here for me. By the end of the year I was really happy that I stayed.”
Israel’s coursework also helped make the transition to GW easier.
“The human services department is sort of the epitome of D.C. classroom because most of our classes have a service-learning requirement,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for more generous, more ambitious, smarter people to work with.”
In addition to various internships and service-learning, Israel was a Gamo Undergraduate Research Fellow her sophomore year.
“My friends and I had an idea about studying the homeless population. I never meant for it to be a research project, but I went to talk with Professor Greg Squires and he told me that I should turn it into a research project,” she said. “I barely even knew what that meant at the time, but I trusted him and he encouraged me, so I did it.”
Part of her research entailed interviewing people through Miriam’s Kitchen, where Israel volunteered throughout college.
“It was really amazing, being able to work with a local organization and understanding elements that I never knew about in terms of people experiencing homelessness.”
Squires also encouraged Israel to present her research at the 2010 Urban Affairs Association Conference last March.
“I got accepted, which is really exciting,” she said. “My favorite part was going to all the other presentations. There were people who study urban issues from all over the country and some from abroad too.”
Israel’s plans for life after GW involve moving to another new city -this time New York.
“I’m starting grad school in the fall at the NYU Wagner School of Service, and I’m going for my master’s in urban planning,” she said. “I’m happy that I’m going to get D.C., New York, and then eventually move back to L.A. and have a good mix of the cities and how they work.”
“The thing that makes me feel like putting in so much effort was worth it is feeling like I know the community beyond GW very well,” she said. “With my volunteer work I know a lot of people who utilize the services in this neighborhood and I see people I know walking down the street who aren’t from GW all the time. That makes me proud of being here, and it makes it hardest to leave.”