The government shutdown that began Tuesday has affected Boston University students working for federal agencies through the Washington, D.C. Internship Program and could lead officials to reconsider the remainder of the semester, said Fabiana Perera, manager of the program.
The Washington, D.C. Internship Program has one student interning at the National Endowment for the Humanities who has been ordered to take a leave of absence due to the shutdown. Two other students are working at the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but have not yet been furloughed.
Perera said she does not believe furloughed students will be sent back home, but if the shutdown lasts much longer, officials will reassess the situation.
“We are optimistic that the shutdown is going to end soon and they [the students in the program] will be able to report to work,” Perera said. “Obviously we want them to get the best experience out of Washington that they can, but it’s difficult to say what is going to happen. We don’t have a crystal ball.”
Perera said in addition to students’ jobs, the atmosphere of the city has been affected.
“The Washington, D.C. they knew two weeks ago is not the same right now,” she said.
Although BU’s Washington, D.C. Program officials has not made a decision about what do with furloughed students, Perera said the program is encouraging students to take full advantage of their opportunities.
“Even though their actual internship site is closed, Washington is a city where you can learn just by stepping outside of your apartment,” she said. “… The immediate things to get done are to stay active and connected and to appreciate that they are here … Most of the people in the city are not working, so everybody is dealing with this together.”
Kelly King, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said she is currently interning at the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs and was able to work last week despite the shutdown. However, she said the uncertainty of how long the shutdown will last is creating anxiety in her department.
“People have been really nervous and unsure about what is going to happen because the shutdown could end any day, but you just never know,” King said. “We’re not really sure who will get sent home, and I think that also adds to people’s anxiety.”
King said even if the U.S. State Department begins to furlough its employees, she said she will probably continue working since she does not receive pay and is unaffected by spending cuts.
“Because I am an unpaid intern, I might have the opportunity to still go to work, and I probably will if I can, just because it will be a great experience,” King said. “There will be more interesting projects, I will be able to help out people and give them a hand with things that they need.”
King said the number of tourists around the city has drastically decreased because most monuments and government museums have been shut down. She said the city also feels less clean because garbage pick-up and street sweeping has temporarily stopped.
King said even though the government shutdown is an unfortunate event for the entire country, she said she has seen people around the city pitch in to help each other out, such as some restaurants and bars around the city offering extended happy hours and reduced prices for government workers.
“I took advantage of that and went out to lunch and got a discount on my lunch because I have a government ID,” King said. “The people in the city with business are trying to help out government employees. You can just tell it [Washington] is just kind of taking a break.”
Emma Rehard, a CAS senior, said she has noticed many negative changes around the city due to the shutdown.
“It is … a tense atmosphere in general [in the city] because a lot of people are out of work for the moment and for a lot of young professionals,” Rehard said. “… They are often in their first government job, so they’re living paycheck to paycheck and it is a little bit stressful for them not knowing when they are going to be back on the government payroll.”
She said she is disappointed the shutdown happened while she was studying in Washington due to roadblocks she has personally experienced.
“It is also kind of disappointing being here for the semester and I had a lot of plans about places where I wanted to go to visit, such as museums and memorials,” Rehard said. “You’d be so surprised about how much stuff is shut down. So it’s disappointing coming here for those things and not being able to have access to them.”