UMass Lowell junior Corey Lanier spent the week running between convention centers at the Republican National Convention in Tampa -- almost 600 miles south of where his classmate, Analissa Iverson, hoped for a chance to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Both Iverson and Lanier are participants in academic seminars through The Washington Center, an educational institute that provides political internships. The two UMass students received scholarships from the university to attend the national political conventions, taking one week of courses and completing one week of work experience.
"I'm getting my business cards ready," Iverson, 23, said over the phone from Charlotte N.C., where she's preparing for the Democratic National Convention, set to start Tuesday and end Thursday. "I don't know if it will do anything, but it's worth a shot."
In Tampa, Dracut's Lanier, a 20-year-old dual major in political science and criminal justice from Dracut, worked the night shift as a runner for CNN's political assignment desk.
Volunteering for the Dracut Scholarship Foundation Telethon has given Lanier some behind-the-scenes experience in television, but he said the high-stakes immediacy of working for a national network makes this experience unique.
"There are some times where you do have something that's pretty important in your hand and you're walking to the convention center, past all the big national-media crowds, and you're definitely like, 'I cannot drop this,'" he said.
With the Democratic convention yet to formally kick off, Iverson is immersed in her week of lectures from policymakers and politicians.
The sociology major, who is getting her last three credits for graduation from this program, said she enjoys the wide array of perspectives that students from around the country bring to their discussions of such issues as abortion and campaign finance.
"We can have a very heated debate and then all go over to each other and shake each other's hands and go out to dinner that night," she said. "There's nothing quite like getting to hear insight from someone who sees the world totally differently."
Iverson's work placement is with the National Women's Political Caucus, where she will help organize an event for female politicians. Iverson said that although she doesn't identify with either political party, she is excited to meet Democratic leaders, including Clinton, the former first lady.
"Just being in the same room as so many politicians I admire for the work that they do, being able to go up to them and shake their hands and thank them -- that'll be amazing," she said.
The main lesson of the program for Lanier has been to expect the unexpected.
"One of the former Washington Center kids was assigned to guard a bathroom door, and he was pouting about it," he said. "But it ended up being George Bush's private bathroom, so he got to meet the whole Bush family. The next two days or so, I'm trying to think that if I get an assignment I'm not too excited about, it could be a a once-in-a-lifetime moment like that. I'm just kind of waiting for that, to see what it has in store for me."