The Sydney Morning Herald

by Kerrie O'Connor

Erin Riley thinks the internet has transformed politics and - she wants to be part of the action.

The 25-year-old has just spent two months in Washington DC as part of her master's degree in US studies at the University of Sydney.

She is part of the University Capitol Washington Internship Program and can't wait to get back.

Riley works in web communication and is fascinated by the influence of the internet on democracy.

"I would like to run a consultancy helping politicians manage their digital presence," she says. It can really have a positive effect on the way demo cracy works. By cutting out the middleman, you can have this really interesting dialogue.

"Politicians can have a real dialogue with their constituents."

In her early teens, Riley spent three years in Washington state when her father was transferred there from the Illawarra. She fell in love with US history and that interest was rekindled after she finished her BA (Hons) in English and history at the University of NSW.

"There is a real wealth of writing about American politics," she says. "There is that whole burgeoning blogging culture, which I'm really fascinated by. There was just so much interesting thinking and interestingwriting being done on the topic and it really drew me in."

The master's degree program took Rileyto the White House.

"It was an incredible experience," she says. "I learnt so much about the process of governing, about the way American politics works, which obviously dovetails with my degree, but also more broadly about the US "I got to see the Oval Office. We were standing out in the Rose Garden and all of us were completely blown away. Even now, it feels completely unreal."

Riley says the master's program offered small classes, support, approachable lecturers and interesting visitors.

"We have met with the US ambassador to Australia and I have met with Democratic and Republican party officials."