As I stood inside the Capitol Rotunda, offering a tour to a group of constituents, suddenly a huddle of U.S. Senators emerged from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and quickly breezed past me to make their way to the Senate floor. As they traveled past me, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to work inside our nation’s capitol and intern for the U.S. Congress. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would never have been possible without my involvement in the University of California, Washington D.C. (UCDC) program.
Ever since coming to Berkeley, I always knew I wanted to study abroad in D.C. for a semester of college to experience a city I knew nothing about, but was interested in moving to after college. When I found out about the UCDC program, I immediately knew I wanted to apply, because it was a program that would allow me to pursue my undergraduate degree while concurrently living and working in the heart of our nation’s capitol. The UCDC building in Washington, D.C. is within a six block radius of the White House with Capitol Hill just down the street. Through UCDC, I knew I would have a front row seat to history and history in the making, I was deeply eager to be apart of it.
At first, moving to D.C. was incredibly daunting. I had never experienced a true winter before, and stepping outside my front door now meant stepping into a 14 degree snow storm with wind chill. While I was taking two courses through the UCDC program, my new primary identity was an intern, not a student. For the next five months, I would be working four days a week full-time as an intern for U.S. Senator Alex Padilla. I was absolutely ecstatic for the opportunity, but unsure how I would navigate the transition from being a full-time student to a full-time intern.
After a few weeks adjusting to the D.C. life, I fell in love with the city, the culture, and the people. Regardless of where you intern in D.C., you can feel the spirit of politics pulsing all around you. The city is energized and dynamic, and opportunities abound to explore museums, nightlife, restaurants, historic corridors, and government buildings. Over the course of the semester, I had the chance to tour the U.S. Capitol, the White House, and the State Department, as well as visit the Holocaust Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and almost every Smithsonian imaginable. UCDC was undoubtedly the optimum opportunity for me to transform my interests in the fields of politics and journalism into first-hand experience with the legislative process, allowing me to understand what a future career might look like for me in D.C. and in the greater political world at large.
Through the unique opportunity to both work and study in the political powerhouse of the nation, UCDC provided me with the necessary tools to jumpstart my political career while continuing to grow as an undergradute consumer of knowledge. Through my UCDC internship with the Senate, I was connected to an opportunity to work for the House of Representatives, and decided to extend my time in D.C. to intern with Congressman John Garamendi over the summer. Without UCDC, I would not have had access to the necessary networks and resources to navigate the consuming and competitive political environment that D.C. espouses.
Aside from the professional and educational benefits I gained in D.C., the UCDC program also connected me to a new swath of UC students who shared my political ambitions and personal interests. In the UCDC building, you live with students across all nine UC campuses, as well as the University of Michigan. As a result, some of the best friends I made from the UCDC program attend schools across California and across the country. During my semester, I was also lucky enough to meet other incredible Berkeley students who I was utterly disconnected from before the UCDC program. Toward the end of the semester, all Berkeley students were required to take a four-unit seminar together on an elective topic, offering me a taste of home even while I was living and working across the country. Whenever I missed Berkeley or California, the friends I made through the UCDC program reminded me that I was creating a home away from home.
My semester in D.C. was undoubtedly one of my favorite semesters of college. I am deeply grateful for the experience to live and work in the heart of our nation’s capitol while enriching myself academically and personally. If you are interested in exploring the city of D.C., regardless of your interest in politics, I cannot recommend the UCDC program highly enough. From my four months in Washington, I gained first-hand experience working for Congress, deepend my understanding of my professional ambitions and goals, and created long-lasting friendships and experiences. My UCDC experience truly allowed me to take my Berkeley degree full circle by carrying out my educational and professional ambitions in the city I one day hope to call home.