With less than a month left until I return home, I have been doing some reflection on my time in D.C. As a student who grew next door in Oakland, and attended Berkeley City College before transferring to UC Berkeley, UCDC has been my only “away-from-home experience”. I was definitely wary of leaving my very comfortable surroundings to fly to the opposite coast – would I like my internship, would I do well in my classes, would I make new friends? That being said, I cannot believe that it has been almost three months since I boarded the plane to D.C.; my time here has been life-changing, and I am so thankful that I was able to participate in UCDC.
Growing up in the Bay Area, I was very much in the middle of a liberal bubble. Everyone around me was generally on the same side of political issues and the lack of representation of the opposite end of the political spectrum made it easy for me to ignore them altogether. Of course, in government classes I had discussed the political divisions within our country, but only from the perspective of an observer. I never felt that I was part of those that I was reading about.
My wake up call to the reality of the political polarization in this country was in my first presidential election, the Election of 2016. As a young Latina who grew up surrounded by powerful female figures but felt limited by the lack of female representation in positions of power, voting for the first female presidential candidate from a major party felt almost magical; I was ready to remember that day for the rest of my life. As it turned out, I will remember that day for the rest of my life, but for another reason. It was with the victory of Donald Trump that my bubble burst. This disillusionment and disbelief inspired me to seek out an internship on the other side of the aisle.
I have been interning at the Hoover Institution’s Washington D.C. office, and this experience has been educational, valuable, and rewarding in more ways than I would have imagined. I chose to intern at Hoover because, as a conservative-leaning think tank, I was hoping that I would be exposed to unfamiliar ideas and perspectives that would challenge my political beliefs, allowing me to evaluate whether I held my beliefs because I honestly believed in them, or if I held my beliefs because that was all that I had ever known. Hoover fulfilled that expectation and done so much more. Here, I have been able to learn from the intelligent staff, attend events featuring internationally-renowned scholars, and freely investigate topics that interest me. I came expecting to be answering phone calls and making coffee, but instead I was charged with assisting fellows with their research, helping to plan archival displays, documenting and reporting on congressional testimonies, and coordinating events! The past three months have been an absolute whirlwind, but as my time dwindles down I realize that there is still so much to do – museums to see, food to try, events to attend… Hopefully I will have the chance to do it all!