Only In D.C.

April 28, 2014

I am sitting here in utter disbelief that my time in D.C. has come to an end so quickly. Just as suddenly as I dove into the complex and thrilling political waters of the city, I emerged drenched in new wisdom, having gained invaluable experience and incredible friendships. And the end did not, by any means, come quietly.

My last few weeks were filled with some of the most exciting, challenging, and meaningful moments of my life—moments that I could not have experienced anywhere else. I completed my final and perhaps the most difficult paper of my undergraduate career. Throughout this semester I had been conducting research on the relationship between gender-based violence and state stability in Africa. In the last few weeks I came to the data analysis portion of the research process. In stepping back to look at my findings I made some significant discoveries. Possibly the most critical discovery was the lack of information on an issue that impacts 30% of the world’s women. That is an astounding statistic and the fact that so little reliable data exists is all the more frightening. A researcher at a D.C. lecture I attended once said, “You can’t change what you don’t measure.” I think that is a brilliant and pertinent sentiment. Countless groups are working to combat gender-based violence, but winning the battle will require measuring and fully understanding the problem. I ultimately did find a relationship between state stability and certain kinds of gender-based violence, with higher violence rates in less stable states. These findings further illuminate the need to improve our understanding of gender-based violence, as it is not only connected to the well-being of individuals and families, but also to the greater sociopolitical forces at the national and international levels.

In addition to this important academic experience, I had quite an eventful final week at my internship. The World Bank held a series of events and meetings, which the UN Information Centre (where I was a fellow) took part in and helped facilitate. I was able to attend an incredibly inspiring event centered on ending extreme poverty by 2030, with guests like filmmaker Richard Curtis and speakers like Jim Yong Kim and Ban Ki-moon. It got me and my colleagues riled up and we created an awesome image for the UN Washington social media pages to commemorate the occasion (picture below). The next day we were able to meet the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. Shaking hands with two such influential world figures was humbling and awe-inspiring. These events reinvigorated me and instilled an even more fervent desire to make a difference in the world.

My final days were spent moseying about the heavenly clouds of cherry blossoms with my roommates, eating at my favorite D.C. spots, and saying goodbye to the city I’ve called home for three very significant months of my life. My final weeks were certainly full of some amazing memories. Only in D.C. can all this happen in the span of two weeks. All I can conclude with is a massive THANK YOU to the UCDC program and the Matsui Center for providing students like me to have this life-changing experience. It has been an unforgettable ride.

headshot of Dasha Burns

"The hopeful idealism of passionate youth, the sense of duty of a devoted citizen, and the unquenchable curiosity of a UC Berkeley academic inspired me to experience the endless possibilities of our nation’s capital through the UCDC program. A semester in Washington D.C. will allow me to take one massive step closer to becoming the kind of individual I hope to one day be in this world. This opportunity provides the chance to both further my career goals and put into practical use the knowledge and skills I have gained from my UC Berkeley education. I am so grateful to the Matsui Center for allowing me to take full advantage of this incredible opportunity as a Matsui Washington Fellow."