Pushing and Pulling in D.C.

March 6, 2014

I celebrated my 22nd birthday this weekend. After indulging in several emotional waves of nostalgia and reminiscence, I found myself back in the present and highly aware of the current circumstances. I am twenty-two years old. I am in my final semester of college. I am in Washington, D.C. I am working as a fellow at the United Nations. WHAT? Never had I thought this time would come, or that it would play out like this. But here I am. And I have been learning more about our nation, the world, and myself in these few months than I have learned in years.

We can spend endless days with our noses in books and sitting in lecture halls, but there is nothing like being right in the middle of the chaos, the mess, the intricate dance of attempting to improve our world. And this all happens daily in D.C. I certainly would not have been prepared to tackle it without my UC Berkeley education. The opportunity to combine my academic endeavors with the real-world experience of working in D.C. is proving to be absolutely invaluable. Throughout the week, I am running between hearings on the Hill, briefings at Brookings, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and other such institutions, and my favorite lunch spots that are quickly becoming a much-appreciated comfort during hectic days. I am getting to see how policy-makers, academics, researchers, lobbyists, activists, all navigate the political landscape and interact with each other and with the national and global communities.

The push and pull of differing opinions is frustrating, but it is the foundation of democracy. I believe I have seen how it allows for ideas to be built upon and evolved into something more valuable and beneficial. There is meaningful interplay between the varying communities that may sometimes be difficult to see, but it exists and I mean to delve into it even further. In this way, I hope I can absorb this experience and use it to one day help integrate the best facets of seemingly divergent ideas to improve the state of our world.

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."