Being back in sunny California, I still have not fully processed that my time on Capitol Hill and in D.C. have concluded. Looking back, it was a bitter-sweet ending. On one hand, I desperately missed California’s weather, the diversity, the food, and of course, my friends and family. Yet, it was difficult accepting I would not be seeing my new friends every day, stepping foot on Capitol Hill (for a while at least), spontaneously visiting nearby states, or riding the subway.
Being three-thousand miles from home was initially very daunting. It was a struggle adapting to aspects of D.C. 's culture, like its transportation system, figuring out where to shop, and staying connected to loved-ones back home. This new environment forced me out of my comfort zone as I learned how to navigate my way around D.C. (I am directionally challenged so it took a lot of effort), how to budget and cook new meals. Interning on the Hill, I learned how to be a team-player which was exciting because I had always done individual work or simply reported to a supervisor.
For me, participating in UCDC was never meant to be as fun and eye-opening as it turned out to be. Frankly, my application and participation was a result of being academically burnt out and uncertain of my interests and goals. I just wanted to escape from reality and my problems. However, I am grateful to my past self for applying to UCDC because the experiences, the friendships, the hardships, and everything about being halfway across the country gave me new perspectives and a new mentality.
Although I did not necessarily get the experiences I wanted, it feels like I got experiences I needed. I initially faced an abundance of imposter syndrome and dealt with concerned-looks as I spoke Spanish in the hallways of Congress. The biggest thing that helped me were the interactions I had with others, whether pleasant or not. I got to learn about other people’s problems, insecurities, and their journeys settling into or visiting D.C. I learned from people who looked like me and others who I simply could not relate to. In the end, I felt confident and empowered being on the Hill, being able to bring representation of my comunidad, mi gente.
I am forever ever thankful for everything I learned and experienced because of UCDC and for the Matsui Fellowship, which contributed immensely to my experiences. By heart, however, I am a Cali girl and hope to remain on the West Coast, at least for the early stages of my career. After graduating from Cal, I plan on taking a gap year to work in higher education and determine whether I want to pursue an MPH. My desire to pursue public service was also reinforced and I learned that I thrive better doing fieldwork rather than administrative duties.
Overall, would I recommend moving across the country for a semester to live in the nation’s capital, where you could potentially meet the president and make life-long friends? Absolutely.