UCDC Fall 2023: From Grief to Gratitude: Taking on D.C. One Day at a Time

October 18, 2023

I arrived in Washington, D.C. on August 18th, filled with anxiety and worry. I was living away from my family for the first time in my life, without knowing who would be there. Additionally, I was waiting on offers from multiple institutions. However, within days, my attitude completely changed. I met many amazing people, had multiple networking opportunities, and visited many historical sites. I started working at American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), a non-profit meant to help refugees within Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon with long-term humanitarian aid.

I also delved straight into adulting. I wake up at 8 a.m. to get ready for my 9-5 job, often blasting Dolly Parton’s “9-5” song while drinking my morning coffee. At my organization, I am in charge of fundraising donations for my organization by reaching out to donors and tracking where the money comes from. At around noon, I walk over to Dua DC, the best coffee shop in our nation’s capital. After grabbing coffee for lunch, I spend the rest of the time talking to my coworkers. One of the best parts of working at the organization I chose is that the community has similar values. We discuss issues that interest us, from Harry Styles to Palestinian food.

After the day ends, I’ll go out with friends I’ve met through the Matsui Center for boba or coffee, as I am highly dependent on caffeine. Spending the evening with friends or roommates is a highlight of my day, as we all share what we learned from our jobs as a “debrief.” If we have evening classes, we’ll meet to discuss the lessons we covered in class. It feels like an episode of “Friends,” as we’re all entry-level job personnel taking it one day at a time.

My friends have also been essential to my mental health, as violence upended my family’s lives during my stay abroad. I’m grateful to be in D.C., where laws and advocacy coexist, especially during times of crisis. I’ve seen firsthand how humanitarian organizations work to help people in need, which has provided me with moments of grief and relief. I’ve had the opportunity to network with people from multiple organizations to learn how I can help displaced people. Though my experience has become complicated in the past week, I am grateful that the Matsui fellowship has eased my financial worries and provided me with like-minded peers.