What's Next?

January 27, 2017

My time in DC passed like a blink of an eye. It only seemed like yesterday it was August and now the program is about to end in 2 days. I will admit I’m dreading the end not only because all the wonders in DC I have yet to experience but also, I have two final papers due in 48 hours. I guess even though I’m some 2,800 miles away from Berkeley, some things don’t change.

Not much has gone by between now and my last blog post, but certainly between my first blog post and this one, I have certainly changed. In three months, I have grown so much personally, from my internship, my classes, the friends and people I’ve met here in DC. At the DCCC IE, I learned not only about campaigns but the gears of polling, strategy and political advertisements that operate behind the scenes. The countless hours of research and polling that goes into a district to capture a certain message that is then placed into a plethora of advertisements shipped out to voters’ TVs and mailboxes. At work, I also became great friends with my supervisor, a few other co-workers and co-interns. The casual dress code and work environment definitely helps. How casual and fun was it? Other than sharing hilarious political advertisements we didn’t get the joy of making, I was in charge of making a countdown poster every day until election day which became the meme-a-day poster at the watercooler. I posted New Yorker comics, Hillary getting her groove on in Café Havana for Friday countdown days, Biden with ice cream and a ton of Biden and Obama memes. Just this Monday, a few of the interns at the DCCC and DCCC IE got lunch together before we met Nancy Pelosi! Speaking of meeting a member of Congress, I missed the opportunity to see Joe Biden back in October; it was HEARTBREAKING to say the least. I had left work early to see Julián Castro speak about the My Brother’s Keeper initiative at the White House. About 2 hours after I left work my supervisor sends me a text with a photo attachment of Joe Biden within arms-reach. The text accompanying the photo says “Joe Biden is disappointed that you weren’t here.” She was joking of course but I was disappointed in myself that I missed Joe Biden saying malarkey!!! And encouraging us for all the hard work we did!!! I am never going to let that down. I will be telling my children and grandchildren about my missed encounter with the Vice President of the United States.

In these three months, I explored the many fine eateries and museums of DC, sometimes alone, sometimes with my peers. Through that exploration, I started a journey to self-discovery I don’t think I would’ve been able to do in Berkeley. I was able to take time to almost start anew in a new city. I wasn’t taking on a new persona for a new city rather I was taking new experiences as moments to think about, reaffirm or reshape who I was already, what I wanted and where I wanted to head to next. I was considering pre-law for the first three years in college, by my third year after a serious legal related internship I was even less sure. I decided it was time to give politics a spin; what better way to do that than to go to DC? I am still eternally grateful and delightfully surprised that I was chosen for the UCDC program and for the Matsui Washington Fellowship. I still remember my first week here in DC. I could not believe how much I felt like I belonged. The feeling that I fit into where I worked and the city was intense. The campaign world was moving almost every week. I loved that! There was something energizing about the fast-paced nature of campaign and politics that I never realized until I worked on a multitude of them from my internship. From my time here, and now my last few days, I’ve already set a course for the next 4 years. I have never planned that far ahead in my life. Heck, I don’t even know what I want to wear tomorrow but I already know what I want to do for the next 4 years; it is the most empowering and refreshing I have ever felt in my entire life of bumbling around.

From all my time in DC, I’d like to impart some words of advice for those who are reading this in the future and are considering to apply to the UCDC program (which I HIGHLY recommend) or are already accepted and perusing the past Matsui blog posts (in which case, congratulations!).

0.     Start your research essays early! I wouldn’t say start writing your essays right when you get to DC. That might be too early. However, please start researching your topic early! Find those articles or scholarly writings so those ideas begin to marinate about 4-5 weeks before the essay is due. Come time to start writing 2 weeks before the essay is due, you can hit the ground running. I wish I followed my own advice…

1.     Reach out to the people you work with at your internship early. Start building relationships with the people you work with whether it’s your supervisor, other interns or other staff members you work with on a daily basis. I know for myself it is always difficult to say hello and introduce myself the first few weeks of bumping into people around the office. It is a little easier to talk to other interns because of the relative age and background similarities so you can start there. The importance here is that making friends at work will make your internship experience not only easier but more fun. Sometimes the way your internship is set up, it might be more difficult for you to make these relationships. For example, you’re the only intern and you work with staff that are slightly outside your cohort range or most of your work is solo research. Don’t be afraid to reach out to staff and supervisors when they aren’t busy to say hi and ask them how their day is going. More often times than not, they’ll appreciate being able to take a break from their day.

2.     Take time to explore the city, both event and eatery-wise! If possible, explore neighboring states! There are a ton of Smithsonian and non-Smithsonian museums worth checking out in DC. I only got to go to a handful of them but I highly recommend going to the Renwick Gallery, which is right across from the White House, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which I have not gone to but I have heard great reviews from friends who did go. Go to events that are being held at local think tanks or to a Supreme Court hearing. Also, try out new food! The Ethiopian cuisine here in DC is divine. I have never had Ethiopian food before I got to DC and I loved it. The spongy flat bread flatbread (known as injera) paired with whatever dish you got with it is amazing. Plus I have never had anything like injera before. It is interesting. I have no existing food that I can use as an analogy for what injera is like. DC is really close to a ton of states. I didn’t get the time to go to neighboring states but if you have the time and money do it! It isn’t often that if you drive 1-3 hours out in a direction you end up in another state.

3.     Check the weather before you head out AND always have an umbrella with you. When you check the weather BE SURE to check the wind speed as well. It may say 50 degrees but with winds up to 10 mph or more, it might as well say 30. When it gets windy here, it is WINDY and COLD. As for the umbrella, you never know when it might rain midday or when you leave work.

4.     When you’re here, try new things! That isn’t just in terms of just visiting monuments or museums but also for you as a being. For example, for me, as I mentioned before, I’m not very good at saying the first hello so this semester I did it as much as I could to get comfortable outside my comfort zone. Go boldly where you have never gone before. I know for me it brought me much of my success in my path of personal growth.

5.     Finally, write a few thank you notes for the people you worked with at work. There’s a great card store in Georgetown called Paper Source. It’s much bigger than Avant Card. I like Avant Card much more since Avant Card is primarily focused in cards while Paper Source dabbles in cards, gifts and paper craft supplies in general. Paper Source is still great; I spent too long and too much there. Anyways, invest in a few nice thank you cards for your supervisors and/or co-workers when our internship comes to an end. The card will help you stand out but more importantly it is courteous to let those you worked with know that you appreciated whatever it is that they did, whether it was hiring you or being an all-around nice co-worker. I became such close friends with my supervisor, I just bought her a thank you card with a little more flavor: it had The Notorious B.I.G in the front with the phrase “B.I.G. Thanks”. She loved the card.

That is all. Thank you for tuning in the first week of every month for my blog posts. If I could do this program all over again, I would. These three months went by too fast but I enjoyed every second of it with all its ups and downs. I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the experiences and people I met here in DC. I would like to thank again the UCDC program and The Matsui Center for this fellowship for this opportunity of a lifetime. I’ll be back in 5 months, District of Columbia.

“The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what's next.” – The West Wing 2x9

headshot of Lydia Xia

Lydia is a fourth year pursuing a double major in political science and legal studies. She spent her first three years at Cal exploring the legal field, from her presidency in Law in Practice to working as a JusticeCorps member at the Oakland Superior Courthouse. Although these experiences brought her much personal growth, she realizes a career in law may not be for her. Lydia is looking forward to finally exploring the field of politics beyond her coursework. While she is in DC for the fall 2016 UCDC program, she will be researching the causes for political partisanship, specifically the role of money in causing the divide. She is excited for the new experiences awaiting her in DC. "I am really thankful to the Matsui Center for providing me with this amazing opportunity."