25 Days Left as a Fellow and OPR Intern

“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.” ― Steve Maraboli

As of today, July 1st, I have 25 days left in Sacramento as a Fellow in the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR). My experience in the Cal-in-Sacramento Program thus far has by far exceeded my expectations. I am proud to have made the best of each and every day because I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to work in Sacramento again. At the OPR Office, I am helping to research, write, and understand policy, an experience that can't be learned inside the classroom. As a fellow, I have made friendships that I know will last beyond this summer. This will be my last blog, so I will take this opportunity to share the knowledge I have gained throughout my experience, and then thank the people and the office that have taken the time and resources to open my eyes and heart to policy and politics.

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” ― Margaret Fuller

I have been trying to light my candle with everyone's knowledge, so I hope to pay it forward with their words of wisdom.

  • Keep a journal. I have tried to be as diligent as I can to record my daily experiences, documenting the kinds of assignments I was given, and recording the key highlights from an excellent conversation I had. I want to remember the kinds of policies I have been working on and why I care about them in the first place. There will be rough days. Long hours. Uncooperative people. Lunches at the desk. But as a proud product from the offices of San Jose Councilmember Chu and Congressman Mike Honda - and now OPR - I have learned that government on different levels are working hard to work together. This summer, I get to work with the most knowledgeable and dedicated people, who care about crafting policies around environmental protection, water, and drought (shameless plug to conserve your showers to 5 minutes!), for cities and counties.
  • Adventure is always out there with the help of Yelp, so never return to the lofts before 7:30 pm. For the past few months, this program has given me the opportunity to befriend peers I would otherwise not connect with. I am so proud of the Fellows in the program, and I know this cohort will be key names in the realm of politics and policies. I have participated in so many adventures with the other Fellows, from playing soccer at Sac State on Saturday mornings, running miles along the American River, to kayaking at the Aquatic Center, and exploring Old Town and Midtown for Gunther's Ice-Cream and Rick's Diner. My experiences with the Fellows have been unforgettable. Adventures and experiences just don't happen when you leave work and go home.
  • Think of networking as a way to make friends. I'm genuinely interested in how folks arrived at Sacramento, what keeps them working in government, and what their personal hobbies are. I have discovered so many beautiful stories over coffee, and have appreciated how people are willing to open up their resources to me. I want to also take this moment to thank the individuals who have taken the time to speak with me and to share some of the tips that resonated with me during our excellent conversations:
  • Add people on LinkedIn and Facebook - it reminds people that you exist.
  • Making a backwards calendar was a genius idea. Think critically about party issues and don't shy away from a political discussion just because he/she is a Republican or Democrat.
  • Always go into a meeting having Googled the person. Ask that person to recommend all the groups and organizations that you can be a part of.
  • Believe in incremental progress. You've got to work with the system to be in it.
  • Be yourself. Don't look good just on paper - look and sound good in person.

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” ― John F. Kennedy

My story at OPR would not begin without Yan Yin Choy, the Executive fellow there. I am fortunate for her mentorship and guidance. (I'm also working with her to get more Cal-in-Sacramento Fellows into OPR so we can rival the Stanford-in-Government Fellows.)

Yan-Yin Choy, a recent San Jose State University graduate and humble community activist!

My summer wouldn't be as spontaneous and adventurous without one of my roommates, Natalie Cha. We try to find and attend as many receptions as we can to save lunches or dinners (intern salary, so the struggle is real). But more importantly, I realized we were able to learn and grow from each other's different experiences, and she is one of the Fellows I am so grateful to now call my friend. That's the power of spending eight weeks with a group of people with similar but different goals.

Natalie Cha, my roommate and networking partner in crime. Here we are at the Friday Music in the Park, unwinding at the end of the week.

From left to right: Caroline Vurlumis (Scripps College), Sam Geldin (UCLA), Viviane Nguyen (Me), Joey Zabel (Stanford University), Nancy Hernandez (Pitzer College), and Maria Doerr (Stanford University).

I have been so privileged to work with a dedicated cohort of interns in OPR. Everyone is always glued to their computers, working on some land use element in the General Plan Guidelines or Drought projects. The staff members in OPR take time to give us substantial projects and one-on-one attention to make sure our deliverable projects align with our interests. For example, one of my interests includes the Educational facilities element in the General Plan Guideline, so Seth Litchney gave me the opportunity to create plans or draft proposals related to this. Like many of the other OPR staffers, Seth is always so intelligent, patient, and amazing. This paragraph is pretty much dedicated to how amazing OPR is.

I have been in summer programs before, but this is the first program where I have been with my classmates and peers. As a transfer student, I feel proud to share that I am a UC Berkeley student. 25 days later, this program will end and all of us will return to our busy lives. But Democrats, Republicans and everything in between, I know we will continue our strange friendships. This opportunity to be in the Cal-in-Sacramento program would not have happed without the dedication of the director Ethan Rarick, coordinator Camille Koué, and Cal-in-Sacramento Professor, former Assemblywoman and now Judge Alyson Lewis. I'm grateful for all of their hard work on preparing the Fellows. Lastly, I am so thankful more than words can say for this experience that has furthermore solidified my goal of becoming the next Councilmember for the City of San Jose in the next ten years. I am excited to work alongside future elected officials and policy leaders from this group of the 2014 UC Berkeley Cal-in-Sacramento Program.


Viviane Nguyen is a UC Berkeley junior majoring in Political Science. She is currently interning in the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) as a Cal in Sacramento Fellow.