Constantly Transitioning

Union Station, DC by Jeffrey Zeldman

Last week was the last week of the program for the UCDC quarter students (basically everyone except for Berkeley, Merced, and the private schools). This just so happened to be the first week in the last three months where the temperatures broke 70°F. That is to say that last week was filled with lots of joyous celebratory gatherings, as well as some somber goodbyes. As I’m sitting here reflecting on these moments, I can’t help but recognize the symbolic nature of this change in the make-up of the Washington Center as being somehow reflective of life in DC. DC honestly is just one of those places where things are always shifting and changing – constantly transitioning. Whether it is the sudden shift from blizzards to gorgeous weather, or the shift from knowing nearly everyone in the building to knowing practically no one; you’ve got to be ready for anything in DC.

Besides saying goodbye to people who I’ve spent the last three months with, I have to admit saying goodbye to my seminar professor, Professor John Lawrence (former chief of staff for Rep. Pelosi, no big deal), was a difficult adjustment. I knew that the seminar class was going to end when the quarter students left, but I guess I didn’t expect to get as attached to the class as I did. Classes are a bit of an afterthought in the UCDC program, and sometimes it’s easy to overlook the academic aspect of UCDC. Although the courses are an afterthought, they may just be one of the BEST parts of the program. Prof. Lawrence’s Congress class was truly spectacular. It was challenging, as well as practical. I spent a few all-nighters finishing up the 20-page research paper, but it was totally worth it!

A less anecdotal transition that is extremely salient in DC right now is the reluctant acceptance of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for the November election. Every lunch at the Department of Education over the past few months has been spent watching CNN like a bad reality show you can’t take your eyes off of. With each passing of the different primaries the realization of the overwhelming popularity of Trump has become too large to ignore. When coming to DC from the left-wing liberal environment that is UC Berkeley, I expected to meet more conservative folk who may hold what I believe to be antiquated ideas about how our society should function. The rise of Trump has allowed me to see this side of the political spectrum, and forced me to accept that it is often worse than I ever expected. Working in a federal agency, I have also seen this transition to acceptance with the people I work with. Trump isn’t just a joke now, it’s a reality. People are finally starting to think about what they are going to do if that happens.

School, social life, political realities – it’s always changing here in DC. While I may have presented these elements of DC life as jarring, which they are in some respects, they also keep things here interesting. Back in Berkeley, I am used to things being the same throughout the entire semester. Classes, social life, everything pretty much operates on a schedule. It’s definitely not like that here. The author Chuck Palaniuk said in the book Rant “The future you have, tomorrow, won't be the same future you had, yesterday.” This is especially true here in DC and in the UCDC program. That being said, I’ve got less than four weeks lefts, and I feel like I’m ready for anything DC will throw at me!

Elizabeth Householder is a senior at UC Berkeley studying American Studies, with an emphasis on Politics, Policy, and Justice. She is currently interning for the Department of Education as a Matsui Washington Fellow.

Photo: "Union Station, Washington, DC" by Jeffrey Zeldman is licensed under CC BY 2.0