Finding My Passion in Sacramento

I'm midway through week 3 at the Capitol, and my time at the Governor's Press Office feels like I've been there for a while. I attribute this to the fact that both of the staff people I report to have entrusted me to do some tasks that at first felt a tad daunting, but I now feel confident in doing them. For example, the first week I was asked to take media inquiries and interview inquiries. First of all, I didn't even know there was a specific way of doing this, and most importantly, I didn't know how to distinguish between the important information we needed and what we could ignore. I felt pretty intimidated. Every time that phone rang I'd stare at it. I'd see how the arrows blinked and then I'd look to see if any one else already had it. My excuse: "oh, look, someone already got it." I guess I was more nervous on my first week than I expected--but interning at a place like the Governor's Press Office, I knew I couldn't let the nerves choke me, so I took it upon me to pick up the next call, and then the next, until I too felt the nerves disappear.

I think this is an example of how I feel I've grown already: I had to find more of my inner confidence and use it to overcome some of my choking nerves. Picking up the phones and taking on reporters who all need something and need to speak to someone immediately has been a little more interesting and fun than it sounds. It's actually very cool to know that we are the first people they speak to, and for that same reason we had to learn very quickly how to manage the calls, and how to direct them to who and so on.

Besides just interview and media inquiries and answering the phones, my fellow interns and I have gotten to meet other great people in the Capitol. Andrew, one of the Capitol Fellows working at the Press Office, has been great at connecting me with his Fellow friends--and because of that, I've gotten to learn something more about myself. He took me to the Cal EPA building to meet one of his friends who is working with the top director of the toxicology department. The building is beautiful. After the tour, I realized that my interest and my passion for the environment was also an important part of my career interest. I mean, I did graduate with a B.S...but being at the EPA building raised a question in me: do I want to do general policy, or do I want to do something with the environment and with my hometown in the Central Valley?

I felt like a nerd in the EPA building because I knew exactly what these people in power were talking about: unhealthy water and unsustainable water issues in the Central Valley--I grew up with knowing that we had to let the school water fountains run for 30 seconds before the musty red turned to murky white and then went clear. I thought everyone did that--until I came to Berkeley, of course. But now, being here, learning about how our state is tackling that issue in a sustainable matter...it went full circle for me.

So I've learned that my heart is definitely with the environmental aspect of my people. But in order to get there I must first learn more about the political realm of it, and find my own niche. That's something I'm learning at the Press Office. At the office I dress like I'm going to run into the Governor every day. Despite the disappointment of such expectation (yeah, he's busy!), I still dress prepared because I can't guess the lucky day. This is the first time in a long time where I have dressed this well every day. I didn't realize that how I dress makes a statement to a lot of people about how seriously I take my work, but most importantly, how I dress each morning makes me feel more confident and happy. Also, learning how to be succinct and catching the most important points in the midst of a lot of information shooting at me during those phone calls has taught me the valuable skill of being clear and efficient with my words. At the Governor's Press Office, there's no room for "beating around the bush." The awesome part is, however, that as cut-throat as this seems, the staff here have allowed me to learn the trade without harsh tones and without making me feel like an ignorant intern. Every morning I walk in and I feel valued, and most importantly I feel part of a great team. I only look forward to the next projects I get to work on, and what I learn from there.

Did I mention I also get to walk the Governor's beautiful dog, Sutter? :)


Maria Selina López-Nuñez just graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in Society & Environment, and Rhetoric. She is currently interning in the Governor's Press Office as a Cal in Sacramento Fellow.