With the final work week looming ahead, I have the impossible task of summing up the past eight weeks of being in a new city, surrounded by new people, at a new job, in one blog post.
These past few days, Cal-in-Sac fellows have continually exclaimed to one another, “Can you believe we only have x amount of days left?!” And it’s true that I feel nostalgic already and will miss all the people I have befriended through sprinting to catch the light rail together each morning. But I have no regrets and believe I’ve made the most out of my experience here.
From attending countless receptions to screaming my head off at Raging Waters. From listening to life stories over coffee dates, to watching a spontaneous fireworks show in front of the Capitol. From drafting talking points and analyzing legislation to kayaking and rafting on the American River. From getting lost in Mid-town to eating at the best dessert places (Vampire Penguin and Gunther’s Ice Cream).
While Sacramento is far from being fully explored, I feel I’ve done my best experiencing what I could in the time I had, with the help of my fellow adventure-seeking friends (who were usually the ones to drag me out of my room).
Of course, there were also difficult moments.
At first, it was feeling alone and out of place. In Berkeley, I have a tight-knit group of friends who share the same values and perspectives as I do. So when I was uprooted and thrust into this new environment with new people, I had to go back to kindergarten basics and remember what it was like to make friends. But I re-learned that it isn’t that hard! Spend a couple hours with them, eat some good food, realize common interests and bam! You’re in the friend zone!
But then, it was learning to not conform nor be ashamed for having different convictions. Providing my honest perspective is better than lying to please my audience. Assemblymember Skinner's Chief of Staff once told me that the most important asset is integrity. This meant not only having integrity regarding work, but also having integrity regarding my values. That way, when I’d wake up each morning, I would be able to look at myself in the mirror.
Additionally, I learned that providing a different perspective is beneficial to the discussion. A large part of politics is taking every perspective from related parties on a certain problem and coming to a negotiated compromise that will best address the issue.
Finally, there was the difficulty of being an intern for only eight weeks. There was little time for me to invest in long-term projects and I couldn’t help my staff with substantive work due to lack of experience. Also, since the legislators went on recess in July, the amount of work available decreased. Nevertheless, my staff never failed to give me various tasks to help me understand what life in the Capitol looks like. Although, I feel like I haven’t got the whole picture yet, I plan to be back soon!
Overall, it’s been both a challenge and blessing being a part of this program these past two months. No matter where I’ll be in the future, whether that be law school, the Capitol or a third unknown option, I believe that every opportunity that comes along the way must be pursued with excellence. And I can confidently say that this experience has been quite an excellent one.
Natalie Cha is a UC Berkeley senior majoring in Political Science and Minoring in Peace and Conflict Studies. She is currently interning in the office of Assemblymember Nancy Skinner as a Cal in Sacramento Fellow.