Matsui Washington Fellow Katrina Michelle Villacisneros

UCDC Fellow on the Washington mall

Within a short 16 weeks in Washington, D.C., my inspiration to pursue a career in international relations was strengthened. Meeting former US Ambassadors to the UN Susan Rice and Samantha Power, former first female Secretary of State and US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright, and even witnessing US Vice President Mike Pence swear-in the now-current US Ambassador to the UN Andrew Bremberg were extremely motivating as I envisioned myself to be in like-positions in the future. Additionally, it felt dreamlike to meet and chat with former First Lady Michelle Obama during her Becoming memoir book signing event, as well as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor with her Just Ask children’s book. It was heartwarming and encouraging to be empowered and supported by such extraordinary and influential women as they told me that they are “counting on me to be an amazing future leader of the next generation.”

The hint of nervousness in the back of my mind was overpowered by my excitement to voyage into an unfamiliar environment. Living on the East Coast for the first time gave me a new sense of independence and adventure as I explored my way around the Capital of America. UCDC has been a unique chapter in my life because of the holistic growth I experienced within a semester; thanks to the endless opportunities and blessings that came my way. 

With the UCDC program tailored to professional and academic growth, I spent countless hours interacting with diplomats and public officials throughout my internship. It felt surreal to receive large roles, projects, and assignments that went beyond my imagination while at the same time, gaining integral insights regarding diplomacy and a better understanding of the bureaucratic functions of the government. I only dreamt of these moments which became my daily reality. Back at the UCDC center, I was guided by well-renowned, field-expert professors and was constantly challenged to think critically. These professors understood that learning goes beyond classrooms. On some days, we left the UCDC center to witness trial hearings inside the courthouse, partake at protests, visit one of the many Smithsonian museums, or simply see the original Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives.

Looking back, despite the busy nature of DC itself and the jam-packed schedule I created for myself, my time with UCDC was the most stress-free and happiest semester I’ve ever had. Although I was balancing academic, professional, social, and personal responsibilities, I enjoyed every moment of it because I loved everything I was doing. I greatly appreciated the networking events since it served as the catalysts to learn from seasoned officials as well as the chance to share some of my experiences.

Outside of my internship and UCDC classes, I took advantage of the network I created and conducted informal meetings with other diplomats within the Department of State and Department of Labor to learn more about potential government careers; initiated an informal dinner with a Deputy Chief of Mission; and accepted an invitation to dine at the National Press Club via an AU professor and UC alumnus. Finally, when I was not networking, I explored and hung out with my UCDC peers and even went on a few classic DC dates like visiting the White House Garden tour and your typical scooter ride along National Mall!

I am extremely thankful to be selected as a Matsui Fellow because its support turned my DC dream one step closer to reality. Moving forward, I will spend my last chapter with UC Berkeley studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, in partnership with the University of Geneva’s Global Studies Spring Exchange Semester and Summer Internship Program. This experience will equip me with a new and diverse international perspective via education and diplomacy which can assist in propelling my career in public service.