My First Month as a Matsui Washington Fellow

A New exploration. The main reason that drives me to participate in the UCDC program is to expose myself physically and mentally to the east coast. When I got off the plane, the breeze awakened me completely, reminding me that my journey had started!

The takeaway from the orientation was that if you saw a black helicopter above your head, yes that’s President Obama going out. As our program coordinator said, the UC Center is within a 1-mile distance from the White House, which means no one can have his/her private aircraft fly so close to the White House besides President Obama. From then on, whenever I heard the noise of a helicopter, I would look ahead and tried to locate “Marine One." This was exciting, almost like a teen going out at night without parental consent. “Mr. President, I got you!“ I whispered. Obviously I am an experienced D.C. resident now and don’t look up anymore when I hear a helicopter’s sound, but I am really delighted to live in the hub of America.

What will it take to end poverty? After a week of city exploration, my internship started. Being in a new environment is never easy, but I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone. On my first day of work, I realized how educated everyone else was. I am on my way towards a bachelor’s degree, whereas it seems like everyone else holds a doctorate. I would describe my first day as overwhelming but it motivated me to learn more from my mentor as well as my colleagues. Fortunately, my colleagues are intelligent, friendly, and funny, which makes me look forward to the 3-and-a-half-month internship.

Besides interning, the seminar I am taking at the UC Center is eye-opening. Washington is the center of politics, economics, and culture, which means there are numerous hearings, press conferences, and panel speeches happening every day. The correspondents are the ones going to witness the breaking events and writing news coverage so that the whole country can be informed. My instructor of Washington Media and Politics, Marc Sandalow, is an experienced journalist who has covered the Hill and the White House. He encouraged us to explore the historic sides of the city as well as the busier side. Most of the time we can learn from the news he writes and the anecdotes he tells. The narratives of Mr. Sandalow, a dweller and journalist of Washington for more than 30 years, leaves me more fascinated about this legendary city.

“Kung Hei Fat Chow!” The most exciting moment for me this month was Chinese New Year. At Lunar New Year’s Eve, my friends from three continentals (Asian, Australia and the North American) had an authentic Chinese dinner together. The restaurant also prepared Red Pocket, “Hong Bao,” for each of us in order to pass a good blessing for the Year of the Horse. I also carried on the tradition of hand making dumplings with all my roommates. We shared a delicious meal and our new year’s goals. I genuinely hope everyone has a year of accomplishments! Later, we went to see the New Year’s Parade at Chinatown. With the crowded mobs and laughing children, I was drawn back to my childhood. Happy Lunar New Year again!


Yixi Zhao is a UC Berkeley junior double majoring in Economics and Media Studies. She is currently studying and interning at the World Bank-Finance and Private Sector Research Group as a Matsui Washington Fellow at the University of California Washington D.C. Center.