Reflections, Realizations, and Advice

Lincoln memorial and reflecting pool photo by Ingfbruno

As I’m writing this, I’m in Jersey City in a hotel with my family with a perfect view of the Manhattan Skyline. This little vay-cay that I’ve attached to the end of my time in D.C. has made me realize that this program is so much more than just about my own experience – its about opportunity for me and my family. Before coming to D.C. neither my family nor I had ever been anywhere east of Arizona. To be quite honest, I couldn’t even tell you what states bordered D.C., let alone the cultural and historical significance of places like New York and Philly. Now that I’ve been here, I’ve been able to share the experiences that I’ve learned, like how the party Presidential primaries work and how to master multiple metropolitan public transit systems. Not only that, but this program has given me the skills and knowledge to be truly competitive in the job market post-graduation (a mere month away for me). Meaning that the economic future for my family and me is just that much brighter: a priceless benefit and privilege of participating in the UCDC program.

Its safe to say I am going to miss the late night phone calls with my family where I pour over every detail of my day and explain things to my Dad, like how New Jersey really is its own state. There are other’s I am going to miss as well:

  1. Chivalry – having the door opened for you and being allowed to exit first out of the elevator is really nice sometimes. I guess this may sound really basic, but there is definitely not this kind of behavior in the Bay Area. Maybe it’s because D.C. is technically in the south? Whatever the reason, its super cool.
  2. Attending events – being able to just drop into a New America or Brookings debate on a range of topics like DACA students or teacher evaluations has been incredibly stimulating.
  3. Casually walking past places like the White House and other monuments on the way to get coffee or go grocery shopping.
  4. Being “different” – people from California are essentially treated like celebrities here. People are often so impressed/shocked/curious when you say you are from Cali, especially the Bay Area. It’s pretty exciting being the one from a “foreign” land.

I guess this is all to say that my time in the UCDC program has been dynamic. I came into it scared with a million questions and no real idea of what it would even be like. I can say now with confidence that it exceeded my expectations. I learned SO much through the classes I took and had the opportunity to really expand my writing skills. Working for the Department of Education has given me a practical understanding of how bureaucracies work.... And then there are all the unexpected lessons, like how to open your heart to new experiences and try things you never dreamed were possible, like traveling the East Coast by yourself with nothing but a fresh pair of socks. Being the youngest in my family, and the first to go to college, I have also been able to share these things with my family. I guess I’m finally realizing what a big deal this all is, and that feels truly spectacular.

In concluding my last blog post, it would be nice to give a few of my D.C. insider tips for the next batch of Dewy-eyed Matsui Washington Fellows. Here is a short list of things I wish I had known before coming to D.C.:

  1. Invest in a pair of rain boots or really good waterproof shoes. You won’t regret it.
  2. Most public restrooms don’t have those little disposable toilet seat covers – don’t be alarmed, you’ll just have to fashion one out of old-fashioned TP.
  3. Beanies from Target aren’t real beanies, and will do virtually nothing to keep you warm. Invest in a fur-lined beanie or earmuffs; the wind is the worst part about the cold weather over here.
  4. There is no authentic tasting Mexican food over here, so make sure you get your fix before you leave Cali, it’s a long four months without it!
  5. Don’t be scared. Fully commit to the experience. Your heart may still be in Cali (or whereever you call home), but your body is in D.C., don’t let the time slip away from you, it’ll be over before you know it!

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 of Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool by Ingfbruno is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0