Senior Year in DC: A Rewarding Last Semester

Photo of Matsui Washington Fellow Shaina Desai

Although my time in Washington D.C. was cut short due to coronavirus, the ten weeks I spent there allowed me to grow academically, professionally, and socially. At the National Center for Health Research, I was exposed to research on topics such as medical device and pharmaceutical drug safety in the unique environment of a nonprofit think tank. From attending congressional briefings on Capitol Hill and hearings at the Food and Drug Administration, I witnessed the policy implications of public health research, which was my ultimate goal for my time in Washington. Additionally, exploring D.C. and other cities on the east coast fulfilled my craving for adventure and travel. Each briefing or hearing reaffirmed my passion for public health and each adventure to a monument or museum exposed me to this country’s rich history. 

Growing up, I visited Washington D.C. several times, but never for long enough to appreciate the city for more than its “touristy” areas. Exploring neighborhood farmers markets and small coffee shops showed me a unique side of Washington. Not only did I expand my knowledge about public health, policy, and service, but I also witnessed the culture of DC alongside students from other universities I would never have met without UCDC. Living in the heart of Washington also gave me the confidence to navigate big cities with independence. 

I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I began my internship. I wasn’t sure how much responsibility I would be given, but I knew I wanted to make the most of this opportunity. Little did I know I would be given leadership roles when writing testimonies to members of Congress and leaders at the Food and Drug Administration. Witnessing my projects have real life impact was a life-changing experience that I would never have received without this DC experience.

Receiving letters from women thanking us for sharing the dangers of certain medical devices and pharmaceutical drugs makes the job all the more rewarding.

I was skeptical about partaking in UCDC for my last semester of college, since it would mean saying goodbye to the campus and friends I had known for the last three and a half years.

However, I do not regret this decision in the slightest. Immersing myself in the D.C. experience by attending networking happy hours and the many events planned by UCDC staff was both unique and rewarding. Within one week, I talked to a former Berkeley student working at my dream nonprofit in DC, decorated cupcakes and watched a cheesy romantic comedy with my roommates, and presented a testimony at the Food and Drug Administration. Such a diverse experience would have been impossible without UCDC. I was able to learn, grow, and have fun while immersing myself in a new place.

I am so grateful to have been selected as a Matsui Fellow this past semester. Interning and living in Washington D.C. allowed me to continue to grow into the confident public health professional I aspire to be and reaffirmed my passion for public health, policy, and service. Moving forward, I will begin a Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology at Columbia University in New York City this fall. I will be sure to take everything I learned both in and out of my internship in D.C. to this next stage of my life and public health career.