I was never someone who had a plan to study abroad coming into college. I’ve only traveled to a few states, and have never been out of the country, so the idea of going abroad for a few months was never really on my radar. I used to think that instead of going abroad, I would do a semester at UCDC, a program that allows University of California students to study and intern in Washington DC for a semester. But then with the COVID-19 pandemic beginning halfway through my first year of college and impacting the entire following school year, I felt like so much time at Berkeley had been ripped from me already. I had a fear of missing out on the Berkeley experience during my last two years, so I didn’t apply.
Then I found Cal in the Capital. Cal in the Capital is a program through the UC Berkeley Public Service Center that sends a cohort of Cal students to intern in DC for the summer. It’s extremely similar to the UCDC program – just in the summer and without classes. This seemed like the perfect compromise: I wouldn’t miss out on any semesters at Berkeley, but I also would be able to travel and live somewhere new for a couple of months. I applied and got in, and now I’m writing this from my apartment in Washington, DC.
I am halfway through my DC summer and it already feels like time is running out. DC is a place where you can never get bored, there are a million museums, monuments, and concerts to go to. So much good food to try and so many cool people to meet. And having spent my whole life living in California, the East Coast feels like another world (almost as if I’m abroad ;)). So far, I’ve been to three Smithsonian museums, a music festival, all of the major monuments (the Lincoln Memorial was the coolest), and I’ve visited both Maryland and Virginia. I’ve been able to visit the U.S. Capitol as an official guest for my job, which felt very fancy. Even though this may seem like a lot, there is still so much more to explore in DC before the summer ends.
This was just the experience I needed as I near graduation next Spring. My internship has oriented me as I think about a future career and has allowed me to realize that I want to pursue non-profit work in the future. Working a 9-5 four days a week in a big city almost feels like a taste of what post-grad life can be, and it’s not so scary.