Cal in the Capital Blog 2018
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Cal in the Capital Interns in Washington, D.C.
Whether you are a student interested in applying to Cal in the Capital, an alumnus or alumna reminiscing about your experience, or a community partner interested in hosting a Cal in the Capital intern, be sure to check out the following blog posts about Cal in the Capital, written by program members from the 2017-2018 class.
UC Berkeley Class of 2019
Political Economy Major
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
Washington DC is the place where change happens, or at least the place where nationwide change can happen. I am excited to be a policy intern in DC this summer to work on the issues I truly care about. I was fortunate enough to have gotten an internship with Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a law firm working on civil rights cases, where I get the opportunity to do policy work for both MALDEF and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition organization of the major Latino organizations in DC. I have been at MALDEF for two weeks and in those two weeks, I have learned about the historical importance and impact this civil rights law firm has had. MALDEF was created to fight for the rights of the Latino community alongside key civil right players of the late 60s and continues to do so today. As the civil rights of my community continue to be threatened, MALDEF works in collaboration with a multitude of civil rights organizations to combat racial injustice. This past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to go to a civil rights coalition meeting where I got to see first hand how this community keeps each other informed and supports the work each is doing. The sense of community I have encountered gives me hope in the work we are doing and the work I wish to continue. Knowing that there is community actively working towards protecting the most vulnerable individuals in our country is why I am excited to be in DC and contribute to their work. The office in which I work in is open to letting me pursue my interests - attending meetings and hearings that I am interested in and taking on projects in my areas of focus. These past two weeks have been nonstop networking and learning and I’m excited to continue the high pace of DC this summer!
UC Berkeley Class of 2018
Global Studies Major
Department of Agriculture – Multilateral Affairs Division at the Foreign Agricultural Service
Washington D.C. is a dynamic place immersed with a rich history (and history in the making), an abundance of activities to do, and influential individuals ready to make an impact. It is an incredible city for a young professional to develop connections, roots, and a career path as the relationships you build will bring about opportunities critical to your growth. Networking is an important instrument in relationship-building and an important skill that takes time and practice, but an important principle to always remember is that networking is about quality, not quantity. During my first week in D.C., I was extremely overwhelmed by the complexities of working in the federal system and the numerous events that are going on in the city. Everyone you meet in D.C. is doing something amazing and it gets intimidating to make connections with people who exude importance or seem too busy to make time for an intern. At one of the networking events I attended, I met a professional who was extremely genuine and easy to talk to. Her profession was not in the same field of interest as mine, she had a completely different educational background, and we grew up in different parts of the world. It would have been easy to conclude that she wouldn’t be much help in my professional development, but we exchanged contact information because she was someone I could talk to. The following weeks, we emailed each other, we got coffee together, and we went out for dinner. Through building a genuine relationship with her, she vouched for my skills and vouched for me as a person to different leaders and employers in fields of my interest. My mentor helped me navigate different career paths, build new relationships with people in my profession, and provided me with a sense of comfort away from home. She said, “What stood out to me is that you are here to get to know people, not here with the intentions to only talk to people who are beneficial to you.” Handing out all of your business cards at networking events seems like the best way to get your name out there, but if you do not resonate with them they will not take the time to help you grow. Having a network is not about how many people you know, it is about how well you know the people in them. It is the ability to maintain a genuine relationship where you share your victories and difficulties, learn about one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and ensure that they are a part of your community, not a commodity.
UC Berkeley Class of 2019
Conservation and Resource Studies Major
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
Out of the many places to intern this summer, I am grateful to be in Washington DC because of the strong Cal Alumni Club here. In fact, I discovered the Cal in the Capital program through the recommendation of a Cal Alumni that I met through an event with the Career Center. The Cal Alumni Club of Washington DC is comprised of alumni with diverse experiences and careers who voluntarily host regular events ranging from museum visits to happy hours. Although I was 2,800 miles from California, I felt overwhelmingly welcomed by the Cal Alumni. I am nothing but grateful for those who have helped me adjust to the fast-paced, network-filled city of Washington DC. So far, I have had only positive interactions with these professionals. I am thankful for the mentorship of alumni who gave me the confidence to take in all that the city has to offer and build relationships through networking and participating in events around the city. Cal Alumni interaction is vital in providing mentors who will advocate for, empower and encourage you through their guidance. This internship has given me a glimpse of the life of a working professional and insight into what to strive for post-graduation. The alumni have taught me to take the opportunities available to me because they are opportunities for growth. During my summer, my goal is to connect with at least one person a week, many of which, so far, have been from the Cal DC Alumni Club. My mentor Kathy hosted a brunch for a few interns and me at her apartment! This brunch became a reflective time to recall our experience working as interns and the lessons learned from our four weeks here. It was a special time to learn more about the work of other interns and to gain wisdom from her experience living in DC. Although it seems like there is a lot of time in the summer, it is important to be intentional about what you would like to get out of living in DC. To future Cal in the Capital students, I advise you to attend as many alumni events as you can. From my experience with the Cal Alumni association, I learned that alumni genuinely care about students. I have gotten to know many on a first-name basis and am confident I will connect with them in the future. After the few connections I had with alumni, I am excited to become alumni myself to connect and give back to the Cal community. Go Bears!
UC Berkeley Class of 2020
Political Science Major, Public Policy Minor
Giffords: Courage to Prevent Gun Violence
A news alert flashes across my phone—another mass shooting. These horrific massacres bring out some of the worst components of American culture: violent murderers taking the lives of innocent people, a lack of regulation on military-grade firearms, and consistent inaction from Congress to pass life-saving policy to combat these incidents. Throughout the past several years, I have been inundated with these notifications, watching society develop a pattern: shock, sadness, “thoughts and prayers” from legislators with no follow-up, and the incident fading from public attention until the next mass shooting occurs. I refuse to be a part of that pattern. This summer I am interning at Giffords: Courage to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit dedicated to fighting the epidemic of gun violence in our country. The organization was founded by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is a survivor of a mass shooting in 2011. I am splitting my time between the Government Affairs and Development teams, monitoring legislation relating to guns, researching potential donors for our organization, and examining the effects of gun violence prevention policy. I am passionate about legislation, and I just finished my second year at Cal majoring in Political Science with a minor in Public Policy. My experience at this organization has been absolutely incredible, and working to save lives and tackle the disease of gun violence is incredibly empowering. When I had my first day at Giffords, my bosses told me that mass shootings occur so frequently that it would be of no surprise for it to occur during my time at the internship. On June 28th, the news didn’t come from my phone, but from the Communications Director of Giffords, already on the front lines of a breaking news story covering a shooting in the Capital Gazette Newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, a mere thirty miles from our office. I stayed late at the office that evening as we waited for more details about the shooting. I went home with a heavy heart, but hopeful that there were such incredible people working on tackling this issue. It is times like these that I am truly grateful for the exceptional Giffords team. The office is filled with passionate workers, all united by a common, urgent goal. I have had the opportunity to get to know several extraordinary people who have inspired me to continue working on this issue, as there is so much to be done to stop weapons from falling into dangerous hands. One of the most informative and inspiring conversations I had was with a member of Giffords’ new Engagement Team who graduated from law school a couple years prior. As someone who plans to go to law school after graduation, hearing her describe the variety of ways she has used her J.D. was incredible, especially her experience organizing grassroots campaigns. After working at Giffords, I am sure that my purpose is to work in advocacy and make America a better, and safer place for everyone.
UC Berkeley Class of 2018
Political Science Major
I have a few things I’d like to share for those looking to intern in Washington D.C.! (1) Don’t be afraid to apply to your dream internship. Yes, it is intimidating and D.C. is extremely competitive. And yes you may get shot down numerous times, but even just interviewing is an incredible experience and helps you prepare for future jobs. (2) Seek out mentors. Cal in the Capital has an impressive alumni network who can serve as mentors. Being the small fish in the pond (or swamp), it is essential to have a mentor, seek out any potential mentors in your internship space as well. Ask them out for some coffee! I’m lucky to have two professional mentors at my internship and now I have a job lined up after! Take advantage of the resources you have and the people around you! (3) Go to events. D.C has so many events going on in the summer, most of them are free and it is a great opportunity to meet new people and to network. (4) Be selective of how you spend your time. D.C. is an interesting place, everyone here is from everywhere, and they are here for a purpose and goal. Do what you do, and do it well. You will be noticed and respected as a young professional for your impeccable contribution when you focus on what you do and not spread yourself too thin. (5) If you ever make a mistake, own up to it. Let’s be honest, everyone makes a mistake once in a while, we are all human—it is okay. Own up to your mistake, recognize your mistake, and offer a solution. (6) Lastly, enjoy your time in D.C. Some of you may come back and some of you may not, whatever the case may be, it is a fun place and you should enjoy all that comes with it. Work hard and play harder. Since I have started my internship, I began learning how to code. This is coming from someone who is a Political Science Major. It has been the most difficult thing to do but a great skill to have. An opportunity to diversify your skillset on your resume is always a plus. I am absolutely grateful for my GSI’s and professor who taught me how to research, made me present in class, and for all those power points that I always hated. Researching, creating power points and presenting have been an important aspect of my job and I wouldn’t be able to do it well if it weren’t for those who taught me the ways. So thank you Cal! (Picture Caption: Many thanks to Anthony Garret who is a strategist for Internews for organizing the tour and to his wife, Cal Alum, and Editor for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Carol Klinger for taking time out of her busy day to show us around and letting us sit in on a live broadcast! It is definitely the highlight of my summer thus far!)
Juan Barrera Alcazar
UC Berkeley Class of 2018
Psychology Major, Education Minor
Human Rights Campaign
This summer I interned for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, in the Youth & Campus Engagement department. Throughout my internship, I’ve learned how HRC works to empower LGBTQ youth and young adults. The Youth & Campus Engagement department specifically reaches countless of future LGBTQ leaders by providing online and printed resources, a scholarship database, and information about events happening on college campuses. My internship has reinforced the importance of increasing access to higher education for underserved communities. One of the main issues on college campuses is the lack of safe spaces and policies for LGBTQ students. Policies that support LGBTQ students have a tremendous impact that will allow them to continue and complete their undergraduate and graduate journeys. Education can be the great equalizer for underrepresented communities and it has the potential to transform people’s lives. Perhaps most importantly, my internship with HRC and my time in Washington, D.C. has taught me the impact of community building. Community building involves strengthening human connection with people from different backgrounds and highlighting the importance of communication when it comes to making authentic human connections. Hearing people’s stories of where they come from, who they are, and what they want to do is the best way to develop and understand people. At HRC, I was able to hear stories from some of the most vulnerable communities and that has allowed me to understand how I can be a better ally. I heard many of these eye-opening stories during the #keepfamiliestogether march, where thousands of people came together for one purpose. Wherever I go next, whether it’s back home or back to Cal, I am taking back a better understanding of what community building means and what it looks like on an activist scale. Friends, coworkers, and family are part of my community and it’s the force that helps me figure out what my next step in life will be. Both UC Berkeley and Cal in the Capital have been transformative experiences in my life. They have exposed me, an immigrant gay man from Long Beach, California, to countless opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Now, with everything that I have learned and the connections I’ve made, I can share this knowledge with people from my community and cultivate relationships to increase Latinx representation in institutions like UC Berkeley and in cities like Washington, D.C.
UC Berkeley Class of 2019
Political Science Major, Public Policy Minor
Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I remember read this powerful inscription on the granite walls that wrapped around at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial during my first week in DC. Ten weeks later, as my internship comes to a close, I realize MLK Jr.’s words came with an important caveat. The arc of the moral universe does not invariably bend towards justice. Rather, it is the work of resolute public servants pushes this arc in the right direction. As an intern at the Office of International Affairs in the Department of Justice, I gained first-hand exposure to the work done to promote justice in the international realm. At OIA, attorneys and international affairs specialists send and receives mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests. These requests, in turn, allow prosecutors to gather evidence abroad that can be used in criminal prosecution. OIA also works with foreign authorities and domestic law enforcement agencies on fugitive extradition. My internship has reaffirmed my interest in international law, but more significantly, it has helped me develop the skills necessary to realize to excel in this field. In addition to gaining institutional knowledge, I have been able to refine my research and writing skills. Moreover, I have learned the importance of demonstrating a commitment to putting forth my best effort in each assignment I take on. I am incredibly grateful for the Cal in the Capital program. Without CITC, I wouldn’t have had access to the network of alumni that provided me with invaluable guidance during my time in DC. I also wouldn’t have had the chance to meet and make friends with with UC Berkeley students are interested in diverse social, political, and economic issues. CITC remains a critical program for Berkeley students because it supplements the academic rigor of Berkeley with extensive preparation for a career in public service. As I prepare my luggage to return to Berkeley, I know I will miss colleagues at the office and the CITC cohort. However, I am also excited for what tomorrow holds. After this transformative summer, I look forward to continuing to work in some to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.
UC Berkeley Class of 2020
Political Science and Legal Studies Major
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
This summer was my first time visiting our nation's capital and the first time visiting the East Coast in general. I have always had a deep appreciation for cities like Washington, D.C. due to their rich history. However, being able to spend 10 weeks here for the summer at an internship allowed me to gain an additional layer of appreciation for this city. As the youngest daughter of Oaxacan immigrants from a low-income underrepresented community in the Central Valley, I didn't think I would stand out enough in the application process to gain an internship opportunity in the nation's capital. I did though! I am interning with Planned Parenthood and am really grateful for the opportunity. As an aspiring immigration attorney, my role as a Latino Outreach and Engagement Intern with Planned Parenthood has contributed to my plan to diversify how attorneys serve their communities. As a native from the Central Valley, I have witnessed the lack of resources and opportunities that undocumented immigrants have as a result of immigration status. I grew up with the innate sense that healthcare, legal counsel, and education should be fair and accessible to all because they are human rights. Working with an organization that prioritizes access to healthcare despite race, class or status has been a fulfilling opportunity. I have been able to engage in outreach work where I can directly communicate with members of the Latino community and share information about the goals and work that Planned Parenthood spearheads to include Latinos in their Reproductive Justice efforts. Planned Parenthood also has worked to diversify how they engage with the Latino community from Title X to the SCOTUS vacancy and have worked to advocate for immigrants. I aim to become not only a legal resource for my community, but a resource where my community can ask for help on a variety of subjects, including healthcare. As an intern for Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C., I have been able to gain valuable experience and insight. I have been able to see news that affects the Latino community as it breaks and spreads throughout the country. I have been able to witness how organizations like Planned Parenthood seek to build coalitions with each other in order to fight and advocate for immigrant rights and the Latino community in general, both of which have been severely under attack since the transition of the administration. Despite who is the majority in government, my internship with Planned Parenthood and my time in DC have shown me that the real majority are the communities that fight for others' rights.