Photo by Joshua Hsu
As I stared out at the National Mall with the Capitol in front of me, the Lincoln Memorial behind me, and the Washington Monument looming over my head, I knew I was doing something special by doing an internship in our nation’s capital.
I’m a fourth-year sociology major, and this past summer I did an internship through University of California, D.C. UCDC is an internship program that the UC system facilitates where students are selected from an applicant pool to spend a quarter in Washington, D.C.
I was worried that I would mess up my course schedule by going to D.C. during the school year, but luckily UCDC offers a summer program as well, so I did not miss any class time. While at the UCDC center, students of all majors are encouraged to take classes that can go towards major course work, and I wound up taking Spies! The Politics of Intelligence while there.
However, even without taking major-relevant courses, your education doesn’t take a hit.
Sawyeh Maghsoodloo, a recent graduate with a degree in political science, said, “I learned just as much about our government and our country’s history in my quarter at UCDC as I did during my entire political science education.”
Personally, I worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Immediate Office of the Secretary. I’m interested in health policy and this was a good fit for me. However, students are able to apply for many different internships in many different fields.
Neruda Atako, a fourth-year economics major, interned at the NAACP. “The best part of the experience was being around so many young, successful professionals. It was really inspiring and made me realize how much potential I have to do bigger and greater things.”
Beyond just being a valuable learning experience in and of itself, UCDC provides students with a chance to network and figure out their footing for life after college.
“UCDC was a huge advantage to getting my foot in the door in the heart of the nation’s policy world,” Maghsoodloo said.
Atako shared a similar sentiment. “I do feel that UCDC helped me prepare for life after college, being it was before my senior year so being in DC and interning/working in the real world really made me put things in perspective and really explore my interests and passions professionally.”
I also feel that UCDC helped me to better define what I’m looking for in a career. I hadn’t too strongly considered working in politics as I plan on becoming a lawyer, but UCDC gave me great insight into policy and how things operate and now I’m quite interested in eventually pursuing a policy job.
“Ultimately, being in D.C. helped me carve out the industries I would like to go into and it really brought out my entrepreneurial/business side,” Atako added.
While UCDC is beneficial for students’ résumés and their academic careers, the program also allows students to explore the city and form some pretty great friendships.
The UCDC Center is a building owned by the UC system right by Dupont Circle–a social hotspot in D.C. The housing is like living in an apartment but feels similar to a dorm. The building is very secure, with 24-hour security guards manning the front desk. People require a key and an ID in order to get into the building. Guests are welcome and the checking in and out processes are quick and easy.
The Center is located right by a few different metro stations, so getting around the city is very easy. Year-round there are things going on in the capital, so there’s never a dull moment.
“The most fun thing about living in D.C. was the adventures and being able to explore since we were in the middle of and close to all of the attractions,” Atako said.
From dancing to amazing food and shops to world famous locations, there was never a night where you didn’t know what to do. On top of that, all of the Smithsonian museums are free to enter, so even on a budget, the city has something for everyone.
I was honestly terrified when I first arrived in D.C. without really knowing anyone and having no idea where anything was, but that feeling only lasted about 15 minutes before I was making friends and already beginning my first adventure. If you’re on the fence about the program, do it.
More information can be found on UCSB’s UCDC website at http://www.duels.ucsb.edu/opportunities/ucdc, or you can attend one of the information sessions in 1115 North Hall. Dates and times are listed on the website.