I spent my last night in DC eating Ethiopian food with my intern friends, and the weather was mild enough for my friend and I to take a stroll around Embassy Row, the Potomac River, and Georgetown. Between saying goodbyes to friends, working on term papers, and wrapping up my internship, it wasn’t until my last day in DC when I realized how much I would miss being able to walk around the National Mall everyday, live a few blocks away from the White House, stop by the numerous Smithsonian museums at a moment’s notice, and immerse myself in the DC atmosphere.
Through interning for fellows at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, I learned just how many intricate dimensions go into being an academic and producing a high-caliber book. As my scholars’ books pertain to international relations, they often have to analyze research materials in different languages. In addition to synthesizing and having an in-depth understanding of all the pre-existing literature on their topics, they have to synthesize their research materials to formulate a compelling and original thesis that adds a new layer of understanding to the topic. Finally, they have to present their work in a way that would captivate the academic audience as well as policymakers. Therefore, my day-to-day work in the past four months have consisted of accompanying my scholars to interviews and conferences, translating research materials, and writing research memos. I loved the type of work I did at the Wilson Center, and this internship further solidified my interest to work for a think tank in the future and apply for graduate studies in history or political science.
While I think there was a lot of pressure for students to decide on their career and academic paths upon the completion of the UCDC program, one of the most important takeaways for me this semester is to not worry about having to plan my life out down to the smallest details. When I informally interviewed professionals in the think tank world and other industries, it seemed like all of them got to this point in their careers not through exquisite planning but rather more through seizing spontaneous and promising opportunities—flexibility to change is what all of them had in common. Therefore, my new goal when I get back to Berkeley is to live more in the moment, stress less, work hard, and keep an active eye out for interesting opportunities in my areas of interest.
Finally, as cliché as it sounds, it is the people that make a place so memorable. And during my short time in DC, I am very thankful to have worked directly with two fellows at the Wilson Center who are amazing mentors. I also met great friends through my internship and UCDC. My professors this semester have made my experience here academically stimulating, and my UCDC advisor was extremely helpful for both career and academic inquires. If it weren’t for the support I had and relationships I’ve built with these people, my time in DC would not have been half as special!
Well, this is the end of my UCDC journey. But this isn’t farewell to this amazing city. I’m sure I will return to DC for sightseeing or another internship in the near future, and the memories I’ve built here will last me a lifetime.