Only in D.C.

 

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Dasha Burns.

 

I am sitting here in utter disbelief that my time in D.C. has come to an end so quickly. Just as suddenly as I dove into the complex and thrilling political waters of the city, I emerged drenched in new wisdom, having gained invaluable experience and incredible friendships. And the end did not, by any means, come quietly.

Restoring old furniture at the National Center for Children and Families as part of a UNIC volunteer event

Restoring old furniture at the National Center for Children and Families as part of a UNIC volunteer event

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Familiar Novelty

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Dasha Burns.

I have absolutely no sense of direction. I still get lost even in my own hometown. Therefore, adjusting to a new city is always a long and arduous process. I have tried many methods to get myself to better understand where on earth I’m going. I have stared at Google Maps until I was blurry-eyed, attempted to memorize every street name in the near vicinity, begged strangers for directions—you name it, I’ve tried it.

But Washington, D.C. has been a different story. I have lived here almost three months now. The time has flown by quicker than I could have imagined. At the same time, I have also become acquainted and comfortable with the city quicker than I could have imagined. Within weeks I was able to make my way around without much trouble. What has helped me overcome my deplorable sense of direction? Probably the fact that some of the most famous places in the world tend to make good landmarks for finding one’s way.

Matsui Washington Fellow Dasha Burns in front of the Lincoln Memorial

It’s even more epic in person.

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Pushing and Pulling in D.C.

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Dasha Burns.

Dasha Burns with Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal

Matsui Fellow Dasha Burns (seated left) with Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal (seated center), the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information at the United Nations.

I celebrated my 22nd birthday this weekend. After indulging in several emotional waves of nostalgia and reminiscence, I found myself back in the present and highly aware of the current circumstances. I am twenty-two years old. I am in my final semester of college. I am in Washington, D.C. I am working as a fellow at the United Nations. WHAT? Never had I thought this time would come, or that it would play out like this. But here I am. And I have been learning more about our nation, the world, and myself in these few months than I have learned in years. Continue reading

TV Shows, Superpowers, and D.C. Reality

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Dasha Burns.

Dasha Burns, Matsui Washington Fellow

Dasha Burns, Matsui Washington Fellow

I recently finished watching the seven incredible seasons of The West Wing. It’s absolutely enrapturing. But it’s a dramatic TV show meant to engage devoted audiences; it bears little resemblance to reality. At least that is what I would try tell myself as I fixated on the screen – mouth agape – guffawing at the magnificence of Washington, D.C. But the first time I went on a walk to familiarize myself with the area I stumbled upon the Capitol. The first time it snowed, and I ran outside to examine this novel substance (I’m a California kid), I saw through a snowy flurry that I was walking towards an obtrusive white building with a large gate. Oh yes…that would be the White House.

My first time encountering these places was indescribable. It was a surreal kind of rush—like suddenly realizing you have a superpower and everyone else would too if only they’d take a minute to think about it. The thing is, this feeling did not go away after my first couple of walks. The fact that I can go on a morning stroll to the White House—a place where some of the most vital national and international decisions are made—does not get old. The wonderful part of it all is that these famous political hot spots are not all that get me going. On every block there is some significant building where brilliant people are doing vital work. I am filled with that sensation on every street corner. To be here taking part in it is something I never imagined, and it is like nothing I could have imagined. It’s humbling, grand, overwhelming, challenging, thrilling—like something out of an Aaron Sorkin script. And I get a whole semester here! Here we go…


Dasha Burns is a UC Berkeley senior double majoring in Anthropology and Media Studies. She is currently studying and interning at the United Nations Information Centre as a Matsui Washington Fellow at the University of California Washington D.C. Center.