2022 UCDC Fellow- Devyn Lopez

My time in DC has felt like a fever dream of sorts. The 16 weeks of being a UCDC participant have been both exhilarating and challenging. Experiencing a big move to the East Coast, adapting to the cold weather, seeking professional development opportunities, and balancing academics and an internship, have been integral to my time here. I did not expect this city to embrace my aspirations as it has. DC has become a home away from home to which I want to return in the near future.

 

My arrival in DC was anything but smooth. It was difficult to cope with so many changes all at once– an airline misplacing my luggage, adapting to the shock of the cold, getting COVID, and feeling like I was starting over my college career. Many times, I  thought I would not be successful in the UCDC program. Initially, I believed I would not be a good fit for the UCDC program, as I am not pursuing a political science degree, nor am I interning on Capitol Hill. Negative thoughts that stemmed from imposter syndrome fueled my mind. A city like DC vibrates with the energy of outspoken, confident individuals. As I have never considered myself to embody either of these traits fully, it was difficult to believe I could thrive in DC as much as my peers. As such, I set out to broaden my horizons by seeking out professional development opportunities, learning how to network, and taking risks. I came to realize that my own pursuits do matter and the work I do is important.

 

My internship at Becky's Fund is among the first places where I have had the opportunity to work closely with populations affected by intimate partner violence (IPV). In advocating for survivors of IPV, I was able to better comprehend the different forms of IPV that are not always visible. More than ever, I understand that gender-based violence is a public health crisis that our society is not educated on more thoroughly. I have learned the importance of educating people about IPV by assisting with key research projects, creating posts for Becky's Fund social media page, and facilitating college presentations about IPV. My internship experience helped me become conscious of the fact that there is certain work related to combating IPV that I do not particularly see myself doing in the future, but it also reaffirmed my interest in policy work.

 

Being in DC during an integral part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was truly monumental. Researching VAWA for tasks related to my internship and school-related projects, helped me acknowledge my interest in policy work that empowers survivors of gender-based violence. The opportunities in DC have furthered my direct involvement with issues related to advocacy work around human rights, preventing sex crimes globally, supporting undocumented immigrants, and gaining professional development for law school. 

 

Visiting the East Coast for the first time, and living here as a temporary resident no less, has inspired me to travel more in the near future. I have not felt as independent and as confident in my choices as I do now. Although this is not my first time leaving California or the country, it is the first time I leave home without any “safety-nets” to rely on. For the first time, I did not have friends or relatives by my side as I traveled to DC. I traveled a great deal throughout high school and even studied abroad in London during my freshman year of college. However, this particular experience in the nation’s capital reaffirmed my passion to explore and grow both personally and professionally. Now, I realize that the challenges I faced when I arrived in DC  helped shape and expand my confidence. I have been blessed to come across folks who not only welcomed me into DC with open arms but who also helped connect me with resources and professional opportunities related to my interest in combating IPV. I am grateful to individuals like Becky Lee, Professor Menna Demessie, and Dr. Olivia Garcia who took the time to answer many of my questions related to professional opportunities in DC.

I am immensely grateful to be a Matsui Washington Fellow. This fellowship provided funding to further my academic and professional pursuits related to ending gender-based violence. I will be seeking out more opportunities in the remainder of my time at Cal that will allow me to travel and network with professionals who are passionate about advocating for those affected by IPV, immigration-related issues, and other forms of marginalization. I truly love DC and the platform it provides for those of us who seek to turn our passions into professions.