A Whole New World

I hit the ground running in Washington, D.C. I arrived in Washington late Sunday night, spent Monday settling in to the apartment, started class on Tuesday, and went to my first day of work on Wednesday at the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. From that point on, it has been a sprint and I love every second of it. Which brings us to today. Today marks the first month of my internship, so I took a moment to reflect back on the crazy ride.

The first thing I quickly learned at my internship was "DC Speak." Washington, D.C. is obsessed with acronyms. Everything that can be shortened will be turned into an acronym. All the government agencies, offices, legislations, positions, programs, institutions, and even buildings are acronyms. We even have almost two pages full of commonly used acronyms in our internship guide. Not understanding the acronyms can at times feel like you’re listening to an alien language.

Another thing I was surprised to find is the degree of trust the supervisors placed on the interns. Interns are given big responsibilities and a great degree of creative freedom in handling a project, not just menial tasks like making copies and picking up coffee. This creates more challenges and pressure, especially working with the senior and experienced staffs. But that is also what makes the internship experience so valuable, because it definitely pushed me further to learn and hone new skills.

Last but not least, Washington, D.C. turns out to be very open and accessible. Back in California, watching House of Cards or Scandal made the town seem intimidating and hostile. But now that I’m here, it feels welcoming instead. There are always opportunities up for grabs, with networking events, open houses, coffee dates, lunch dates, fairs, workshops, trainings, and so much more. I’m also privileged to have supervisors and professors who understand and even encourage me to seize those opportunities.

Looking back at the first month in Washington, D.C., I am still amazed at this new world. Washington has been a major life change from the Californian lifestyle. It’s been exciting, challenging, exhausting, and very rewarding. But the best part is, this month is only the beginning!

Felippa Amanta is a UC Berkeley senior studying Sociology and Public Policy. She is interning with the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders as a Matsui Washington Fellow.