Be Present and Be Involved in D.C.

In Washington, D.C., there are plenty of incredible things you can enjoy. For example, meeting two presidents at one time. Invited by the United States Student Association, a group of UCDC students including me were so honored to witness the State welcome French President Francois Hollande. As early as 7 a.m., we left the UC Center and headed to the White House. President Obama received Mr. Hollande at the South Lawn of the White House so all of the invited people were standing in front of either the right or left wings. The ceremony started at 9 a.m. with the military band playing the national anthems of both France and the United States, followed by President Obama delivering his welcome speech to President Hollande. I was literally standing 30 feet away from the podium where Mr. Obama and Mr. Hollande made their statements, which I believe was a once-in-a-life experience for me to be that close to two presidents at one time. In the speech, Obama impressed people with his French while Hollande expressed his pleasure, in English, to visit the United States. This was a memorable event for me and the other UC students to witness.

The next exciting experience I had in D.C. was visiting the Pentagon.

The Pentagon is the headquarters of the Department of Defense. To me, it is a place combined of patriotism and mystery, which I hoped to unveil during my tour. Our tour guide used to be a soldier, and served in the U.S Marines. He volunteered to become a tour guide at the Pentagon for one year. We were required to turn off our phones and be away from our social network during the whole tour, but it was totally worth it. The building included vending machines from BestBuy, Apple and GameStop, which can satisfy different consumer demands for people working here. In case the officers were too busy to prepare for his/her partner’s birthday or anniversary and got into troubles, the building also included other commercial outlets like jewelry, flower, and chocolate stores. We visited the exhibitions of the Air Force, Navy, and Army, as well as a special exhibition for 9/11. Noticeably, in the 9/11 exhibition, visitors can leave their condolences and prayers for those who passed away. When one message book is filled up, the pentagon will make copies of the book and send them out to the families of the deceased and missing, in order to show the nation’s continued care and love for them. Our tour guide ended our visit with some humor, “How many sides does the Pentagon have?” Guess what, it has two sides instead of five—“inside and outside."

Another awesome memory was the monument night tour I took with my UCDC friends.

Being in D.C. for the third time, I have visited the memorials and monuments many times before. However, visiting monuments at night was something I haven’t experienced. So my friend and I decided to take a spontaneous night tour. We missed the sunset view we originally planned but we saw an even better nighttime view, with the shadows of monuments lying on the Reflection Pool, peacefully and illuminating. Then we visited the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, World War II Memorial, and MLK Memorial. I strongly encourage people who have visited the monuments and memorials during daytime to take another tour at nighttime, which explores the other beauty of D.C. with the moonlight and the pointed lighting on the statues.

I have dreamed about being a journalist since I was young because I hoped to be present in the moments where “big deals” happened. My staying in D.C. this semester totally satisfied this fantasy because I have been present for many incredible moments of nature and politics. Thank you Washington, D.C.!

(I have been keeping up with the news of the missing Malaysian airline flight every day and I really hope more details can be found out soon. Pray for MH370.)

Yixi Zhao is a UC Berkeley junior double majoring in Economics and Media Studies. She is currently studying and interning at the World Bank-Finance and Private Sector Research Group as a Matsui Washington Fellow at the University of California Washington D.C. Center.