I was in D.C. last quarter as a part of the University of California D.C. program, and I can’t wait to tell everyone about it.
UCDC, UC Irvine’s Washington Academic Internship Program, consists of UC students who live in D.C. for a quarter, take some classes and intern in an industry of their choosing.
The UC system has a new 12-story building in D.C. known as the University of California Washington Center, where students live and take classes. There, students from every undergraduate UC campus live and learn together.
UCI started this program in fall 1999 and now sends about 20 to 25 students every fall, winter and summer quarter.
The UCI Washington Academic Internship Program requires students to take one mandatory class, Washington seminar, and if they want they can take elective classes which are taught by professors from each campus.
However, the main focus of this program is work. Students work in an area of interest and earn four to eight units depending on the hours they work.
Students from previous quarters worked at various places, such as the White House, Senate, the Smithsonian museum, Department of Education, Amnesty International, ABC News, etc.
Daniel Stephens, a fourth-year history major, was in the program during the winter quarter of 2004 and worked at Talk Radio News Service as a reporter, rather than as an intern. He found the experience to be fascinating.
‘Mainly, I was sent to various events, speeches, senatorial and congressional hearings to record them,’ Stephens said. ‘I could go to many places like the White House, Senate, Congress, International Press Club and so on. One day, I saw Angelina Jolie at the press conference related to child trafficking.’
Stephens describes his time in D.C. as ‘[the] first time for me working in a professional atmosphere. I never had a job where I had to wear suits every day. Now I know how I’m supposed to act and interact in a professional workplace.’
Yuriko Torige, a fourth-year political science major, also felt that her working experience was quite meaningful.
‘It was nice that I could have a full-time work experience before I jump into the working world,’ Torige said. ‘Now I know what I really want to do and what I don’t want to do.’
The advantages of this program are numerous. A student is not just getting real work experience and a recommendation letter.
Just living in Washington D.C. is an experience of its own, with the level of industry and political life a student is exposed to.
Chantal Quintero, program administrator for the UCDC Program, said, ‘This program offers students an amazing experience to learn about our nation’s capital and acquire important skills while interning in an area of interest.’
By living in the heart of the nation’s capital, about five blocks away from the White House, and being immersed in national politics, students become aware of what’s going on in this country.
In addition, guest speakers, either important people from the government or journalists, give lectures almost every week.
In the lectures, students have an opportunity to hear back stories and real motives to get more insight on the government.
Living in D.C. is almost like studying abroad for California students. UCDC Student Coordinator Ramy Abbelsamad, a third-year biological sciences major who was in D.C. in spring 2003, said, ‘Living in an environment which is different from Southern California was a really good part of this program. People in D.C. are very different [from Californians]. They think differently and act differently. By being exposed to the East Coast culture and new waves of thinking, I learned a lot.’
Stephens looks back at his experience fondly, knowing that it has added to his life.
‘Looking back, I’m really proud of what I’ve done,’ Stephens said. ‘I’m proud of myself. I know that I’m not kid anymore. I feel older.’
Based on my own amazing experience, I agree with Stephens. UCDC broadened my horizons and better prepared me for the workforce.