Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer in Review

As you may have guessed from my previous posts, I've spent ten weeks of this summer in Washington, DC. Going to DC came at a good point in my life because I'm stepping into my twenties and learning how to be really independent, without the structure of college to hold me in place. At the same time, doing the Cal-in-the-Capital program gave me the support I needed when I needed it.

As much as I enjoyed it, this summer was also incredibly difficult. However, the challenges also made me learn and grow tremendously. I found myself more confident in my ability to take initiative to make things happen. I've always been fairly independent and capable of managing my own affairs, but this summer really forced me to put those skills into practice. I found myself confronted with many new questions: how do I network? what do you do with your free time? I realized that it is perfectly fine to enjoy doing nothing for a bit, but ultimately it is up to you to take the lead with opportunities. Nobody is going to give you anything until you ask for it.

Speaking of networking, I experienced firsthand the power and necessity of it. My first two weeks at my first internship just didn't feel right, and I'm certain I'd have been miserable all summer if I had stayed. Instead, I took a risk during week three, when that internship was on a break, and started looking for new places through networking. It was simple enough once I got the hang of it: talk to a person, who introduces you to another person, who introduces you to another person...

Somehow, in week four, I started at my dream internship at the National Education Association. The networking had paid off, and had landed me at the perfect opportunity to explore American education policy. Things were still kind of slow and I had no real work for two weeks, but this was an organization that had the potential and connections to introduce me to new things. At this point, it was over halfway through the summer, yet somehow I was still just moving in. I received a new placement in the Center of Communications after I took it upon myself to march down to HR for more assignments and finally receiving some work instead of waiting around for events.

In week six, a wave of loneliness suddenly hit. I was familiar with feeling alone but not lonely, but now I was definitely lonely as well as alone. Now that I was all settled down, with no one to hang out with, I took it upon me to explore the city on my own. Looking at the list of all the places I intended to visit, I was shocked me how few items I had checked off. My first destination: the Library of Congress. Initially, I was almost deterred by the amount of effort required to get a library card, navigate my way around, and figure out what I was going to do there. Though I was physically shaking from social anxiety, I trekked around and (after getting lost a gazillion times) made it to the main reading room. The view was breathtaking, and even though I was still shaking, it was worth it. I felt so privileged to be sitting underneath that resplendent domed ceiling. I meant to do some work in there, but all I wanted to do was to soak in every detail so I'd never forget the feeling of being in that space (what can I say, I'm a sucker for high ceilings). Emboldened, I made it my mission to do all the things I wanted to do that summer, regardless of if anyone else would be doing it with me.

The rest of the summer flew by. I made new friends, explored more of the city being comfortable on my own, and learned so much with the most amazing people at the NEA. I cried on my last day, but at the same time, I was struck by a disgusting sort of homesickness and terror. The unknowns of the upcoming semester loomed in front of me, but I missed California desperately as well. But there was no time to dwell on that as I scurried to pack, and then was whisked across the country at a five hundred miles an hour. There was no time to reflect amidst the frenzy of unpacking.

Tomorrow, the first classes of Fall 2017 semester start. I have some baggage in the form of essays I have left from incomplete classes for Spring, but overall, I'm looking forward to the incredible potential to do good things with good people around me. I feel confident to start on the right foot, mostly because my packages finally came in the mail and I have my shelves and lamp up. My roommate made me realize that this is my last first day of the school year for a very long time (technically, I have another first day next semester, but that doesn't really count), and I'm determined to savor every bit of it. Here's to adventure and friendship and love and joy and identity and everything that could possibly happen in this upcoming year. ◊

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