post-summer | #5

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Goodbye cards a fellow intern & I made on the last day

Through both the work I have been doing and the discussions I have had with mentors and peers, my summer has given me lots of things to think about as I continue to move forward in life and make plans for the future.

In the middle of Winter semester, I struggled in deciding whether to push forward with my EECS minor or not. I felt somewhat ambivalent about aspects of my EECS classes. While I put a lot of effort into them, I didn’t always feel energized by the class. I eventually came to the conclusion that I’d stick with it for now, and see if my internship in the technology department of the DNC would change my mind – perhaps I would find it more meaningful to work on coding projects that I was more personally invested in. I also tentatively wanted to write a thesis in political science.

A couple months later, I find myself feeling more secure about both of those decisions. While it wasn’t until later in the summer that I was able to take on some projects that I was excited by, I can definitely see myself working in data analytics/data science in the future – perhaps in a more policy-oriented position. I believe both the EECS minor and the thesis writing process will help me build useful skills toward that end, and I am also looking to improve my stats and machine learning skills. I also loved my experience living in D.C., and can totally envision myself there – perhaps next year.

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Wrap Up | #5

This summer internship experience has been one I will never forget. I was living in a new city that became like home. I met friends who became family. I was guided by mentors who changed my life. And most importantly, I grew to love/believe in myself and the importance of public service.

Before DC, I had never really gotten out of my comfort bubble. I stuck with the same people from the same organizations, I thought I had to know my exact career plan, and I never tried new things that scared me. However, this summer changed all of that!

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I’m so grateful to LSA, CAPAL, and the USDA for allowing me to meet such incredible people, visit such memorable places, and learn so much about our country, its people and the ways I can contribute to the world. Without the help of all three of these organizations, I would have not been able to live in one of my favorite cities and get a full experience that included educational and social components.

Going into this, I never thought that I would fall in love with the city, the work I did and the people I met. However, I always tell everyone that it was so hard coming back home from DC. Yes, I had so much fun and that had a lot to do with it. More importantly, though, I learned so much. I don’t think I’ve ever been given the chance to have so many opportunities for hands on experience, networking and educational events.

My boss and supervisors entrusted me with tasks that were actually important and applicable to the skills I need in life/my career. I’m so glad that I was placed in an office where they knew I liked to keep busy. They made sure I was doing valuable work and helped make my experience in a new setting so amazing!

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CAPAL provided me with so many contacts, educational opportunities, social events and so much more. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to connect with other Asian Americans around the world. I never knew much about Asian American issues until this past summer, and it has definitely made me a more informed individual.

I was surrounded by students who were activists on their campuses or who promoted social justice advancements. They are all such passionate individuals, and I have been inspired by so many of them.

Even though I do not have a solid plan for the future, I know that that’s okay. I’ve finally been able to accept that I will find what works for me and to just continue doing what I love. I’ve always cared too much about other’s opinions, but this has helped me build more confidence in myself. I’m so excited to start a new school year with this new mentality. My internship has (hopefully) turned me into a better person, with more experience and an even bigger passion for public service!

DC has opened my eyes to so much history and so many opportunities! I cannot wait to go back sometime in the future!

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From Assistant to Presenter | #4

My favorite thing about being placed in the civil rights department at the USDA is that someone finally found a way to combine both of my majors! One of my supervisors told me that she wanted to hire me because of my background in Political Science and BCN. Weird, right? Everyone’s always so confused when I tell them I’m double majoring in these two fields that are so different from one another.

However, being in the civil rights department, she knew that she wanted to use my BCN background to implement changes in our agency. After hearing that, I was so excited to begin my journey in DC. Originally, I was a little hesitant to work at USDA, since I had no background about this agency. However, this totally changed my perspective on things.

When I got to the office, I was initially told to help out with with a presentation on a game changer. They wanted to implement the New IQ: Diversity and Inclusiveness into the workplace at USDA. My role involved incorporating neuroscience evidence to the importance of this initiative. Everyone knows and always hears about incorporating diversity in the workplace, but by providing this scientific evidence, I was supposed to give them a new way of looking at things.

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It was amazing being able to incorporate two things–civil rights and psychology–that I’m so passionate about. What made it even better was that while I was making talking points for my supervisor, she told me she wanted me to present at the SEPM (Special Emphasis Program Management) Training Workshop! This is a two day USDA training workshop for employees around the DC Metro Area.

I was so excited and nervous at the same time! I am used to presenting information and presentations, but this was in front of professionals in a specific field. However, I knew I had to be comfortable doing something out of my comfort zone.

The training was in Maryland, and I had never taken the metro to that area. So evidently, I got lost getting there, sweat so much on my walk from the station to the hotel, and then showed up late to my presentation. As soon as I walked in, another co-worker was going over my slides. I was so disappointed and upset, and walked straight to a table to sit down.

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However, the coordinator came to get me and comforted me since I didn’t know what to do. He made them go back a few slides and had me do my presentation from the beginning. Since I was so nervous, sweaty, and embarrassed, I thought I rushed through my portion and did a horrible job. I  went through my slides and then walked over to the coordinator. In a fatherly way, he comforted me and told me I did a great job.

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Obviously I thought he was just being nice, so I tried to keep a good face and went back to my seat. I was planning on leaving as soon as the networking break started because I wanted to avoid talking to anyone. However, when the break started, so many people approached me to congratulate me, talk about my presentation, ask questions and to talk about my own life. I loved hearing what they had to say and was so glad people enjoyed the presentation. It gave me more confidence and allowed me to believe that I actually did a good job.

As I walked out of the building, I was so happy that even though I had a rough start, I was able to successfully give a presentation in front of so many USDA employees. Being an intern, I never thought I’d be given an opportunity like that. I was planning on writing, editing, and assisting with less important tasks, but being trusted with a project/presentation this big was such a unique and amazing experience for my first internship!

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The Ones Who Truly Changed My Life| #3

Have you ever met a group of people who changed your life in such a short period of time? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me this past summer! I have always surrounded myself with people I have felt comfortable with, but in DC I was finally able to step outside of my comfort zone.

First, I was accepted into a federal internship program (CAPAL) with 28 other students from different universities. When I decided to live in DC, I decided to share a condo with five other girls from around the nation. On my first day of work, I understood that I was  placed in a federal agency (USDA) with professionals at many different levels. Through CAPAL, I was even placed with an official mentor and a caPAL (big-little program).

All of those opportunities have allowed me to have interactions with individuals who truly impacted my life!

My mentor was Lakshmi Sridaran and she is the Director Director of National Policy and Advocacy at South Asian Americans Leading Together. I felt so blessed to be able to learn from Lakshmi during my two months in DC. We had so much in common, especially with our passions, past experiences and cultural backgrounds. It was so nice to be able to relate to someone on so many levels and to be able to learn from someone who has gone through similar things in life. She helped me open up a lot more and allowed me to believe in myself and my passions more openly, which was so fantastic!

Lakshmi became more like an older family figure in my life, which was so comforting in a new city. She truly cared about me and genuinely took the time to get to know me or help me out. I’m so glad CAPAL organized this mentorship program that allowed me to meet such a successful and amazing individual. We meet up quite a few times for food or coffee, I visited her office, and she even took pictures of me at one of my presentations like a parent would! I loved how she wasn’t that much older than me, but was always taking care of me–it felt like I had a friend and mentor at the same time!

In addition to the mentorship program, CAPAL organized a caPAL (or big/little) program. I was fortunate enough to be paired with Shiv Rawal, who was the Secretary on CAPAL’s board. Like with Lakshmi, I was also able to relate to Shiv on so many levels. He was closer in age to me, and has experienced many of the same things in life as well. Shiv helped me out with so many factors–whether it be school/work related or just advice on living in DC. He also helped me open up a lot more and be comfortable with myself and my goals.

It was so comforting to get to know other South Asians like Lakshmi and Shiv, who are pursuing careers in public service. It’s so rare to meet people like them and it was such a privilege to hear their stories and experiences. CAPAL did a fantastic job of setting up this formal mentor program and informal caPAL program with the intern class! I was able to learn so much more about this field, career choices, the role of South Asians, and even just about myself!

President for the Day| #2

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As a CAPAL (Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership) Federal intern this summer, we were exposed to several opportunities like this every week. This is the podium where every President has given at least one speech during his term. It is the main auditorium in the State Department and was one of our favorite parts of the State Department tour. Being able to visit this building was such an informative and unique experience. We got to listen to and talk to a panel of foreign service officers, psychologists and human resource professionals. This experience was one of the many times that we got to visit agencies around the city (or DC metro area). Although this wasn’t through my actual internship, it was through my internship program, so it was a major part of my summer experience. We were given the opportunity to visit The Pentagon, State Department, CIA, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and so much more. My internship experience was as amazing as it was because I was exposed to so many different career fields and got the chance to network with such a diverse range of individuals. They all helped me open my eyes to all the possibilities I can pursue in public service. Since I haven’t really gotten any experience in this field, it was such a relief to be able to meet everyone. I also am surrounded by such good friends I made over the summer. All of the places I visited, professionals I got advice from, and the people I met helped shape my internship experience into a way that helped me grow tremendously as a person!

Final Photo: Topic #6

 

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This pictures captures a good portion of the team that helped us win our campaign’s primary race. It includes staff, volunteers, interns, and of course our great candidate. These people knocked on doors, recruited volunteers, made phone calls, ensured compliance with election laws, and did hundreds of other things to help our campaign. I picked up a lot of knowledge from the other people in this group, including how to talk to voters, how to use various databases that can help election efforts, how to approach and form opinions on various issues, how to present oneself when under the public’s eye, and how to run meetings. I’m definitely failing to mention multiple others things they taught me, whether they intended to or not. To me, this picture shows the importance of a team, and the potential difference that a coordinated team can make.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to be learned while working in the political arena. This scholarship afforded me the opportunity to expand my professional network and gain a myriad of experiences. One great thing about living in California is the diversity of people here that you will meet. That is one reason why I originally wanted to attend the University of Michigan. I have had great mentors that helped me be the best worker that I could be this summer. I was grateful to have the opportunity to be in charge of a state senate campaign that won its primary. There was a lot of hard work and rollercoasters but I was able to build my professional network and learned to overcome obstacles. Through the campaign, I met so many great people that I will continue to keep in touch with. I learned a lot about money in politics and how that influence major races. I learned how to create a winning model for a campaign; I also learned quickly what doesn’t work in a campaign with many constituents. I was blessed to work in the State Senate. I met with business leaders and heard how the government can help or hinder them. I met with homeless veterans struggling to get on their feet. I met different constituents and heard their stories about how our office has helped them. With so many ways to communicate now a day, it seems that people sometimes forget how affective face-to-face communication can be. The biggest lesson that I learned from working with the State Senate is the power of personal communication. Sometimes people just need someone to listen in order to help them out, not just nod attentively. People can make a difference on a small to grand scale working in state politics. That is why I like it so much. You get to help improve the lives of the people in your community. It is definitely a career path I could see myself going into some day.

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Blog Post #4

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a school board meeting as part of my internship experience. It was a very good learning experience. The room was filled with people eager to participate. I used to attend the school board meetings at my high school as part of my duties as Student Body President and can only remember one time when the meeting got pretty crazy due to the unionization of custodians. Other than that, not many people showed up to the meetings. For those of you who don’t know, the school board members are elected positions and here in San Diego County, the races can get pretty heated. The Republican Party of San Diego even puts out a list of unopposed Republican races, many which include school board positions. The meeting was 3 hours long and had many facets. Typically these meeting discuss old meeting minutes, discussion of what was happening within the school district, and public forums. However, with the upcoming election of school board members in November, ever item on the agenda was highly scrutinized. It is easy to forget the importance of smaller elections occurring this election due to the Presidential election but please remember to research down ticket races. Members of the school board have an effect on the way public education is run and has an effect on the type of education kids will receive and it affects what schools these kids will go to. I like working in state level government because I feel that it gets overshadowed quickly. It is nice to interact with people in government at all levels and share conversations about how to continually improve.

A Changed Mind and Opened Doors

As my summer winds down and I prepare to begin a new semester next week, I can’t help but reflect on my summer and my future (and not only because I’m required to do so through these blogs!). As a student at UofM, I have been given the opportunity participate in so many amazing projects, trips, and learning experiences. Out of all of these amazing opportunities though, this last summer in D.C. was without doubt the most formative in shaping both my person and my future.

Going into my internship I expected very little. I expected to be able to see what D.C was like; why so many people I knew viewed it as this fantastic place. I expected to be able to learn how to adapt to a normal work schedule, and to resign myself to the drudgery of intern work. I expected to attempt to socialize and plow through the necessity of networking. I never expected to have the summer of a lifetime or to walk away from my time in D.C. with a completely new outlook and a host of what I hope will be life-long friends.

Prior to moving to D.C. I considered myself only moderately political. I was educated enough to know our candidates and their basic platforms, and had even patted myself on the back for attending a local rally. Having fought against involvement in politics practically my whole life due to my mother’s hyper involvement, I was blown away to discover – once entrenched in D.C. – that not only are politics much more intriguing than I ever thought, but they are in fact life altering so. I now find myself in the rather ironic (at least according to my mother) position of seeking opportunities and employment to work in this field while in school, and even possibly upon graduation.

My internship in itself was a revelation as well. Having found my position rather late, I was resigned to having a job wherein I would be your typical drudge-work assistant. Imagine my surprise when two days into my internship I found myself on Capitol Hill reporting on an LHHS mark-up, a process I had been completely unfamiliar with not only 48-hrs before! My internship in so many ways has re-shaped my future career path. While I am still greatly committed to a career in the law, I now find myself drawn to the uniquely D.C. commingling of politics and law, and feel that in the future D.C. is where I will best be able to continue the growth I began this summer.

I simply cannot thank the University of Michigan, the Public Service Opportunity Program, or any of the generous alumni who made this summer possible for me enough. I have said it again and again throughout my posts over the last several weeks, but for me, this experience was truly life changing. Now, I simply can’t wait to see what new doors and opportunities this experience and the people I have met have opened for me, and what ones I will choose to walk through soon and in the future.

An Ode to D.C.

Having lived in D.C. for 10 weeks this summer, I can honestly say I have never felt more at home any place else, even Ann Arbor. D.C. has this amazingly unique feel of a big city in a small town. At only 68.34 sq mi (as compared to NYC’s 468.9), D.C. is quite petite! Yet, there is a never-ending list of opportunities, events, and celebrations going on, with many literally right around the corner from wherever you may be. In my limited time in D.C., I attended over 50 meetings, visited over 10 museums, posed in front of 7 memorials, earned one free kayaking trip, ate at countless delicious restaurants and bars and experienced a truly once-in-a-lifetime summer.

As someone interested in eventually going to law school, D.C. was a particularly attractive area this summer as it’s currently fighting through a fairly vicious pre-presidential election cycle. If never ending snark and constant not-so-hushed debate isn’t your thing, D.C. might not be the place for you. For me though, my morning and afternoon metro rides and not-so-subtle eavesdropping were often the highlights of my day.

These metro ride info sessions lead me to the ultimate prize that is D.C. – its people. When asked about my favorite thing D.C. had to offer this summer, I continuously said its people. D.C. is far and beyond any other city I have ever lived in in terms of its citizens. Every single person I met in D.C. – from the visiting Scottish Parliamentarians down to my fellow lowly interns – was engaging, smart, and incredibly well-educated on at least one issue I had previously had no knowledge or experience in. If networking is the key to success, then D.C. holds the master key.

Having now been away from D.C. for almost a month, I can now fully express how much I miss it. From the conveniently located (yet regretfully pricey) Whole Foods, to the not so close but ever so amazing Smithsonian’s; from (usually bottomless) mimosas at literally any D.C. restaurant on Sunday mornings, to light night memorial walks, there is not one memory from my summer in D.C. that I don’t cherish or miss. I can only hope to one day return to these old haunts and to hopefully make some new ones.

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