Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Coming to DC, I dove into a new world, eager for a taste of reality. In many ways, the Washington program was my first real departure from the security of the Claremont bubble, so the past few months have been eye-opening to say the least. Students who have done the program will often tell you that the hardest part of the program is being forced to live on your own, and there is a lot of truth to that. Even though juggling a full-time internship with classwork can get to be stressful, life in a city presents a completely new set of obstacles and difficulties.

A lot of this is an issue of time-management. Between the 9 hours spent at work each day, and the two days of class, it’s not easy to balance chores, homework, and fun. The perks of living on campus at CMC made me forget how time-consuming common chores like cooking and cleaning can be. Going to the gym is a luxury for the days I have an especially large amount of free time. This is a radical departure from the comforts of CMC, but it’s forced me to prioritize my obligations. Without the flexible schedules, dining halls, and the many other things I love about our campus, I faced a rude awakening – quite literally – as sleep fell even lower in my list of priorities than it already was. It’s all been part of a larger, much-needed learning experience, though.

Something I’ve realized has been central making DC more manageable for me was finding a good housing situation. Finding good roommates should be the priority, but the actual living space is much more important than I would have thought. I’ve been lucky enough to have some fantastic roommates, (pictures below) and having a great apartment (more pictures) made adjusting to the city much easier. Program alumni will tell you that will inevitably become close with people on the program, something I think is particularly true of my roommates. Living with girls hasn’t been a problem-free experiment, but as is always the case in life, being surrounded by good friends makes for more enjoyable experiences.

Seeing the housing for other programs and hearing housing horror stories makes me realize how rare it is to stumble upon as ideal of a living situation as my roommates and I were able to find. Getting a pre-furnished apartment is crucial for anyone living in DC for less than a semester. Obviously it’s extremely convenient to not have to worry about getting the big items (chairs, couches, tables, etc.), but even things like silverware, plates, and towels being included can make a huge difference. Our location has also been ideal. Feeling safe is a priority in a city like DC. This is something that has actually forced people to change apartments while they are here, so it should be taken into consideration. Besides feeling safe, my favorite thing about our Chinatown location is its proximity to the Metro, a Safeway, a 5 Guys and a Chipotle. These things are all crucial, particularly the last two. I’m not only able to walk to work every day, but my proximity to the program’s office has been extremely convenient. Our amazing view is just another positive aspect of a great apartment. DC is an amazing city, but it’s important to take a lot of different factors into consideration when considering where to live.

The opportunities I’ve had to better myself have convinced me that the Washington Program is the best decision I could have made for my semester “abroad.” While many other programs place you with a host family or in a dorm, the Washington Program combines the demands of a 40 hour workweek with the novelty of having a place of your own. It could be argued that summer internships provide similar experiences, but the group dynamic of the program and the uniqueness of DC make it a rare, invaluable and extremely enjoyable experience. With just under half a semester left, I sincerely hope I continue to learn as much as I already have.

Networking (and making friends!) in DC

DC is a networking-orientated city. While here I’ve heard many people both praise and condemn DC's networking culture. Nonetheless, aside from succeeding, networking can teach you a lot and allow you to meet many wonderful people.

Here are suggestions for networking!

1.     Reach out to people in other offices.
Scheduling a meeting with people might seem a little awkward for a lot of people, but I definitely recommend it. As an introvert, I was a little worried meeting people I didn’t know well (or in some case, at all) would be awkward and uncomfortable. Turns out people in DC love talking about themselves (probably because they’re doing such cool things) and I had the opportunity to learn D.C.’s ins and outs. I just emailed people who wrote reports about topics I was interested in and asked them if they’d like to get coffee or lunch at their earliest availability. During meetings I asked these really interesting people questions about their political beliefs, work, and advice.
Tip: I’ve heard that people generally don’t like it when interns ask to meet after the work day, so make sure to accommodate the people you ask to meet with!

2.     Contact the offices you were considering interning at and schedule lunch.
If you’re like me, you probably took a while to decide where you want to intern. I thought long and hard about which internship to take and am very happy at the Center for American Progress on Project Progress2050 (The Race Policy Team). However, I was and continue to be interested in the other internships I applied to. I decided to reach out to the people who interviewed me and met with them for lunch. I ended up learning a lot from them and they were able to connect me with other people to discuss law school, social justice, and life in DC.
Tip: The same tip for suggestion one is true for this suggestion!

3.     Go to events around DC and invite fellow interns.
If you’re spontaneous, you could literally pick up a newspaper every morning and find something cool to do after work. Most newspapers are free or very cheap, there's a popular newspaper program that only costs 3 cent per newspaper and the proceeds assist homeless people. If you’re a planner and/or don’t like newspapers, there are websites you can subscribe to that will send you weekly events, like Weekbook from LinkTank. These events are generally free and they’re great if you want to meet really interesting and intelligent people. Also, if you invite your co-workers it could be a great way to get to know them.

4. Free food brings people together.
If you know there is free food somewhere, invite people. They will come.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hello! My name is Emmanuel Hurtado, I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah and I’m a junior at Claremont McKenna College. I study Government and Philosophy and am currently interning at the Center for American Progress on the Progress 2050 Race Policy Team.

In only a couple weeks I’ve already gotten extremely good at giving myself a concise introduction. In fact, we’ve practiced it constantly since I arrived in Washington, DC, and I’ve learned quickly what a great skill it is have. It did not take long for me to discover that the so-called “elevator speech” is a real and aptly named experience. It’s astounding to me how many times I’ve had to introduce myself in the time between the opening and closing of an elevator door. I’ve learned DC is a city of meeting people.

What all the hours of orientation couldn’t teach me is that DC has unique culture one can only understand by living it. The city is tireless. Everybody has a place to be and a reason to be there. People are work-oriented; they walk with an air of purpose. Each individual is like a small but necessary cog in a machine, but it’s hard to tell who’s most important. Nearly everyone is here because they are driven and because they want to make a difference, and the result is a large and diverse pool of interesting people to meet. Also unique is the amazing intern culture which is characteristic of the city. It’s exciting working alongside other young people who share the same wide-eyed optimism with which I arrived, but it’s equally enlightening to hear from and speak to some the highly experienced and brilliant people this city attracts.

Being constantly surrounded by the culture of Washington an indescribable experience which can only be understood by living here. Between the amazing opportunities I’ve had at my internship and the great line-up of guest-speakers and panels provided by Professor Spalding, the opportunities to learn about the plethora of topics constantly being discussed in DC from a variety of experts have been plentiful. So far my high point has been meeting Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the most inspiring speakers I have ever heard. Other notable sightings include Hilary Clinton getting into her car following an event at the Center for American Progress, and Justice Antonin Scalia who scurried into a room at the Supreme Court as we passed him on our tour.

The sheer breadth of ideas and beliefs in DC is astounding in many ways, and I enjoy the efforts the Washington Program takes to ensure that we hear from individuals who vary greatly in their experience, areas of expertise, and political ideology.  It’s important to appreciate the many perspectives that contribute to the noise that is government and the intelligent individuals on each side of most issues. What has stood out to me the most is that the large majority of people in Washington are approachable. Coffee meet-ups exemplify the social nature of this city and the efforts people will make to make themselves accessible.

I chose to write about the people this week, but Washington has amazing in so many ways. It’s been an enlightening few months and I hope I can soak in as much DC as I can in the months to come. I'll write more soon, but here’s some pictures.

Me (and Charlotte and Denys) and Elizabeth Warren

Me and Nicole on the Speaker's Balcony

Monday, October 13, 2014

All of the Activities

Sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect them to, and sometimes that’s a good thing. The other week, I joined an office raffle for a ticket to the CHCI Gala, a super fancy event with tons of important people. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus works closely with my office on a regular basis, so the staffers in my office all got tickets, but there weren’t enough tickets for the interns. However, upon winning the raffle three hours before the event for an extra ticket, I got to go! I scrambled to find an appropriate dress that was fancy enough, and ran back to my apartment to do my hair and make up. Once I got there, the dinner was amazing, hanging out with my coworkers outside of work was great, and then the production began. There were many people that spoke, including CHCI fellows, administrators, representatives, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. That’s right, I said BARACK OBAMA. I went to a super fancy gala where Barack Obama was the keynote speaker. I know, I couldn’t believe it either, and I was there. It was wonderful and enlightening, and I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to see him speak. Here are a couple of pictures to prove that it actually happened:

Apart from that amazing experience, I went that weekend to Princeton to visit my best friend from home, Dallas. I also went this weekend to a Bastille concert with some of my Washington Program friends, and took a bus to Philadelphia with Emman and his friend Joe to see the Eagles stomp on the Giants.

At Princeton with Dallas:

 At the Bastille Concert:

 At the Eagles Game:

There are so many great opportunities in and around DC that one can partake in that it’s wonderfully insane. Everything is so close, accessible and varied that anyone could find something that they want to do. And it doesn’t hurt if you happen to win the office raffle, too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Intern’s Guide to Living in DC

                Hello again! It’s been a while since I’ve updated a blog and things have been settling into a more concrete schedule since my first week. Today was my one month anniversary at work, and while it’s great to feel like I’m finally getting a handle on the ins and outs of the job, I can’t believe how little time I have left!
                As I’m starting to get more of a routine down, I thought I’d share a few lessons learned about living and working in Washington D.C.


                One of the first things that I convinced my parents when I was accepted into the Washington Program was that I was going to need an almost entirely new wardrobe to match my full time job. While in hindsight this was probably not priority one on the long list of necessities for moving to a new city, clothing is definitely an important consideration if you are thinking about living in D.C., for two main reasons. First off, jeans, t-shirts, a couple of CMC sweatshirts, and your 6:01 tank probably aren’t going to cut it for office attire. If this is your first full time job, a little wardrobe investment may not be a bad idea. Secondly, of course, is that it gets cold in D.C., and it rains (sometimes, I’ve heard, it even snows) and your weather app at 7:00 am will reliably be terrible at predicting the daily forecast. You’re going to need coats, sweaters, and probably lots of layers, not to mention some warm, walkable shoes (goodbye flip flops).
                However, as an intern you’ll probably be unpaid, which means the budget for new clothes may be a little tight. The best thing to do in this case is hunt for sales. I am personally a huge fan of Loft for all of my business casual needs, which constantly has great 50% off sales. I would also recommend signing up for UNiDAYS which gives you student discounts at Ann Taylor, Modcloth, and plenty of other places. 


                I love having my own kitchen and being able to make my own meals, but one of the biggest hassles of living outside of the Claremont Bubble is not being able to swipe into a dining hall for dinner after an exhausting day and a two hour seminar. I usually lack all motivation after getting home from work and preparing dinner can seem like a pretty daunting task, which is why the temptation to just pick up Chipotle often wins out. However, this quickly becomes a drag on your wallet and on your health.  Additionally, even if you make most of your meals at home, the cheap all-carb diet of Ramen, boxed rice, and Easy Mac is another mistake to avoid. It sounds silly, but be sure to eat your fruits and veggies! It actually really improves your energy levels and mood throughout the day and it’s pretty easy to take an apple to work or to throw in a side of vegetables for dinner.
                Also, even if it’s only a weekly thing, I definitely recommend taking advantage of your oven while you’re not living in a dorm by preparing a meal with your roommates or baking some goodies. It’s always a great roommate bonding experience!


                Getting around D.C. is going to involve using public transportation. Everyone should definitely purchase a SmarTrip card when they get to D.C., and register it online so you can manage the amount and set up auto reload, which adds value to the card automatically when you’re running low. Living near a metro stop is definitely ideal and although the trains can often be crowded at peak hours they’re usually the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B. That being said, I also hugely recommend checking out the buses for commuting to and from work. If your apartment or office isn’t that close to a metro station, a bus may be the better choice for getting to work because they tend to cover a lot more ground. Also, while the weather is still nice, walking is a great way to get around and to discover the city in the process. 

I hope some of this helps! Until next time!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Boba in DC

Hey everyone! My name is Denys Reyes and I am addicted to boba (also known as bubble tea). Unfortunately, I have yet to find a place that rivals Southern California boba, but half and half does set a high bar so that’s not entirely surprising. However, I have found some boba places you should definitely try (or avoid like the plague) in DC!

Adams Morgan:


I’ve been to Spoon twice and both times I ordered a Thai Tea boba. The first time they blended my drink without asking me and the boba was hard and dry. I decided to give the place another try and this time I was sure to ask that my drink was not blended. Turns out the boba was still gross. I will not return and Spoon was by far the worst Boba place I have been to, ever. It was pretty surprising since the reviews on yelp were mostly positive. However, two other boba enthusiasts(my roommates) agreed that it was awful. There is froyo there, so maybe that is really yummy.

10/10 would not recommend.


I’ve actually never walked in KoGiBow, but I’ve walked outside of it. It's a cute shop (from the outside) and is definitely has the best boba place I’ve had in Adams Morgan. My roommates bought me a Milk Tea Boba that was tasty. They do the blended drink thing that I don't really like, but it isn't half bad.  If you're in Adams Morgan and have an urge for boba, I'd recommend checking KoGiBow.

6/10 would recommend. 

Chinatown/ Gallery Place:


Wok n Roll is very close to the Chinatown/Gallery Place metro, so it's pretty convenient place to stop by quickly. They have a five dollar minimum on credit/debits cards, which is kind of annoying if you just want a $4.50 boba. The boba is pretty good, I went there twice to have Thai Tea Boba and both times I really enjoyed it. It's generally a dine-in/karaoke place so if you want somewhere to buy boba and sit down, choose another place or pay a tip.

7/10 would recommend.

Dupont Circle:


By far the best boba place I've been to thus far. I had a Milk Tea boba and it was delicious! I’m actually not the biggest fan of Milk Tea boba so that’s saying something. It’s not too far from the Dupont Circle metro stop so it is pretty easy to get to. There's also a Teaism near the CMC office and in Chinatown, but the one near CMC closes at 5pm (which is when I get off work) and I haven’t heard great things about the Teaism in Chinatown. The place also has food and other drinks that I’ve heard are pretty great.  

8/10 would recommend.

I've only been in DC for four short weeks, so if you happen to know of any awesome Boba places I've missed, send them my way! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Three Strikes and You're Out (I'm at Two)

When I decided to take on the challenge of working in the House, I had no idea what the congressional session looked like. I had no idea that my first day would be the first day back after August recess, and that this session would be the last opportunity to get bills passed through the House before the election frenzy started. I had no idea the President's announcement for supporting anti-ISIL groups in the Middle East would be the day before I started, and that the debate would be fierce throughout session. I had no idea how hard I would be working at the House Democratic Caucus so quickly.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not complaining. I like staying busy, and this past week and a half has been one of the busiest times of my life. However, I'm exhausted. The people in my office work from 8:30 am to 7 pm any given day during the session, all the time being as pristine and productive as possible. I'm fairly certain these people can walk on water and schedule their time incredibly. As an intern, I'm strictly 9 am to 6 pm, thankfully, but I can truly say that I am witnessing some of the most dedication to a cause that I've seen in awhile.

Being thrown in the the beginning of a very important session made my first day terrifying and wonderfully exciting. I was given authority to help with things that normal first-day interns shouldn't, but they needed my help, so they let me join them. It was a wonderful learning experience. But, I certainly made a few mistakes, as is to be expected.

My biggest enemy is the phones. Twice a week for a few hours, I answer the House Dems phone, asking who is calling and transferring them to who they need to talk to. Sounds simple, right? These phones are the quantum physics of phones in that no matter how hard you try to master them, you are bound to fail a couple of times. I have already given out an email that I shouldn't have and overbooked our conference room. In other words, I'm at two strikes. I know they won't kick me out, they're too nice for that, but I still have two, and I will certainly get more. But, with how much I'm learning and how much experience I'm getting, I wouldn't trade the mistakes for anything. Is it weird to say that I'm excited to see what mistakes I'll make next?

Oh and here's some pictures of my first week!