Kaylee Campos

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My name is Kaylee Campos, and I am a LALS/Politics double major. As a first-generation, Latinx student, studying away at the nation’s capital through the UCDC program was a transformative and memorable experience. It was very meaningful because I interned with The Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC, where I had the chance to meet and interact with many  Latinx congresswomen and congressmen. Additionally, I got to be a part of helping Latinos win a historic number of congressional seats in the midterm elections of 2022. At the same time, I enjoyed Washington D.C. because it felt welcoming and accommodating for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people with service dogs. In the program, I was able to bring my service dog, Stormi, which helped me feel a sense of belonging while away. I had such a great time taking Stormi to her first dog park and bringing her with me to President Biden’s congressional midterm election event in D.C.!

In addition, navigating my internship helped me break out of my social comfort zone. To give background context, I began college during the pandemic, so before the UCDC Washington program, I never engaged in large social events and hardly had the opportunity to meet new people. At the same time that I participated in the program, society was transitioning back to in-person. This transition for me was a very drastic change because I went from never being involved in events to attending large congressional events since my first day on the job! I was quite nervous at first and over-stimulated by meeting so many new people. However, this part of my job soon became my favorite because it made me more extroverted and I had a lot of fun dressing up for these events and learning how to network with many important people.

While I studied in the UCDC Washington program, one challenge that I encountered was the cultural food dynamic. I discovered that there weren’t similar Mexican food restaurants as compared to California. However, there were two ways that I overcame this challenge. First, I decided to buy the ingredients required for the dish I desired and learned how to cook it myself. This experience was fun because it was my first time cooking food connected to my culture. I feel more grounded in my culture now and to this day I still cook the dishes that I taught myself to make during my time in D.C. In addition, I took this opportunity to explore new cultural dishes and expand my palate! I enjoyed this experience because I got to try new foods that I had never tried before in California. They were all very delicious!

Another challenge I came across during my time studying away in D.C. was financing the program despite having financial aid to help pay the program fees. However, there were a few steps I took to be financially stable during this. First, before beginning the program in fall quarter, I made sure to get a job in the summer. Although I only worked for three months, the money I earned significantly helped me cover costs in D.C. since I put this money in a savings account for the trip. Before arriving in D.C., I had the misfortune of having my EBT card expire before my program start date and the EBT application process was complicated since I hadn’t arrived in D.C. yet (to update my address). However, I decided to reach out to UCSC resources, such as Slug support and they were able to provide me with a Safeway gift card. At the same time, the UCDC Washington Center was very helpful with basic needs to access groceries because they provide a food pantry. These methods significantly helped me manage my finances for the program. I was even able to afford to go visit New York City! Some ways that I made this possible included booking my transportation and hotel ahead of time to save money. I also made sure to do some research on budget-friendly restaurants and activities in New York prior to arriving. On top of all of this, I made sure to secure an internship that not only interested me, but was a paid internship. Learning strategies on how to better budget my expenses was a skill that I honestly did not think the UCDC program would have taught me!

Another obstacle I overcame was finding housing in Santa Cruz after I finished the UCDC program. I know this may be an anxiety-inducing situation, but keep in mind that you aren’t the only one in that situation in the program. I decided to find housing with two of my roommates in the UCDC program since we were all from UC Santa Cruz. By working together as a team and searching for housing during our last month in D.C., we were able to secure housing before the program ended! This strategy made transitioning back to living in Santa Cruz much smoother.

My experience participating in the UCDC Washington program was life-changing because it significantly improved my time management and organizational skills. These are skills that I always seek to improve! Before this experience, I tended to be extremely overwhelmed with the workload at UCSC. In reality, learning to manage my time in D.C. was also a rollercoaster because the level of professionalism was a whole new dynamic. Now with this self-development, I have learned how to better manage time commitments, recognize my capabilities, and balance my work life, hobbies, and academic studies. Another skill I gained from my time at D.C. that I carry with me to this day is NETWORKING. Incorporating professional networking into my life has been successful in helping me achieve new opportunities during my time at UC Santa Cruz.

Last modified: Jun 04, 2024