For students interested in studying outside of the Bay and developing their resumes, UC Berkeley, along with the rest of the UC campuses, offers them a chance to move to Washington, D.C., for a semester to study and intern through the UCDC program.
According to Mary Crabb, the UCDC Program Manager at Berkeley, students participate in two Berkeley-vetted courses while interning part or full-time in D.C., allowing them to advance their careers while still “making academic progress.”
“With UCDC, I got to study abroad, had a great experience in a new city, but also walked away with something really cool on my resume that I could see myself doing,” said Mary Scholz, a member of UCDC in spring 2023.
Although the program is available to students of any major, it is especially suitable for “history nerds, politics nerds” or people interested in the specific work being done in D.C., according to Chris Hoeft, a member of UCDC in fall 2022.
For many students, participating in UCDC is the first time they get to work in a professional environment. Reflecting on her experience during the program, Scholz recalled thinking, “Oh, I’m like a full working adult … So it was like, what do I do with my time, and how do I get there, and what do I want?”
As Alex Alvarez, a member of UCDC in spring 2023, explained, “I was supported by UCDC and my peers, but also got a test run of how to support myself outside of college and how to support myself in a semi-foreign city.”
Through their internships, students learn valuable professional skills such as time management, leadership, networking and how to be proactive, according to Araceli Huerta, a member of UCDC in spring 2023.
Before they go to D.C., students receive guidance from UCDC directors about how to apply to internships and where to find job openings. Students are connected to a platform with postings and are added to a mailing list of internship opportunities and new listings.
“All the students are in one building,” Alvarez said. “It’s like a return to freshman year, being close to all your friends. You’re also able to meet people outside Berkeley because you all live together in the same building, or even the same apartment.”
Home to students from all nine UC campuses, the UC Washington Center is located in the heart of the city only a short walk from the White House, and UCDC students are given a free Metro pass. The apartment-style center has a free pantry and place to buy convenience foods, and it provides students with mental and physical health advisors.
Because all UC campuses except Berkeley and Merced are on the quarter system, semester students can find themselves in a nearly-empty building for a few weeks of their time in D.C. However, UCDC works to integrate all the schools by rooming students from different campuses together and hosting social events with the entire UC Washington Center.
“Berkeley can feel like a bubble,” Huerta said. “Just working outside of there, getting to meet different kinds of people, getting to see a different city, it feels completely different. There’s all these professionals there and they’re all working in government.”
Unlike the other UC schools, Berkeley does not have a summer UCDC program. Instead, the Public Service Center hosts Cal in the Capital, or CITC, students at the UC Washington Center.
Although both UCDC and CITC send Berkeley students to the UC Washington Center to intern in D.C., CITC does not offer courses simultaneously and instead has a spring DeCal which is meant to teach students professional development skills.
“In the beginning, CITC did not do what they promised it to be for us,” said Michael Plancarte, a member of CITC in summer 2023. “I saw it as they are going to pair us with a company and help us secure an internship, but I realized it wasn’t that. During the semester, although it could have been helpful in some ways, it was limited and they only shared a few opportunities.”
Unlike with UCDC, CITC students are not given extensive internship resources or databases with postings. CITC members such as Karishma Goswami did not feel supported by the CITC directors and instead had to find internship opportunities almost entirely on their own.
After participating in the UCDC program, many students return to D.C. after graduation or during the summer for CITC. For students like Jalen Johnson, a member of UCDC in spring 2022, the programs help them “springboard” into their careers in D.C. After graduating in the spring of 2023 and participating in CITC the following summer, Johnson is currently living in D.C. because he secured an internship that will last until May 2024.
Although balancing an internship and coursework can be challenging, students make the most of their time by visiting Smithsonian museums, trying new restaurants or visiting nearby cities such as Philadelphia and New York City.
“My favorite part of this program was getting to meet other students who are headed in the same direction as I am,” said Marisol Franco, a member of UCDC in fall 2022, in an email. “Being able to spend my time surrounded by people who had similar career plans was reassuring because we were able to share advice and network. I also really liked being able to gain lifelong mentors.”