Witnessing the country’s switch in administration

SHELBY MCMICHAEL / COURTESY

UCDC Washington Program students reflect on inauguration, working in D.C.

This past quarter, Colin Giacomini, a fourth-year political science major, worked as a Middle East research intern at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy organization that performs research and advocacy for political, social and economic problems in Washington, D.C. In addition to analyzing how the United States can more effectively provide aid to the Middle East and combat extremism, Giacomini’s job required him to keep up with President Donald Trump and the erratic climate of the capital in the first few weeks of his administration.

Each quarter, UC Davis undergraduate students embark for a term at the UC Washington Center (UCDC) to combine course work, research and internship experience in the nation’s dynamic capital. However, UCDC students this Winter Quarter have experienced Washington in a climate unlike anything previous interns have ever seen.

“The buzz around the office is nothing like I’ve ever experienced before,” Giacomini said. “Everyone is watching the daily press briefings and closely paying attention to every speech that [Trump] gives so we can stay informed and get as much understanding of the situation as we possibly can.”

Experiencing D.C. and the current administration firsthand has allowed Giacomini to understand what it would really be like to pursue his future goal of working on Middle East policy at the State Department. Despite the instability of politics recently, Giacomini appreciates the opportunity UCDC has given him to experience history in real time and connect with unique and passionate individuals across Capitol Hill.

“When the travel ban was enacted, my boss spent the whole weekend at the D.C. airport translating Arabic for the people that were stranded there,” Giacomini said. “Whenever you go out around here you can find people directly involved in what’s going on which adds a different perspective to your knowledge about politics.”

According to Giacomini, the sentiments in the capital are somewhat evenly split between those who support this transition and those who do not, which makes for a very unpredictable climate, even for D.C.’s most in-the-know.  

“Many of the scholars that I work for, who have been in this business for years, can’t even make predictions for what will happen next week,” Giacomini said. “There’s a clash between the old guard and what Trump’s bringing in, for better or for worse, but this is an environment of uneasiness and unsurety [with] very erratic behavior.”

Since arriving at the beginning of Winter Quarter, Giacomini has seen several protests, perhaps the most interesting taking place on Inauguration Day.

Devon Moreland, a third-year political science major, spent his quarter interning at Angerholzer Broz Consulting, a political consulting group which does fundraising for members of the House of Representatives. Moreland attended both Barack Obama and Trump’s inaugurations and observed the differences in spirit, recalling an underlying sense of apprehension throughout the city during the days leading up to Trump’s inauguration.

“Many outsiders came to watch and it was interesting to see the dynamic between Trump supporters and other people that were there, as well as Trump’s divisiveness in his rhetoric and the responses he got from the crowd,” Moreland said. “It was a historical moment that most people don’t get to see, and it was especially interesting to witness the peaceful transition of power when Obama and Trump shook hands.”

In comparison to Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Moreland noticed differences in the energy of the crowd in 2017. Regardless of personal beliefs, Moreland noted that inhabitants of D.C. make it a habit to stay informed about the ever-changing political sphere.

“Any given day walking down the street you will hear people having intense conversations about Trump and his appointees,” Moreland said. “It’s all very up in the air still. Even though Trump has signed a lot of executive orders, most of these haven’t been actual policies, so not too much has happened yet.”

While he has had the opportunity to meet several members of Congress and attend fundraising events through his internship, D.C. was at first a culture shock to Moreland.

“D.C. is very professional all of the time and it’s a whole other level than in California,” Moreland said. “Everyone’s in a rush, it’s very fast-paced and everyone’s dressed very professionally and conversations are very professional.”

Moreland’s internship is about two blocks away from the Capitol Building, which allows him to go on Hill runs and check out different congressional buildings, all while bumping into congresspeople along the way. Shelby McMichael, a third-year communication and sociology major, has also appreciated D.C.’s diverse community while working at Active Minds, a mental health awareness nonprofit.

“There will be protests and things like that, but when you’re living here you have to be informed about politics because it’s usually a topic of conversation,” McMichael said. “I don’t think you can ever feel overwhelmed by the politics of the city because it’s such a liberal demographic and the people are friendly and kind.”

As the UCDC quarter comes to a close, students reflect on the knowledge they have gained from their experiences, in which they met motivated and hard-working individuals and pursued their political endeavors.

“Everyone here has their priorities together and knows what they want out of their career and lives, so it’s a really refreshing place to be,” McMichael said. “You walk around here and pass by all kinds of organizations and groups representing anything you can ever imagine, and it makes you want to do more and be a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Written by: Gillian Allen — features@theaggie.org