‘Is This Even Worth It?’
Christine Castro’s recent experience during a competitive internship in Washington, D.C. might sound familiar:
-“I’ve been trying to figure out D.C. — the journey was hard.”
-“During a lot of late nights, I thought I might give up.”
-“I was frustrated at times.”
-“I thought: ‘Am I going to fail one of my classes?'”
-“I wondered: ‘Is this even worth it?'”
Earlier this year, Christine traveled from her home and university in California to be one of 20 Spring Congressional Interns hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
She has been working in the office of Representative Raul Ruiz (D-CA). The internship has been sponsored by Pearson.
Turns out, not only has Christine nearly completed a successful internship and learned a great deal about Washington—she calls it the “the center of the world”—she has also learned a great deal about the career she hopes to pursue.
A Unique View of Washington
In addition to their work in their respective congressional offices, students in the CHCI program participate in a variety of leadership training. Many sessions feature high-level policy and industry experts.
“I even got to shake Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s hand the other day,” Christine says. “Who gets to do that?”
“I’ve heard from so many people that this is one of the best internships on Capitol Hill—and they’re right.”
Changing Her Mind
“When I arrived, I thought I wanted to work in politics,” Christine says.
She says a lot of self-reflection started to change her mind.
“During my time on the Hill,” she says, “I kept thinking about all the people across the country who are affected by the policies made in this city.”
“That’s when advocacy and community outreach started to look like a future career path,” Christine says.
A Learning Experience
Christine is in her third year at the University California-Berkeley, majoring in ethnic studies.
“We’re thinking about the gaps in mainstream history,” she says. “Why are some groups given more attention in our national narrative than others?”
“We’re thinking about the gaps in mainstream history.
Why are some groups given more attention in our national narrative than others?”
“So I came [to D.C.],” Christine says, “somewhat prepared to learn everything I could outside the ‘Berkeley Bubble.'”
“Still, I told my dad, ‘Everyone here is so smart and I don’t know anything,” she says.
“He told me: ‘Just listen,'” Christine recalls. “That’s why you have two ears and just one mouth.”
Coming from ‘A Different World’
Christine’s father has been an educator all his life—despite nearly dropping out of high school in the 1960s.
Her mother graduated from high school in Paraguay, though she’s currently unemployed.
“My mom tells me I’m her biggest accomplishment,” Christine says. “She tells everybody that I’m an intern in Washington.”
“My mom tells me I’m her biggest accomplishment.
She tells everybody that I’m an intern in Washington.”
Her parents are no longer married—she lives with her mother and a pack of brothers.
“I’m a role model for them,” she says, “and my dad is so proud.”
“He realizes how lucky I’ve been with this opportunity,” Christine says.
The Most Important Lesson
Christine says she looks forward to returning to California this summer.
“I miss Mexican food,” she says with a grin, “and sunshine.”
Still, she says she’s grateful for how she’s changed during her time in Washington.
“I’m a much better listener,” Christine says. ” Especially with people who have different points of view.”
“I want to meet people outside my comfort zone,” she says. “I want to actually engage with people to understand how they’re thinking what they’re thinking.”
Christine says she even wants to be more open and honest with her friends back home.
“In Washington, every day was unexpected,” she says, “and so were the people.”
“I’ve learned that the only way to connect with people—is to be a listener.”