UCDC: The Younger Sibling of Study Abroad

Half of my love for UC San Diego comes from the numerous opportunities it offers for students to study elsewhere. I myself spent the summer of my sophomore year in Oxford, England and the fall of my junior year in Paris, France. After falling in love with my own experiences abroad, I jumped on the opportunity to work for the Study Abroad at UC San Diego Outreach Team for the 2015-2016 school year. My job was to make fellow students aware that they have the same options the same options, regardless of their field of study.

It’s fair to say that I’m a study abroad enthusiast. It’s my #1 piece of advice for all incoming first years, it’s my favorite thing to talk about, and now, because my degree audit says that two more classes will give me my degrees, I have made another attempt to study off-campus: UCDC. Or what I like to call, “Study Abroad’s Younger Sibling”. Haven’t heard of it? Well, do I have something to tell you…

UCDC gives UC students – from all campuses – the chance to spend a quarter/semester/summer studying in the nation’s capital, while obtaining UC credit. Repeat: THESE WILL APPLY FOR GPA AND GE/MAJOR REQUIREMENTS. That’s one beautiful thing that study abroad doesn’t always incorporate but  UCDC does. It’s also a fairly simple application process!

But here is the best part: the foundation of your studies is a 24-32 hour internship. Meaning, you’re using your time to get hands-on experience in the field of your choice. You can intern pretty much anywhere in the DC area, so there are endless opportunities for all sorts of work experience.

For me, I’m here during the home stretch of the 2016 election. I’m in the trenches, the battleground, the epicenter of politics while the biggest election of our lifetimes is happening. And I have the opportunity to intern for BBC: World News America while I’m here. For four days a week, I’m sitting in my first actual newsroom, learning about what it means to work in journalism.

I’ve only been in DC for three days so far, but here are the initial things I think anyone considering this program should be aware of:

  1. Goodbye Casual: People here take themselves seriously. Even casual leans toward business casual. Be ready to stick out a bit if you decide to dress down during your free time. Don’t take this as an attempt to scare you; it’s just to prepare you for what you should consider when packing.
  2. Not Everyone is Olivia Pope: Except your bosses. And your professors. And that person in line in front of you at the coffee shop. And some of your classmates. I’m kidding. But seriously, this city can be intimidating when you know that there are world leaders and policy makers hanging out all over the place. So just take a deep breath and keep doing your own thing.
  3. Art Lovers Beware: There is some amazing culture in DC – I mean, monument after monument and Smithsonians all over the place… But it’s not as colorful as San Diego. And Californians stick out. Art is in our nature, our blood, so it’s a bit weird coming to a place where it’s history instead running through its veins. If you want to find the same kind of art scene, you’re gonna have to search.
  4. You’re Not Near Mexico Anymore: Just don’t eat the Mexican food. It’ll have you calling Vallarta’s “authentic”. Not to say it’s bad — It’s just nowhere near as good as what you’ll find in San Diego. You’ve been warned.
  5. Watch the Weather: The weather app on your phone is hardly ever correct. It told me it was partly sunny today, and I walked out to meet rain. HEAVY. RAIN. So please, you’re on the East Coast in a swamp. Just follow your gut here.

Anyways, as I continue to savor this experience  I hope to give you all an idea of what it looks like to study in a world very far away from beautiful, sunny San Diego. I’ll be trying to keep you updated with both my random life experiences and how this election is looking to the people here in DC. It’s gonna be a wild ride.

Cecily Swason is a Student Life writer for The Triton.