Melany Lopez: "My experience in D.C. was transformative, offering valuable insights into both myself and my career."

February 12, 2024

Each fall and spring, a cohort of UC juniors and seniors embark on an academic journey to the epicenter of American politics and culture: Washington, D.C. The UCDC program provides students from all majors with the unique opportunity to study and learn in the nation's capital, where they engage in internships, research endeavors, and academic coursework.

Just six blocks away from the iconic White House, the UC Washington Center serves as both a living space and an academic hub for participating students. Here, amidst the vibrant energy of D.C., students are enabled to explore future career paths, get on-the-ground work experience, and build professional networks. Students are selected based on academic excellence, professional maturity, and demonstrated interest in a particular area.

Below, Melany Lopez shares her experience as an alumna of the UCDC Program. Melany is a third-year Media Studies student focusing on law and policy. She participated in UCDC in fall 2023.

More information about the UCDC program is available on the Office of Undergraduate Research & Scholarships website. The Fall 2024 application deadline is Thursday, February 22, 2024. 

Woman stands in front of U.S. Capitol buildingWhy did you choose to participate in UCDC?

Melany Lopez: Funny story - I found myself genuinely craving a change of scenery from UC Berkeley's campus, and that's when the prospect of UCDC struck me as an exciting opportunity. Not only did it promise a chance to delve into uncharted territories, but it also opened doors for exploring potential career paths and personal interests!

Tell us about your work and experience while participating in UCDC.

As a Press Intern for Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-25), I enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to immerse myself in the influential world of Congress, witnessing firsthand the significant work that unfolds within its hallowed halls. As a Latina in D.C., I ardently advocated for the promotion of racial equity and the expansion of access to opportunities. My aim was to deepen my comprehension of these vital areas, equipped with knowledge that would empower me to make substantial contributions to the progress of California's 25th district. 

What was it like living in Washington, D.C.? Were you able to find a community and/or make connections with other students?

Living in D.C. was an absolute blast! From cheering at baseball games to exploring captivating museums, cozying up in coffee shops, and savoring delicious meals at restaurants - the city offered a plethora of experiences. What made it even more enjoyable was the vibrant community always ready for new adventures. Building a strong bond with my roommate and suitemates added an extra layer of joy to my time in the city!

Is there a particular moment or event that was especially surprising or memorable to you?

Among the multitude of memorable moments, engaging in one-on-one discussions with the congressman and being part of his interviews were truly gratifying experiences for me. 

What skills and abilities have you developed as a result of your experience?

I take pride in having maintained a commendable work-life balance during my time in D.C. Despite the many enticing activities, I relished exploring new experiences while ensuring that my schedule remained dynamic yet well-balanced. Juggling a busy agenda, I consistently prioritized excelling in my internship, academic endeavors, and personal life. This dedication not only made my experience thoroughly rewarding but also heightened my enjoyment of this unique chapter. 

How did the experience in UCDC contribute to your life?

While my time in D.C. was truly wonderful, it was my internship that provided me with a profound realization of the specific career path I wanted to pursue. As mentioned earlier, my experience in D.C. was transformative, offering valuable insights into both myself and my career interests. 

What advice would you give to a student interested in the UCDC program? 

While navigating my journey in D.C., I encountered a few challenges, but I embraced them as opportunities for growth. Instead of dwelling on setbacks, I actively sought out experiences that could counter any negative emotions. With the abundance of activities and places to explore in D.C., I made it a point to seize every opportunity to venture out and immerse myself in something new. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share with Berkeley students?

I had an immensely enjoyable time during my stay in D.C., and I'm actually looking forward to returning this summer. If anyone has questions or concerns about the UCDC program or interning in D.C., I'd be more than happy to share and discuss my experiences in greater detail. 

To be connected with Melany or another UCDC Student Ambassador, email Mary Crabb, UCDC Program Advisor:

Woman standing in front of Capitol building in a magenta blazer and black top

Melany Lopez, U.S. Capitol in the background

As a Latina in D.C., I ardently advocated for the promotion of racial equity and the expansion of access to opportunities.
Melany Lopez
Two people stand next to each other with a plaque in between (Dr. Raul Ruiz and Melany Lopez)

Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-25) and Melany Lopez

Four young adults take a selfie

Melany and friends in Washington, D.C.