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WLP 2022 in Reflection: Moments That Felt Like a Lifetime

An exciting summer that felt like a lifetime has ultimately come to an end. For someone who was unsure about doing WLP, I would have laughed if you had told me that I would feel such a connection to a group of people I knew nothing about before. With almost a month having passed since the end of the program, I walk away with two lessons, the first being a stronger connection to my culture, and the second being a strong desire to come back to D.C.

Throughout the experience, I had always seen my fellow Indian and Pakistani descent cohort members talk about how powerful it was to hear someone who was from their hometowns ethnically. I never truly resonated with that till our cohort met with Rohini Kosoglu at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Rohini Kosoglu was the former Chief of Staff to then-Senator Harris and serves currently as the Vice President’s Domestic Policy Advisor and Deputy Advisor to the President. As a Sri Lankan, this was extremely inspiring to see the highest-serving ethnically Sri Lankan individual in government. The most powerful moment of this interaction was my parents' reaction when I told them about how I had the opportunity to meet her. Knowing about Sri Lankans younger than them are leaving a mark on the country they now call home inspired them as well.

Our cohort meeting with Rohini Kosoglu

Not only did the program speakers deepen my connection to the South Asian American community, but so did my experiences with our cohort. We made sure to have plenty of fun, like hosting a pink birthday party for Kathir and Rhea and climbing the Georgetown dorm roofs to get the best view possible, though we also took the time to learn about each other and our backgrounds. I will fully admit my knowledge of Bollywood is still non-existent after this summer. At least now I can say that I know a couple more songs! In a time when society feels so divided and people highlight differences, we took the time to find the similarities in each other and appreciate each other's cultures and communities through sharing our own.

Celebrating Kathir and Rhea's Birthday

On one of our last nights in D.C., we took the time to visit the U.S. Capitol Building as a cohort. As I walked around the Capitol grounds, it really struck me that this is the city I want to be in. It is a city with people that have life stories just as interesting as the Smithsonians. In addition, the culture and energy of the city feel as if anything truly is possible in America. As someone who has engaged in other internships stuck in meetings and behind a computer screen, I realized quickly that I hated that. I would much rather be in a career where I can actively talk with people and work with them. In D.C., building relationships is important, and this summer has shown me that those relationships can last a lifetime.

Nightime exploration of the U.S. Capitol Grounds

Honestly, adjusting back to school has been a little bit difficult. Life feels like it has slowed down a lot. For some reason, it still hasn’t hit me that our WLP summer is over. Though when something like this happens, there is no real goodbye. Goodbye signifies a sense of finality like the ending of a book. Yet like any good book, the 2022 WLP Cohort sequel is already being written.


Jaliya Nagahawatte

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