Now that our third week in Washington is wrapping up, I have achieved some semblance of a morning routine. The alarm goes off right before 8. Living in Foggy Bottom makes it possible to sleep in a bit more than some of my intern friends can, and it is a blessing I can’t stop being grateful for. I let myself stay in bed for a couple of minutes, scrolling through Politico and Twitter. Finally, I stretch, before stumbling out of my warm bed and greeting my roommate, a kind aspiring teacher from the great state of New York. Growing up in a small town in Massachusetts, and attending university in another small town in Connecticut, living in busy Washington is different from anything I’ve ever experienced. It is exciting to be where everything is ... happening. As one of my good friends from UConn puts it, Washington feels like drinking coffee without actually drinking coffee. (This romantic notion succumbs to the reality of the work week around 3 pm, when the HHS cafeteria coffee calls my name alluringly.)
Class of 2018 meeting with WLP Alums Anita Banerji, Probir Mehta, and Anitha Ibrahim
This past week, we had the chance to talk to Mrs. Mona Mohib of McGuireWoods LLC and Dr. Ravi Chaudhary of the Federal Aviation Administration about their experiences in public service and achieving a work-life balance. Dr. Chaudhary, amongst many other anecdotes, talked about establishing the first Hindu chaplain service at the Pentagon, and consequently introducing the First Lady at the White House’s Diwali event. As a practicing Hindu, being able to hear about Dr. Chaudhary’s story was extremely inspiring and reassuring for many reasons. I was deeply inspired by him because he was able to not only practice his Hindu values and lead by them, but also be accepted and celebrated for them. To hear about such a beautiful instance of diversity and acceptance in the federal government was also deeply moving to me. Mrs. Mohib also offered several wonderful pieces of advice for approaching a career in public service during the unsure years following graduation, which I deeply appreciated as a rising senior. I was really grateful to WLP for organizing this event, because I received a lot of guidance that I had been looking for but didn’t know where to receive from.
Zoha, Vineet, and I at a congressional hearing on healthcare costs at the Dirksen Senate Building
Midway through the week, we were also able to attend the APIA Vote Congressional Reception, where we were able to hear from several AAPI congress members including Rep. Ami Bera and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and network with a room full of AAPI interns working on the Hill. I really enjoyed this experience, because I had never seen so many other AAPI people working in government in one place. Finally, later in the week, we were also able to meet three wonderful WLP alumni: Anita Banerji (96), Probir Mehta (95), and Anitha Ibrahim (01). They all really represented how wonderful, accomplished, and warm the WLP community is.
It is hard to believe how much I have been growing and learning in this city, amongst this cohort of WLP scholars, absorbing the energy of working in federal government. It is hard to fully process the feeling of simultaneous gratitude and awe, especially as I walk towards my workplace, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I came to Washington with the goal of learning how the federal government accounts for the most disadvantaged patients with the least access to healthcare, and being able to do that through my internship due to the generous support of WLP has been so fulfilling. It has been incredible to learn from so many amazing, humble civil servants and realize that as amazing as the views of Washington are, the real magic of this town is the hard work and dedication of the thousands of passionate people who keep this nation running.
Akshayaa K. Chittibabu
University of Connecticut