By Flora Patel

I constantly tell others that “life starts at the end of your comfort zone,” to encourage them to step out of their safety zones and experience life. But I truly did not understand the meaning of this quote until I stepped foot into Delta Hall last January. I heard about the Washington Semester Program when I came to tour UGA my senior year of high school and I knew instantly that it was something I wanted to participate in. Since freshman year I patiently waited until I could finally apply to the program and then before I knew it, I was actually in Delta Hall starting the program. I was out of my comfort zone in a completely new city, away from my friends and family. I was living with 31 strangers for an entire semester and there was no turning back. Looking back on my semester in D.C., I cannot believe how life changing it was, in the span of just four months I had a new career path, new goals, and I had become a completely different person.

While in Washington D.C., I interned for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which is a non-profit that works to better the lives of the LGBTQ community in America. The HRC has over 30 galas every year all over America and I had the honor of helping put together all the supplies needed for the galas, working on the HRC Gala website to make sure it was up to date with current information, and tracking ticket revenue. Working in a high-pressure environment, where I had multiple tasks and assignments all the time taught me how to properly prioritize assignments and how to efficiently execute assignments in a timely manner.

This semester also really helped me enhance my professionalism. My cover letters and resume have significantly improved since being in D.C. and I feel as though I can communicate more efficiently now. I have had some interviews for positions for next year and going into them, I was more professional and confident than ever before. My listening and speaking skills have improved as well and I am really excited to bring these skills with me to my next job.

Working full-time, while also taking classes was definitely a challenge, but I loved every minute of it. My semester in D.C. pushed me into unknown territory and truly helped me grow as a person. I fell in love with the atmosphere and culture of this small city and I cannot wait to go back. This program helped me discover a better version of myself and it can do the same for you. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to end up in Washington D.C. later on in their career path. It is never too early to start making those useful connections!