It is half past four in the afternoon, on Wednesday, August 11. I am sitting at the edge of a crowd of about one hundred, crammed into a conference room in Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. Out of my peripheral vision, I see the members of the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District, making decisions and discussing financial reports. This is the last possible scene that I could have expected to find myself in today, let alone a total of three times throughout the duration of this entire summer.
Moving through the final days of summer, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the change that has occurred in my life. I expected to spend summer break in peace, leisurely preparing for the impending transition I was to make as a transfer student Vanderbilt University. Instead, I was thrust into an internship, an assistantship and an ambassadorship, all wrapped into a single neat package called the CASIC Leadership Academy, where I was expected to not only survive through the chaos, but to prevail in spite of it.
To begin with, I learned that this internship lay in a whole different dimension than what I had perceived earlier. Upon arriving at Charlie’s Megatoys office and surveying the nine other interns on the very first Monday of the internship, I realized immediately that this was going to be an amazing bunch. I was not disappointed, as we grew closer as interns and even as friends throughout the duration of these eight weeks. Through the pandemonium of coordinating CAUSE events, such as the Women in Power luncheon, I was rudely awakened to the reality of the working world, as well as the staggering amount of commitment that it entailed.
Moreover, by being in a unique assistantship position with Trustee Tina Park of the Los Angeles Community College District, my eyes were opened to the issues constantly flowing in and out of the school district, unbeknownst to most students. I, too, had been ignorant of the finer details of district administration and leadership, as well as the dozens of issues regarding renovation, budget cuts, and other school-related matters. As a personal assistant to Trustee Park, I was offered experiences that my fellow interns did not have in their assigned fields.
I was allowed direct participation in the activities of Trustee Park as a member of the district board, as well as a Korean-American community leader and representative. I had the privilege of drafting two resolutions to be established within the entirety of the Los Angeles Community College District, one of which was passed today. I interacted with the press like never before as I handled calls from reporters, some of them coming from as far away as the Associated Press agency of South Korea. I had one-on-one discussions, conversations and critique sessions with Trustee Park, circumstances that other interns probably never got to have with their respective elected officials. Although this unique assistantship often overflowed my plate and added onto my stress levels, it was a priceless, life-impacting experience that I treasured ever so greatly.
Lastly, as an ambassador of CAUSE, CASIC and the API community as a whole, I learned how to stand up for myself on behalf of other individuals and causes. Wherever I went, I had to remind myself that every word I speak and every action I take will ultimately reflect back onto someone else in addition to myself. The after-hour events and the research project tested this challenge to its furthest level, as I constantly considered the quality of my professionalism and ability to relay onto others the message that I was a good representative of this city; of Trustee Park; of the Korean-American community; and of CAUSE and CASIC.
Yet, I learned that what made me a good ambassador was being firmer than ever in my values and beliefs. I realized that there is something very wrong with a picture of each and every person in the world being happy with my passions and interests. The internship taught me that I can’t live to please other people, and that there is a fine but definite line between service and slavery to the community. Although one of my core values is service before self, I had to prevent others from shaking my faith and shifting my interests elsewhere for the benefit of being liked and appreciated. Some will always be dissatisfied with my dreams, or have an incorrect expectation out of me, and I need to be okay with those negatives. This perspective made me constantly thankful for what I had, and grew in me a greater desire to better represent the community and organizations I belong to.
Ultimately, the trip to Sacramento was the culmination of these three elements that completed the CASIC Leadership Academy. On top of it, the visit to Sacramento was the epitome of it all. Through walking across the lawn of the Capitol, into the legislative floors and through the Legislative Office Building, I experienced internship, assistantship and ambassadorship coming together as one. As a result, Sacramento encompassed every single emotion that I felt throughout the entire duration of this 8-week internship experience. There were difficult moments, when I had to juggle the schedule at the Capitol with press calls that flooded my work phone. There were moments when I wanted to cry out of sheer frustration and sleep deprivation, and moments when I wanted to drop everything and go home. At the finishing leg of the trip, the three elements came together before my own eyes, and I was amazed by how much I had matured and grown resilient over the course of the past eight weeks.
Overall, my life changing experience at CASIC was made possible due to of my own efforts. CASIC was organized, coordinated, led and improved by dozens of amazing individuals in this society, but ultimately, it was up to me to make it a positive or a negative experience. Although obstacles swayed me and almost made CASIC a negative experience, I chose to overcome them and make the experience into one that catered to my own passions and interests. I can’t say that I was trying my one hundred percent best throughout every single waking moment of this internship, because there were moments when I mistakenly worked with the right attitude or mindset. Yet, I can definitely be confident in the fact that that I kept my eyes on a greater goal, a wider focus and a bigger picture, which allowed me to prevail despite the fact that the past eight weeks were some of the most challenging times I had ever encountered. I’m so thankful that I was offered this privilege of partaking in such an awesome internship, and that I was able to meet friends and mentors who permanently impacted my perspectives regarding this world.