OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci.
Almost three weeks ago, nearly halfway through my time as a Victory Congressional Intern, I tested positive for COVID-19. This experience happened around the two year mark of the beginning of this pandemic which has impacted the lives of every American in some way. Although I was still able to participate virtually in both the internship programming as well as continue to work for Representative Jamaal Bowman’s office , I had to remain in my room in isolation for over a week which gave me ample time to reflect on my history and what I would like to do in the future.
I was born in Bucharest, Romania and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. I was brought up in awareness of the brutality of the totalitarian regimes that were in power across Eastern Europe during my parents’ early years that silenced, imprisoned, or killed those daring to oppose. As a child, I was deeply affected by my parents’ stories about the horrors of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s dictatorship in Romania, including numerous forms of oppression on the population, violations of human rights, the lack of access to journalistic professions for anyone who was not in the repressive political apparatus, and the lack of freedom of the press.
As someone who grew up with knowledge of totalitarian regimes, I understand how lucky I am to live in a country such as the United States where journalists have been, for the most part, allowed to function and express their ideas without significant repercussions or fear of government intervention. Yet I have also been encouraged by my parents to understand that democracy is a work in progress. Democracy still functions better for some than for others and can perish if not continuously protected. As someone who is not only an immigrant, but also a member of the LGBTQ community, I have also been made aware of the struggles that members of my community have faced in the past and continue to face today, as well as the achievements that have been made towards equality.
All of these developments in my life are reasons why I have become interested in coursework, extracurricular activities, and community engagements with a focus on social, economic, and environmental justice. These are also reasons why I have decided to study for a future career enabling me to collaborate towards public policy and public discourse changes to help improve people’s lives and livelihoods. I have become interested in hopefully becoming an investigative journalist or working in government one day, focusing on reporting and sharing the stories of marginalized communities and helping such communities in other ways.
Even despite having COVID-19 during the internship program, I was still able to persevere and make the best out of the situation. My time in isolation gave me the space I needed to reflect on my goals and future, but also the lessons I have learned through Victory and the wonderful opportunities I have had to meet people who have accomplished the very goals I one day hope to achieve. Through our professional development workshops, I have been able to meet Berkeley Commissioner James Chang, Stephanie Medina, and Ryan Schaefer, all individuals who are openly LGBTQ in their government or campaign work, in addition to learning about grassroots organizing with Ryan Wilson of the Human Rights Campaign.
Although I am currently only a 19-year-old sophomore in college, I am able to realize that I am already making strides towards achieving my goals. I have always believed that representation matters and being an intern for Rep. Bowman’s office and seeing my fellow interns be matched into other Congressional offices has reminded me that I deserve to be in such spaces of impact. Though it can be quite easy to be discouraged by an end-goal or career seeming so far away, the experiences that I have had as a Victory intern have reminded me that progress is not linear. It takes time to accomplish goals, persevere through difficult situations, and make history.