The Ultimate Senior Send: Going To Washington D.C. During Week 9

When I accepted the offer to travel to Washington, DC to attend an American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) Annual Conference, through UCLA’s Hillel, I definitely had to make a fast choice: stay home to complete essays and study for finals, or go. I had never been to Washington, DC, and had always wanted to travel there.  I knew if I went, it would be a fantastic opportunity, but I knew I would have to skip some classes. I then remembered it has been my mission to take advantage of every opportunity I get at UCLA, so I had to go. I was very excited to attend because I had never been to any national politically-oriented event before, other than two Bernie rallies I had attended here in California. And as someone who was not able to study abroad in junior year, this was my ultimate Senior Send.

AIPAC

AIPAC is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States. I also admit, before joining Hillel last year, I never really engaged with Israel, though I have definitely had, and continue to have, concerns about Israeli policies towards Palestinians. Since joining Hillel, I have wanted to learn more about Middle East politics and American foreign policy; and, with this invitation, what better way to learn than meeting major political leaders--even ones I don’t agree with, at a conference in Washington, DC?

me in DC

As I read the conference schedule, I learned there would be breakout sessions with panels regarding subjects which interested me, such as film and television production in Israel, which films and shows are globally marketed, and subjects which seemed daunting, such as a panel on America’s Middle Eastern policy (After attending that panel, I went back and researched where the speakers were right and wrong about facts or conclusions being asserted). Also, as someone interested in writing screenplays that concern human relations above all else, I was absolutely fascinated to observe and hear different perspectives from the speakers, and especially other delegates and students who attended though UCLA-Hillel. 

me in dc

I arrived with others two days before the conference to travel in and around Washington DC. I went to the Smithsonian and National Gallery, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial. It was truly inspiring and amazing to me to see places I had only seen in photographs. To be in the Lincoln Memorial at night was a magical sensory experience that allowed me to feel American History in a way I never felt before. My favorite foodie spot was Busboys and Poets, which is half a restaurant and half a bookstore, where I had the best panini I ever had along with scrumptious sweet potato fries. I really would love to go back to DC and experience the city more. 

me in dc

At the conference, and in between, I met and befriended many new people with far different political opinions from mine--one Hillel attendee joked I may have been the only Bernie Sanders supporter there--which can unusual in a time when our toxic politics and culture have strained personal relationships. I have thanked BIPAC’s Board and Hillel for allowing me to participate in the conference, which this increasingly politically active writer deeply appreciated.  It was definitely worth the stress of missing classes for my Senior Send to DC.