Since I was about 13 years old, I have had a pretty clear idea that I wanted to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology. However, after learning about the United States government and our nation’s history in school, and discussing politics with my dad, I wondered if political science would be a better path for me than psychology. Eventually, I decided to forgo my plans to attend a state school in the Pacific Northwest and instead study political science in Washington, D.C.

I committed to my school on a whim after hearing a speech by the Assistant Dean of the School of Public Affairs. He said that the university is one of the best institutions to study political science, and that was enough to convince me to enroll. So far, I’ve taken courses on everything from activism to comparative politics to American government. During this time, I have also met many students who share my interests and passions.

But I am not writing this to talk about the friends I’ve made or my own personal journey. Rather, I want others to understand how being a student at an incredibly politically active college—and living in the U.S. capital—has altered my views and how I approach my politics, my studies, and my future goals. 

Upon committing to my university, I became excited about the many opportunities available to me on and off campus. I began regularly attending political events, from walkouts to social media campaigns. Last November, I attended a viewing of the 2022 midterm elections, and when I returned to my dorm room, there was another watch party on my floor. This is a rare occurrence at most universities in the United States.

While there is a lot of political activity on my campus, participating in this activism also opened my eyes to the unsavory side of politics. Previously, I naively believed that politicians always have our best interests in mind and approach issues with empathy and understanding. I quickly realized that most media representations of politicians—that they’re self-serving while leaving their own voters behind—are quite accurate. Though somebody has to do it, the ambition it takes to become a politician can corrupt the mind. I have come to understand that there are two types of people who enter politics: those striving for power and those who care about the future. I see both in my classes. 

There are, of course, days when I am reminded why I am pursuing this major and living in D.C. While there is always something negative happening within the political arena, there is also always a bubble of optimism waiting around every corner. An example of this is when I attend the Anti-Defamation League’s “Concert Against Hate,” an event dedicated to both understanding the current social issues in the United States while honoring and celebrating the work of those in marginalized communities across the country.

Whenever the stress of the current political atmosphere bubbles to the surface, remind yourself of all the progress that has been made to motivate you to keep going. There are always moments of stress and feelings of pessimism that will sneak up on you when being around politics. However, there also will always be a moment to celebrate what you have accomplished. 

Being a fellow for the Jewish Center for Justice has taught me this: while the fight for justice never ceases, acknowledging your accomplishments helps boost productivity and affirm personal well-being.

Sophie Koz is a JCJ Summer Legislative Fellow. She is from Bellevue, Washington, and attends American University in Washington, D.C.