By Molly Risk
This past summer, I traveled to to American University, located in Washington, DC, to attend a leadership conference. It was the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) program for Political Action and Public Policy. I had signed up for this program months in advance, yet as the date approached, I was really beginning to worry. Would I like the people? Would they like me? Would I enjoy the leadership seminars? But more importantly, would I enjoy learning and engaging in politics for a whole week? I was worried because politics is a field that I am vastly interested in, and I was terrified that I would come out of this experience hating every single second of it. Then what would I do? Luckily, quite the opposite happened.
I have always had a passion for politics, and this camp had lingered in my mind all year as I had been transfixed by the whole process of politics, both locally and nationally. Washington, DC intrigued me, as well, and I couldn’t wait to go. When I arrived, everyone was diverse in many different of ways. Race, political background, socio-economic background, geographical background, etc. It was something I was not necessarily accustomed to, and it was intimidating. Despite everyone being so different, we all had one thing in common; our passion for politics and the political process.
I was still extremely nervous, yet excited at the same time. However, after the first few ice breakers and awkward meet and greets, I came to the realization that everyone was in the same nervous/excited stage as I. Throughout the camp, we conducted a Senate simulation and a presidential election simulation. We attended lectures with some of the most prestigous figures in the political world, including the sitting Secretary of Defense Jeh Johnson, as well as the Co-chair of the Republican National Committee, Sharon Day. We engaged in leadership activities, toured the city and bonded over everyone’s strong passion for politics and the political world. It reassured me that not only do I love politics, but that it is something I would like to pursue some aspect of for my future career. I also met incredible people whom I have the utmost respect for, and people whom I know I will have lifelong connections with.
We all engaged in some unique and amazing activities, and came to understand what politics really are and how it is all supposed to work. Politics are mostly about compromise, especially when the room is full of completely diverse opinions and views. For me, NSLC was a growing experience as much as it was a camp. I learned how to engage in conversations that stimulated intellectual political thought and provoked different views that were not condescending, or intolerant, to one side or the other. Of course DC was hot with news and talk about the presidential election, which in turn sparked lively conversations from people who liked and disliked various candidates.
NSLC was an incredible summer experience. I took away a stronger passion for politics, life-long friendships, and new insights on politics and the political realm. Although I felt that I had a pretty decent way of perceiving different views of politics before the camp, I realized that people will always have different beliefs than you and it is all about political compromise. I realized that people have strong beliefs (liberal, conservative, or anywhere in between) and in the political world of trying to accomplish things in government, everything must start and end in a compromise. NSLC was one of my favorite camps I have ever attended, and I am beyond grateful to have spent nine days doing some of the coolest things. Despite all of our political differences, we became a tight-knit group of kids and still talk today. This camp was by far the best take away from my summer ’16, and I cannot wait to see what this new path leads me to.