Less than a year ago I joined arms with over a hundred students and staff in a demonstration against graphic anti-choice imagery in Quad. You might have heard about it then, and if you’re on campus, you’re still probably hearing about it now.
Agree with what happened or not, those two days shifted my direction in life, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
During the weeks leading up to that protest I met countless women on campus who had accessed abortion care. Whether it was ten years ago or a month ago, women all around me had gone through this experience and were standing together against a display aimed at shaming and silencing them. The process of organizing the event, writing letters to school administrators, making picket signs, and working in solidarity with other feminists was intoxicating to me. I knew that from then on I wanted to use my education in political science to create change in policy and improve the lives of women at home and abroad.
Fast forward six months, and thanks to the University of Alberta’s Go Abroad Office and The Washington Center For Internships and Academic Seminars, I now pass the White House every morning on my way to work at NARAL Pro-Choice America, the oldest reproductive rights advocacy group in the United States.
Is this real life?
Interning at NARAL has been a dream come true so far. This week, for example, in response to the GOP’s push to defund Planned Parenthood, me and my colleagues at NARAL helped deliver petitions with over 2.4 million signatures in support of the health provider to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Everything I learned in the US Politics Class I took with Greg Anderson last year has proven quite handy since I arrived in DC.
Studying political science undoubtedly shaped the way I approach questions of power, self determination, and justice. To take what I’ve learned in my classes to the streets of Washington DC has been surreal. From studying in the Library of Congress, climbing the steps of the Supreme Court, and seeing the Capitol Building lit up in the distance on my walk home after a night at the bar — I’m still pinching myself on a daily basis.
This is the longest time I’ve ever been away from Edmonton. I’m going to be honest, after working so hard on the provincial election this spring and watching the NDP form government for the first time in my province’s history, it was hard to pack up my apartment and leave the only place I’ve ever known — even just for a semester. But here’s hoping that the skills I learn in the most powerful city on earth will help me become a more powerful agent of change at home.
I’m probably not the best person to ask for advice. Like most people in their final year of university, I have no idea what I’ll be doing or where in the world I’ll end up after graduation. But if I were to offer any wisdom to fellow political science students, I would tell you to not to be afraid of packing your bags for an adventure in a city far, far away. The education you are earning at the University of Alberta is world class. Take any opportunity to show it off.
My passion for political science took me to the front lines of the battle for reproductive justice in Washington DC. Where will yours take you?
Claire Edwards is a fourth-year Political Science student at the University of Alberta. She's spending her Fall 2015 semester in Washington, D.C. as a development intern at NARAL Pro-Choice America through the Washington Center for Internships & Academic Seminars.
The PSUA blog showcases the neat Political Science-related things University of Alberta students are up to, whether it's an interesting class, internship, job or exchange.
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