As cliché as it may sound, I really did have the time of my life. There is something very homely about OC that is unmatched in many other places I have been (even my actual home in many ways). I don't think anything quite compares to the feeling of driving across California, Fleetwood Mac turned up loud, surrounded by friends and loved ones (and it’s a good job I enjoyed it so much because there was a lot of driving and a lot of Fleetwood Mac). It is hard to pinpoint my favourite part of the trip because every day was jam-packed with exciting memories! I feel incredibly lucky to have witnessed several things in the US:
Working on the Katie Porter for Congress campaign was especially eye-opening. Not only did I get the chance to meet and work alongside other volunteers from the UK and Ireland who were in the US with the same goal of making change, but I also got to witness the inner workings of the campaign team on a daily basis. The 12 of us met some wonderful individuals through the Katie Porter for Congress campaign, including Betty Valencia, who ran for Orange City Council, and Micheal Wright who works closely with the Human Rights Campaign. Wright inspired us all to continue to grow and learn as young politicians, and made us more acutely aware of the issues the USA is facing and the steps being taken to overcome these.
Spending Halloween in California was an experience. I carved a pumpkin for the first time (I know, shameful that it took so long) and attended the Knotts Scary Farm event which was super fun! My only regret is not eating more candy to celebrate the occasion
Being in the United States for election day really was something else. The atmosphere was electric and there was a real sense of urgency during the day as we canvassed our last few doors: almost as if we knew all our hard work and dedication over the last few weeks could be for nothing if we didn't knock as many doors as possible in those final hours of November 6th. (SIDE NOTE- I am over the moon that Katie Porter went on to win her race and is killing it as Congresswomen in the House of Representatives!)
Like many things in life, the experiences you have really are shaped by the people around you and this is most definitely true of the bunch of people I met in CA, who I can now call friends. We have a Whatsapp group where we keep each other updated on all the hot-political gossip, and we had a big reunion in Dublin in January 2019, and I even got to meet one of my friends/fellow campaigners in Montreal in Canada (as I was living in Ontario and he in Quebec at the time) in November of 2019 to catch up and have a few drinks to celebrate my engagement. The 12 of us, though all interested in US politics, offered diverse personalities and interests. I owe the amazing time I had to each and every person I met in Orange County.
This experience allowed me to develop new skills, gain insight into a US political campaign, travel across California, make new friends, and try great food, but by far the biggest highlight was meeting my fiancée. After developing a bond whilst working on the campaign trail together, Shannon and I continued our relationship when the trip ended and travelled between our homes (Belfast and Dudley) to see one another for a year, before moving to study/work and live together in Canada in 2019 where we got engaged. Since then, we have lived together in England and will soon be celebrating our 3 year anniversary.
Conclusion paragraph : For all the reasons above, I would say to grab the opportunity to volunteer in the US Midterm/Presidential/Local elections with both hands. There is an amazing experience right there waiting for you.