California Cardinals

Among the University’s undergraduate population, 60 students hail from the Golden State. In this summer series of profiles, we shine the spotlight on five students from the L.A. area to find what brought them nearly 3,000 miles from home, and how they are adapting to life on the East Coast.

 When a blizzard was headed toward Washington, D.C., during Elisa D’Egidio’s first year on campus, she bought a pair of snow boots and a winter coat. Back in L.A., her mom was following the dire weather report and quickly shipped a large care package. “We were snowed in and I made pasta for everyone on my floor,” she recalls.

D’Egidio’s grandparents and most of her aunts and uncles are Italian immigrants. “I have 50 first cousins, and we all live in the L.A. area. There’s nothing like Sunday dinner at my Nonna’s house.”

She was the first in her extended family to go to college on the East Coast. “It was not an easy separation,” she says. “I had about 250 people at my high school graduation party. There were a lot of tears. I remember going from table to table explaining why I was going so far away.”

It was her love of politics that pulled D’Egidio to Washington, D.C.

She plans to attend law school with the goal of working on mental health policy. She has had three Capitol Hill internships, including one with Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), who is founder and co-chair of the House Mental Health Caucus.

“I’ve met some American heroes like John Lewis and pioneers like Madeleine Albright. I worked for the D.C. Mayor’s office and met students from all over the country affected by gun violence at the March for Our Lives. I went to the White House Correspondents Dinner when Barack Obama was president, and I was at Paul Ryan’s swearing-in ceremony," D’Egidio says.

“The politics professors are incredible and have great connections,” she adds. “They took us to a White House briefing when we were studying media, and when we studied intelligence, the guest speaker was a former CIA director.”

One of the most striking differences she sees between the two coasts is in the people. “It’s always a nice day in California, so people are not in a hurry to get out of the cold. They are laid back, free-spirited, and willing to stop and enjoy the view. On the East Coast, people are more in a hurry, more driven, more inclined to multitask,” she says. “One’s not better than the other. I feel comfortable on either coast.”

The aspiring politicians D’Egidio has met during her college years in the nation’s capital make her hopeful for a bipartisan future. “I’m a Democrat from California. My best friend is an East Coast Republican. I’ve found it’s a lot easier to listen to opposing views when you are friends first.”