Andrea Acosta joined POGO in June 2012 as an intern. Originally from Houston, TX, Andrea is double majoring in English and philosophy at Stanford, where she writes for the Unofficial Stanford Blog and volunteers at after-school programs. While at POGO, she’s contributed to research on defense sequestration, attended Congressional hearings, and assisted with POGO’s good government project. The Watercooler sat down with Andrea to discuss human rights, public policy, and falling in love with the English countryside.
AA: I ended up taking human rights classes at Stanford. Human rights aren’t exactly what POGO focuses on, but it got me interested in policy. I was just wanting to learn about the mechanics of everything. I don’t think you necessarily have to be majoring in political science in order to work at or be interested in things that POGO does, because as a citizen of the United States, I think it’s so important that you learn the difficulties of getting a policy through, the process it has to go through, things like that. POGO for me was an opportunity to really learn about public policy and be introduced into the D.C. world and how things work here.
Watercooler: If you had to sum up your experience at POGO in three words, what words would you use?
AA: Educational, because I have learned so much about the policy process here and about good government and accountability—things that were just kind of vague words before I came and now I see as achievable things.
Hilarious. I love all the interns that I work with. I feel like my POGO experience would have been really different without them.
And inspirational, in the sense that POGO has inspired me to continue looking into policy issues and maybe work in nonprofits after college. And just teaching people about what I’ve learned here—how to be a citizen and be in the know about your government—is something that I feel compelled to carry on.
Watercooler: Since you spend most of your time in very hot places, what’s your relationship with snow like?
Andrea Acosta: It’s a very estranged relationship. I have seen snow maybe twice in my life. The first time was when I was really young. I went to Oregon and saw it for like a day. It was really crappy snow; it was frozen and hard. And then our freshman dorms at Stanford do a ski trip every year, so that was my second encounter with the strange, foreign substance.
Watercooler: What one thing you’ve read has influenced you the most?
AA: The content of something influencing me? I would have to say probably Emerson’s essay on self-reliance. It’s this idea that Shakespeare didn’t study Shakespeare to become who he was—the idea that you trust your intuition and trust your own passion about things and really act on those. … Being an English major, there’s a ton of people that’ll say, “Oh, that’s really economically unstable. You need to go into something that’s more of a job-market friendly major.” But I just have this huge passion for English and philosophy and literature, so I want to follow that and see where that leads me vs. taking the safer route. But in terms of a work that’s inspired me because of the process of learning about it: The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. I read that over summer reading before my sophomore year of high school, and I didn’t like it, but then my teacher just blew my mind with it. Reading that book and learning about it … is what made me really want to be an English major.
Watercooler: We hear you’re kind of obsessed with England. How did that fascination come about?
AA: I have a huge romance with England. It started before my senior year of high school. I went on this program called the Cambridge College Program; it’s just one of those high school summer programs where they take American kids and throw them in England for three weeks. It was literally the best three weeks of my life. I took three classes at Cambridge and we went to London a bunch of times, and that was when I first fell in love with it. For my graduation present, my aunt decided to take me on a road trip hostel-hopping, starting in the south of England and going all the way up to Scotland. … I’m just in love with the atmosphere and history of it, and I have so many good memories there, and I’m dying to go back. I’m hoping I get to go back next year for study abroad at Oxford. And the Olympics is just perfect right now, because it’s in London, and I’m dying of joy.