Emile “Em” Vasquez Mejia ’24 spent the fall 2023 semester living and learning in Washington, D.C., through Hamilton’s D.C. Program. The anthropology major and Posse Scholar shares here some of her favorite experiences and what she learned about city life, herself, and her future.

Em Vasquez Mejia ’24 Hometown: Miami
High School: Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy
Emile (Em) Vasquez Mejia ’24
As a first-generation DACA student, going to college was something that seemed nearly impossible for me. Even though I got good grades and helped members of my community – mainly fellow DACA recipients – my legal status and my family’s financial circumstances felt like obstacles to my future.

Thanks to my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Milian, who believed in me and Posse for seeing my potential, I got a call during my senior year from Hamilton to “get [my] snow boots ready!”

During my freshman year at Hamilton, I took Principles of Anthropology, which sparked my interest in ethnography and how various cultural traditions have changed throughout history, including immigration culture in the United States. As senior year loomed, I imagined pursuing a career as an immigration lawyer since the U.S. Immigration policy impacts me, my friends, and my family. I wanted to help individuals who may feel like they have no future, especially because of their legal status in this country. I applied for the D.C. Program so I could live in the nation’s capital for three months and find out if this was what I wanted to do.

Jump to: Life in D.C. | Exploring the Capital | My Classes, Research & Internship | Hamilton in D.C.

Hamilton in D.C.

It can sometimes feel like there are exclusive social circles on campus, but Hamilton’s alumni community — the “Hamily” — I experienced in D.C. is welcoming and strong, which made me feel safe and hopeful. There were several events throughout the semester where we got to connect with alumni from the area.

As a senior, it is a bit overwhelming to know that I will graduate soon and my whole life is going to change. I felt a sense of relief every time a Hamilton alum would tell me, “You are okay, you do not need to stay at the first job that you get” or “Don’t worry, I changed my career midway through my master’s.” These words of encouragement made me feel like there was a safety net that I could fall back on even after graduation.

When I went to D.C., I hoped the experience would reaffirm my plan to become an immigration lawyer. Instead, I learned that path may not be what’s best for me right now. Being part of this program gave me the reassurance that I will be okay. Not only do I have the opportunity to uncover the infinite possibilities that could be my career, but there is a big Hamilton alumni community that will support me along the way.

“The Hamily I experienced in D.C. is strong. [Their] words of encouragement made me feel like there was a safety net that I could fall back on even after graduation. [They] made me feel proud to be a Continental.”

**Note: In April 2023, Hamilton became the first liberal arts college to partner with the Bipartisan Policy Center. The collaboration, which connects Hamilton’s widely acclaimed Common Ground program and BPC’s University Partnership Program, is designed to help develop the next generation of independent thinkers and engaged citizens. Em is Hamilton’s inaugural BPC intern since the partnership was established.

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