University of Texas-Pan American student Hugo P. Salazar Jr. is psyched he was invited to be a part of the University Presidential Inaugural Conference in Washington D.C.

At the conference next week, he will meet and interact with White House veterans, the press secretary, policy makers and political experts. He will also listen to keynote speakers like former Secretary of State Colin Powel, Eric Weihenmayer and former vice-president Al Gore.

But he never imagined that along with everything he was going to be a part of, he will be able to witness, firsthand the swearing of a new president. In just a few days, Salazar will be flying to Washington D.C. and participate in the pageantry and ceremony of the Inauguration of the President and Vice President.

The UPIC conference will take place from Jan. 17 through Jan 21.

The whole thing is part of the University Presidential Inaugural Conference (UPIC). I think I was chosen because Ive participated in these types of leadership programs before. During high school, I attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Houston, and during my first summer as a freshman at UTPA, I attended the International Scholar Laureate Program in Australia, which also focused on Medicine, he said.

Salazar said he is excited about networking with fellow inaugural scholars and is also excited about his first trip to Washington D.C. Ive never been to Washington, D.C. so Im very excited to be able to explore the city during our free afternoons. Im anxious to walk around the National Mall, to see the monuments and to visit the Smithsonian Museum.

Salazar said he had mixed feelings about attending at first, but was mostly excited. It was really a big gamble because I wasnt sure, at the time, whether or not the Democratic candidate would get elected, but then I just decided to do it because attending a presidential inauguration at all would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, he said.

The cost to attend the event is $2,870, which includes all housing, program materials, breakfasts and lunches. Salazar has been working as a student assistant in the Chemistry department and saving for the trip, but his parents and grandparents helped him with the remaining trip costs.

My grandparents and parents helped me pay for the trip as a Christmas gift, he said.

Salazar was told by UPIC that the group he will be with during the inauguration will be closer than the general public but not as close as the VIPs. They said we would be closer to 4th street which is closer than the general public will be.

Salazar said he is more of a science person then a political person but hopes to gain a better understanding of the political world with this trip. I am not really that in to politics, but I am hoping to have a better appreciation and understanding of it.

During his stay, he plans to visit different places in Washington D.C. Ive been looking at plenty of maps of the city and museums so that I can try to plan out some of my trip, he said. Im guessing itll be near freezing when Im there, and the Inauguration is outdoors on the steps of Congress, he said jokingly.

Salazar will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science from UTPA in the spring and in the fall will begin his medical studies at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). He plans to study general medicine and return to the Rio Grande Valley and practice in the area.