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It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through our 2020 summer project: Week 4! It feels like just yesterday we were finishing up our spring courses through Zoom and starting to get used to the concept of an “online” Duke Engage summer. But now, we’re right in the middle of our project, and boy have we accomplished a lot!

Upon closing up Week 4 in our community meeting, we reflected on all of our successes thus far. We’ve translated quite a few webpages, proofread documents, and even created our own Google Forms through the Foundation! It felt so rewarding to finally look back on our progress.

It was then that we realized that one of our projects was not quite as fruitful as we had hoped. We were getting there, but we started to understand how much was still left to be done.

This project was the biological reserves database that we have been working on since Week 1. Because it’s our star project of the summer, we fully expected it to take a long time. This project involved deciding on investigation parameters, researching private biological reserves around the globe, filling out an Excel sheet, and will culminate in a final written report with the goal of helping the Foundation figure out where to improve. We have been gathering information such as climate data, number of visitors, and annual financial reports. However, we realized that since we had split up the work between ourselves by geographic area, our information was all over the place. Basically, we need to standardize our data in order to run a proper quantitative analysis.

To deal with this, we agreed to a set of general criteria to look for in each category. This way, we could rank the most common characteristics of each biological reserve, making it easier to use the database as a point of comparison. By doing so, we could run a statistical analysis on concrete data instead of relying on intangible measurements.

What I learned from this is that I have a hard time getting used to change. As a creature of habit, I’m dead set on familiarity and routine. I was starting to get comfortable with the way we had been constructing our data, and when asked to change it, I struggled to adapt. I usually expect my first attempt to come out perfect, when in reality it usually takes a couple go-throughs and edits to finally get the desired results. Here, I acknowledge that I can grow in my flexibility and willingness to accept other perspectives that contradict my own.

Thus, this week has been about redefining our work and our attitudes. While realizing that we have accomplished a lot, we still have just as much ahead of us, and there is always room for improvement. We must be more flexible as we go back and correct our mistakes, while still looking forward to our main goals.