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Today was my last day working at A21. As I get ready to board my flight back to Durham tomorrow, I have been thinking a lot about what I will take away from this summer. DukeEngage’s motto is “Challenge Yourself, Change Your World,” and in many ways, I accomplished both of these this summer.

Before this summer, I had never been West of the Mississippi River, and I naively thought that my experience of culture in the American South would be the same as that of the West Coast. However, the first few weeks that I spent in Orange County, I found myself in rather unfamiliar territory. While Orange County was similar to what I was used to in many ways, it was also remarkably different at times. Adapting to this new environment over the first few weeks that I was here was challenging, but it also allowed me to better understand the region that I grew up in, as well as the West Coast. Additionally, it was rather challenging for me to get used to working in an office where I was one of the only men, and I wrote about the impact this had on me in an earlier blog post.

By far the biggest way that my perspective was challenged and changed was from the work that A21 does. Learning more about human trafficking this summer, I have come to understand just how far reaching an issue it is and how many different industries it affects. One of the biggest challenges for me with this is figuring out how to continue to actively work towards ending human trafficking once I leave A21. Since I’ve been working at an anti-trafficking organization this summer, its been quite easy to be assured that I have worked towards making an impact to end human trafficking, but as I get ready to return to Duke, I’ve realized that combating human trafficking will require much more of an active participation from me. One of the simplest things I can do is to continue to be aware of what companies produce their goods through the use of labor trafficking. This list is unfortunately much larger than many would expect, but choosing not to purchase their products is an easy way for me to consciously choose not to be complicit in the continuation of human trafficking. While I am still trying to figure out more ways to continue combating trafficking back at Duke, I am certain that this desire to see and end to human trafficking will be one of my biggest takeaways from this summer, and one that has truly challenged me and changed the way I see the world.