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For my last blog post of the summer, I’m going to talk about the expectations and realities of my time at DukeEngage-Miami: what this summer was and wasn’t.

For starters, this was a really great summer. The highlight was the work I got to do with Legal Services of Greater Miami, making a real difference in the lives of mobile home park owners all around Miami. I gained invaluable experience working with legal documents and research, at least 3 years before I would be able to do this kind of work as a post-first-year law student.

On the other hand, our group of 3 Duke interns in the workplace has been a bit distant from the rest of the employees because of our unique role. With the exception of a few small projects, we work only for our supervisor, which has limited our interaction/networking with other attorneys and clerks in the office.

It’s also foolish to assume that all coworkers always get along. Working closely with the other 2 Duke interns was generally fine, but it wasn’t always glorious cooperation. Spending 8+ hours each day with each other inevitably leads to some tension and disagreement. We were a really well-respected team in the office, but it wasn’t always a smooth ride.

This summer was a great opportunity to get to know an unfamiliar place. As my first time living in a city, it was a chance to navigate public transportation and explore an urban environment. The LSGM interns were able to travel around the county even more than the others, and my navigation skills have improved immensely.

For all of the opportunities I have seized while living here in Miami, there are many that I didn’t take advantage of. Our cohort was not particularly keen on going out and exploring (and I don’t really blame them because it’s always 90+ degrees outside). I watched an absurd amount of Netflix, but I didn’t really get to adventure around the concrete jungle as much as I would have liked. We also didn’t really get to know any of the other students or groups staying in our dorm here over the summer.

All in all, DukeEngage was an amazing experience. But it’s not necessarily the perfectly-polished summer adventure you might see on people’s Instagrams. Nobody’s really sure whether it’s supposed to be more about you or about the work you’re doing, but you can find some important lessons in both of those things. It won’t always be easy. Sometimes you’ll sweat so much that you don’t remember the original color of your shirt. But other times, you get to reassure people that they will get to continue living in their homes and won’t be forced into homelessness.

DukeEngage is and isn’t many things, but it’s worth trying it out. DukeEngage staff love to say that it’s the most-cited reason for why students choose Duke, but those students don’t even understand what the experience will be like—I still don’t understand it, and I’ve been living it for 7+ weeks now. Whatever your motives, DukeEngage can have value for you, and you can make a true difference in a community; you can learn the culture and the lifestyle of a totally unfamiliar place. Through all the ups and downs, I know that this was one of the most important clarifying experiences I’ve had so far through Duke, and everyone should at least consider trying it out.

Aude Aliquid Dignum. Dare something worthy.