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It’s hard to describe the feeling when you realize almost every life in a cohort has been fundamentally changed. At our final reflection dinner, we all shared what has impacted us most. Many peers including myself discovered new interests that altered our academic and career paths. Others cited a change in mindset and view of the world whether recognizing the power of narratives or experiencing museums and history. It hit me that we weren’t leaving this summer with just another internship on our resume or connections on LinkedIn. We are leaving with new ways to interact with each other and the world.

A common conversation is whether the D.C. program belongs in DukeEngage considering its less conventional approach to service. My peers have also written on this topic, and on finding engagement through connection with the D.C. community. I have struggled with this idea but looking back have found a new meaning and purpose for engagement. Before this program, I viewed engagement as tied closer to service, a giving of yourself for the sake of others. But now, to be engaged also means being vulnerable and giving interactions the opportunity to change you.

The changes I described above could not have occurred without active engagement and encouragement. Our lives are full of these opportunities but they can be frightening and difficult to recognize. DukeEngage D.C. helped us discover, experience and pay it forward in every aspect of the program. Engagement is not limited to community service and occurs in any setting if you know where and how to look. Long after our flights home, this cohort will continue to change themselves and their effect on the world, a powerful and undeniable result of true engagement.