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In the days leading up to DukeEngage Orange County, I imagined myself working along with my DukeEngage teammates, campers at Eureka!, and perhaps the staffs at Girls Inc. In the picture that I drew in my head, I didn’t color in the other volunteers, interns, and facilitators who will be trained with us, run the Eureka! camp with us, and be a big part of my DukeEngage days.

The first car ride to Girls Inc was a mix of early morning fatigue and clueless guessing of what was about to happen. Being a classic night-owl, I’ve often went to bed at 6:30 in the morning, but waking up at that time was a new one. The exhaustion added more mystery of what will happen the rest of the week, since I only had a vague idea of it. Once we arrived at Girls Inc, we were seated in a classroom with a few others, introduced as facilitators, volunteers, or interns. We were named “Duke students that Girls Inc partnered with.” The distinction between these terms turned out to be less important than they seem. In the end, we will all run the camp, hang out with the girls, and come together at rough times.

On the first day, us Duke students ate lunch on one bench and the others on another bench. The split wasn’t because of spiteful meanings but just because of the first-day-shyness. As days went by, we mingled more, got to know each other more, and came together more as a group. Even outside of working together on STEM curriculum, classroom management, and other preparation for camp, we exchanged laughters, jokes, friendliness, and more. They gave us recommendations for ice cream and hiking sites. We shared stories from where we live and of what we do. One of the interns brought in brownies that she made from scratch. By the end of the week, we joined in one bench to eat together and share more of our lives.

This was week one of an eight-week-long journey. Highs and lows are expected to come, but with all the old and new friends who will be on the journey with me, I have no doubt that the next two months will be an enriching one. Camp hasn’t even started, but my journey certainly did.