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In the spirit of the last DukeEngage blog, I’m going to split my post into the program’s 4 goals: immersion, learning, gratitude and partnership.

Despite living in a dorm and not actually having to pay rent, I got a taste of what the “adult” world is like. Working 9 to 5, cooking for myself, tolerating flatmates who never clean up after themselves – they were all part of the learning experience. I find that I enjoy working more than taking classes – at the end of the day, I feel a sense of achievement and look forward to going in the next day to continue whatever I was working on. I also love that there’s an official “end” to the day – when I can have time to myself. At school, I always feel constant anxiety that there’s something more I should be doing, that I should be studying – at work, once I leave, it’s freedom.

I learned so much from a wider range of sources than I’d thought possible. I met a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company – an entity I’d always imagined in my head as a faceless “evil force” robbing and hurting people everywhere – and while I still lean towards that feeling, I have more context now with which to make my judgments. I also learned about how a nonprofit organization operates, and the bureaucracy in virtually everything we do. I look forward to tackling it in my future.

I’m so incredibly grateful to my roommate and the two friends I have in Washington DC. They’ve enriched my experience immensely and I got to see and do so many things I would’ve had much less fun doing without them. I learned Muay Thai, boxing and Jiu-Jitsu – gym is a very bonding experience. I visited Great Falls Park and absorbed nature as well as having an extensive photoshoot. I went to the Spy Museum and saw the Incredibles 2. We’ve done so much for each other this summer and I will always appreciate them.

Being one of the cities with the highest concentrations of Duke alums, it was great to see the famous network in action. I was amazed by the culture of partnership between Duke and its past students – everybody is so eager to help and get to know you. I reached out to several people this summer – when the program actually had free time – and everybody was so receptive and welcoming. I took a class based on one of their recommendations and am looking forward to growing more professionally and as a person, because I meant it when I brightly tell them in my emails “ in the future I’d love to be where you are”.

It has been a great summer, with a mixture of flavors both good and bad. There were certainly frustrations with my workplace, a flatmate, my program and the cohort – but I’m glad to have experienced this in the safe space of being a student and not out in the “real world”. Furthermore, the beautiful city of DC and all the things I got to experience with my friends more than made up for every bad thing. I’m very much looking forward to going home.