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Instead of going abroad or out of state for DukeEngage, I chose to apply to the Durham/Durham program and live on campus for another 6 weeks. Although this image might seem absolutely monotonous to some students compared to the vacation-like activities they can do in other programs, I did not want to overlook the community around me. By being here this summer, I hope to connect with Durhamites and learn more about the economic development of the city I will live in for the next three years (and maybe even more).

I am currently placed to work in the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), a branch of the Durham municipal government. Through partnerships and development of various programs, the office helps with Durham’s cultural development and provide technical and financial assistance to small businesses. As a result, the OEWD aims to promote the economic growth of Durham and prepares the workforce to meet the demands of emerging industries.

For the past two weeks, my team and I have been delegated several tasks. First, we were assigned to organize files for the YouthWork Internship Program, helping place around 200 youth in paid internship positions for the summer, and facilitating orientations. At first, it was difficult for me to visualize and truly appreciate the impact that the program makes. However, after seeing everyone in person at the orientation and speaking to the sincere and genuine students, I felt the inspiring tangibility of the program.

Second, we conducted research for a foreign direct investment grant. This experience helped me develop a greater understanding of Durham’s transformation into a more metropolitan and globalized city through the Research Triangle Park, local start-ups and major companies’ headquarters. As we learn about how Durham’s rising property prices and rapid injection of money into the city are pushing local families out of their neighborhoods and homes, I found these new information to be incredibly interesting. Although it is just the first step, we were able to delve into the reason behind Durham’s housing market, which essentially, is the root of the “gentrification” issue. Lastly, we helped strategize for a development of a business-starting toolkit.

I am confident that I will gain a more profound understanding of the Durham community and its economic development throughout my summer here. For now, one aspect of the program I found quite significant is the busy work schedule and completely different work-life balance. Work during the day is definitely more demanding than sitting passively in lectures, but we no longer had obligations like homework in the evenings–it’s actually quite exciting.

Overall, my first few weeks has been fulfilling and I look forward to furthering my contributions to OEWD and the city of durham this summer!