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When confronted with the many opportunities DukeEngage offered, I knew I had to decide which issues were close to my heart and what I really wanted to gain out of the immersive experience. Only then could I start thinking about which program I truly wanted to be a part of. I knew I wanted to help other people my age who have not been as fortunate as me in some way. But, I also realized that if I really want to learn as much as I can and grow as a person, it was time for me to get out of the comfort zone that I fall back to at Duke and at home. This ultimately led me to San Francisco and Larkin St. Youth Services, an organization that serves homeless youth.

My first two weeks in San Francisco have certainly been challenging. Working with homeless youth makes you really think about the little things in life that we take for granted, such as the bed we sleep in at night and when we’re going to get our next meal. The varied experiences of the clients we work with has shown me the resilience of people my own age. With every conversation I can feel myself learning a tiny bit more about the homeless youth population and the issues that arise everyday for them. And while much of my first two weeks at Larkin St. Youth Services has been an adjustment period, I am beginning to realize ways in which I can do my small part to help clients improve their lives.

Interacting with homeless youth has not been the only adjustment for me in San Francisco. Many of the youth are part of the LGBT community and of course San Francisco has a vibrant queer community. Before this summer, I was not very engaged with the queer community and I realized there was much I did not know about it. I realized there was no excuse for ignorance, even if it was unintentional. Here in San Francisco, I have been continuously trying to be open and learn from everyone around me about the queer community and the unique issues affecting it. This has certainly made me respect my peers more and appreciate the queer community in ways that I did not before.

While San Francisco so far has certainly helped me grow as a person and learn about issues I personally am not confronted with on a daily basis back at Duke, the city offers so many things to explore while we aren’t working. The many beautiful parks provide an escape in which I can think about my role and experiences while here. The many vibrant districts, such as The Castro and Haight-Ashbury, each bring their own unique environment and feel to the city. I feel like I have already seen so much of the city and yet I know there are so many places I have yet to see.

I can only look forward to the coming weeks in San Francisco with excitement as I become more engaged in the work at Larkin St. Youth Services and explore all that the city has to offer.