The past week has been a whirlwind. Yes, I’m still on my DukeEngage program and we’re still in Durham, only this Durham (County Durham, UK) is approximately 3,743 miles from the last one (Durham, NC). Throughout the majority of the domestic component of this program I was antsy, almost, ready to travel to a new place and to leave North Carolina–where I had been for the most part since January–behind. I have always been curious and an explorer by nature and staying in one place for long periods of time has never been my strong suit. While I loved every minute of my summer explorations in Durham, NC, and appreciated the opportunities it gave me, I thought I was ready for something new. I could not have anticipated how hard it would be when it came time to say goodbye.
The goodbyes started on site at Families Moving Forward (FMF). Friday was the last day of our four week summer program and I had many mixed emotions ranging from excitement, to pride, to sadness. I decided to ask the children what they would be doing with the rest of their summers once camp was over. There was a mixed bag of answers, but they all spelled out the same idea, the prospect of a summer of being dragged to parents’ workplaces or sitting around doing next to nothing. In that moment, I was extremely proud of the work that I had done over the previous four weeks. I felt like the kids at FMF had learned a lot and had a lot of fun, especially more so than the alternative. The kids then asked us whether we would be back next summer and I had to explain that that was very unlikely. I did tell them that I would hopefully be coming back to visit FMF in the Spring and that I might see them then, but I honestly hoped that this moment would be our goodbye. When I do come back to visit FMF, I hope that the children in this summer program will have moved out, meaning that they have found some sort of housing elsewhere. So, while I would selfishly love to get to see these children that I have gotten to know so well at future FMF visits, I know that the best outcome for them is one where that scenario does not get to happen.
Saying goodbye to Durham and everything in it was just as, if not more, difficult. Whereas the other 14 students in this program will be returning to campus in a little over a month, I had to say goodbye to Duke and Durham until January. I will be spending my fall studying abroad in Ireland, something that is both extremely exciting and nerve-wracking to think about. I spent my entire Friday afternoon and Saturday morning preparing to say goodbye to this home that I had created for myself. I walked around downtown and 9th street, sat on a bench with a view of the Chapel, walked around the gardens, and had meals to say goodbye to countless friends, new and old. I said my final goodbye to one of my closest friends right outside of RDU, got on a plane to the UK just hours later and now, here I am in Durham, England. I honestly still feel like I have not fully processed everything that has just happened. Maybe it’s for the best. I’ve never been good at goodbyes and when I think about not being in Durham next semester (especially after truly getting to know it the past six weeks) or not seeing my friends for the next 6 months I don’t really know what to do with myself. For right now, maybe it’s best that I have so much to look forward to in the next four weeks here. Who knows, maybe in four weeks time I’ll be finding it just as hard to say goodbye to this Durham. Maybe it’s best not to think of it as a goodbye at all, but rather, a see you later!