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Trust me. The idea of doing an independent project is pretty daunting. Whenever I told others what I was doing this summer, they all reacted with the same expression of shock and awe,  repeating comments like, “Oh wow you’re so brave!” or “Good for you! I don’t think I could ever do that.” As happy as I was to do a DukeEngage project, these comments instilled a sense of fear as time got closer to my departure date. There were fears of how I would adapt to a new city, a new project, new coworkers, and a new schedule.  Everything was well… new. On top of everything else, I was facing this challenge all by myself. I kept on thinking “What am I getting myself into?!” But once I started my first day at the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) I realized that I had nothing to fear.

Even from my first day at DAWN, I felt truly welcomed and appreciated. The senior project manager of DAWN came to meet me,  even though it was her day off and gave a grand tour of the office. Soon enough, I was invited to many coffee and lunch breaks with my colleagues, getting to know each of them better. Over time, I fell into a pleasant and familiar routine, finding research, chatting with my coworkers in room 218, and drinking coffee from the Chilean bakery next door. Unlike my former fears of doing an independent project, I was never by myself. Instead, I feel like doing an independent project helps you to do the exact opposite — to fully immerse yourself in the community and making strong connections with the people you work and live with.

Of course, I still confront new challenges every day, even during my last week in Montreal. However, having a supportive community partner like DAWN really does help in the entire process. During the last staff meeting, sitting in that small group of amazing women, I realized that even though I wasn’t with a group of Duke students, I was part of a team.  I can really say that while an independent project is independent, it never means that you are alone.