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I was born in Baltimore, but my memories only really start in the suburbs of Maryland. Seattle is the first “city” city I’ve truly lived in (sorry Durham), and I’m lucky that such a diverse and exciting city is the backdrop for this stage in my coming of age.

I’ve already had a lot of learning moments, like on the first day when we were all shuttled to Target to buy everything we needed for moving in. I was lost in thought trying to brainstorm the bare necessities I would need to survive – the supplies worthy of my precious stipend. How would I feed myself? Easy. Cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner on endless repeat. But as I was storing everything in the fridge I realized I completely forgot to buy plates and silverware, which struck me as so dumb and funny. I quickly learned then that preparing a shopping list, especially one for furnishing an entire home, is probably very necessary.

The next day I made a grocery run to Trader Joe’s to further bolster my food supply. Afterwards, I dropped off the bag of groceries in my bedroom and headed to the Alumni Welcome Event when, four hours later, I had an epiphany that I forgot to put the chicken in the freezer. Sadly, the chicken wasn’t the only food I’ve wasted as I’ve had to throw out moldy bread, spinach, green onions, and bananas in the following weeks. Going forward I realized I had to do a better job reminding myself what was in my fridge each day before cooking.

There’s also street-smart moments I’ve had to pick up, like taking the bus late at night isn’t exactly the same as catching a late-night CCX. Along with two other DukeEngage students, I got on the bus late one Friday night and walked to the back to sit down. The next stop, we were joined by a group of men telling stories to one another of their recent crack and meth escapades. The ringleader of the group sat right beside me, and over the course of 40 minutes, joked about slavery, sexually harassed nearby women, and berated a homeless man for being worthless. I just pretended to sleep on my backpack, counting down the stops till I could take off. I had no idea how I was going to squeeze by him to get off the bus, but luckily he moved to an empty row behind me after a couple hurriedly escaped. Finally our stop came, and the three of us rushed off the bus, all visibly shaken. Filling in the back of the bus is something we Duke students do on autopilot, but that night was certainly a reminder we’re living in a city and not in the Duke bubble.

Mt Rainier National Park

More so than not, however, Seattle has been full of highlight moments. Our second weekend here we spent a Saturday hiking in Pack Forest followed by a Sunday in Mount Rainier National Park. This past weekend, we made a trip to the North Cascades and out to the coast. I knew the Pacific Northwest was famous for its beauty, but I was still filled with wonder at the size of the mountains, the color of the water, and the height of the trees. Prior to coming to Seattle, I spent a weekend hiking with my parents in the Shenandoah Valley National Park, and those mountains now seem like hills in comparison. I think I’ve always enjoyed nature, but I’ve never really had the drive to explore the mountains and parks on the East Coast. My love for hiking is something I will definitely take back with me.

I’ve appropriated Seattle culture in other ways as well. Going to thrift shops, bookstores, and concerts are just a handful of the things that I get to enjoy as a well-off Duke student in Seattle. Each enrichment activity makes me think, wouldn’t the money I’m spending be much more meaningfully spent donated to a nonprofit or handed straight to one of the many homeless persons panhandling here? The answer to that question I’m still not so sure, but I hope to be able to give back to the Seattle community in some way before I go.

Being in Seattle has been full of moments. I was thrust from one side of the coast to the other, and it took a couple of weeks to really settle in. And now that I have, it feels as if time is moving by so fast, and it’s crazy to think it will soon be the end of July, and that watching fireworks on the 4th was more than two weeks ago. With the second half of the program still ahead, I still have so much more I want to see and so much more I want to accomplish.