Before looking past DukeEngage and reflecting on how this summer could shape my future, I want to spend some time discussing and reflecting on these past two months. While my internship with MPOWER technically ends on July 17, this Friday, July 10, marks the end of my DukeEngage experience. I cannot emphasize enough how quickly these past two months have flown by! Time flies when you’re constantly learning and being exposed to new things … that’s how the saying goes, right?
To take you through the timeline of my internship, I started at the end of May and beginning of June by researching how COVID-19 has broadly affected international students, MPOWER’s main group of borrowers. I spoke with fellow Duke students and recent alum to gauge what unique scenarios these students were facing, and many of these conversations were eye-opening. I loved the opportunity to speak with my own peers – it was a cool way to intertwine my DukeEngage independent project with my own Duke community. Once I got that base of information, I began interviewing and sending out surveys to MPOWER’s students. The information I gathered through those methods in June and the beginning of July was used to write a COVID-19 Social Impact Report, my final deliverable for my internship. The last segment of my project was mainly dedicated to writing and editing this report, and along the way I was exposed to how an idea – of wanting to discover how COVID-19 is impacting international students – turns into a tangible result.
So, what did I learn from this experience?
- 1) A lot about professionalism and the workplace – while Zoom is very different from an actual office setting, I was exposed to how traditional workplaces are now operating in a remote capacity and what that means for a company’s employees. I sent countless emails, attended many, many Zoom meetings, networked with different members of the company, and learned how to communicate via Slack. While these workplace skills were ones that I did not expect to improve through DukeEngage, they are skills that I will hopefully take with me throughout the rest of my professional career.
- 2) More about international students! – while I have been surrounded by international students throughout high school and during my first year at Duke, I never really knew what being an international student really entailed. Through my work with MPOWER, I learned about the different visas for students, how things as simple as getting a job can be highly complicated, and the financial sacrifice many students make to attend school in the United States. With the current divided political climate and Trump administration, I also learned how precarious and uncertain their status in the U.S. is. I certainly have much more empathy for this group of students after my internship.
- 3) The importance of organization and planning – while I have always been a highly organized person, this experience showed me the significance of carrying this neatness into the workplace. Especially at the beginning of my internship, when I was juggling multiple different projects, meetings, and deadlines every week, having an organized planner and calendar was crucial to my success.
As DukeEngage comes to an end, I hope to take the lessons that I have learned over the past couple months and apply them to my future. To continue my involvement with international students, I want to look into I-House programs to possibly get involved with during the upcoming semester. With the constantly changing laws surrounding immigration and visas, I also just want to continue to stay updated with the latest news and policies surrounding international students. Another big lesson that I will take with me going forward is that there are many “less traditional” business paths that I can explore. While I know that I want to go into something business related in the future, I’ve never felt a strong calling towards finance or consulting. My internship with MPOWER gave me the ability to witness the start-up culture and the intersection of business and social impact. Going forward, I am definitely going to be more open to exploring different business opportunities.
Lastly, I just want to give a big thank you to all of my supervisors and co-workers who made my internship possible! Thank you for welcoming me into your team and virtual workplace and for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow. Thank you for the time and effort you put into making my internship and the final social impact report possible. I am so very appreciative!
To all those considering doing DukeEngage in the future: DO IT! Even though your experience will most likely be nothing like mine, I know that DukeEngage gives you the time and chance to explore areas of study, communities, and organizations that you may otherwise have never been exposed to. Even though I spent the past 8 weeks working on my remote internship from my laptop at home, and not halfway across the world in Cusco, I can tell you with certainty that I am so glad I chose to do DukeEngage this summer, and I will take so many experiences and lessons from these past 8 weeks with me into the future.