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During my first week at the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA), I settled into the Columbia community, the organization, and my office. After the completion of a few small tasks in my first couple of days, my supervisor asked, “Do you have experience with coding of any kind, and are you familiar with HTML?” To his questions, I replied, “I am familiar with R for statistics, but no, I do not have any HTML or website development experience. I am eager to learn, though!” I smiled as I explained that, while I did not have prior experience, I was both willing and eager to learn. My supervisor stated that he hoped that I could help him construct approximately 10 web pages within the organization’s site to highlight some of NACA’s online resources, such as webinars and podcasts. Rather than focusing on my lack of experience, he embraced my willingness to learn and described how I would begin the project. He sat down with me regularly to show me how to identify patterns in the code so that I could recognize how to make changes to the website, and he sent me lines of code to help get me started on new web pages. He allowed me to try and build new pages on my own and provided support and assistance along the way. By giving me the opportunity to try new things, my supervisor provided me with a new academic and professional confidence that I had no idea I needed.

When I first arrived at Duke two years ago, I had hopes of majoring in Chemistry or Biology while completing the pre-med requirements. I ambitiously enrolled in all the classes that I thought a future doctor would take, and I was eager to begin my first semester. During the weekend prior to starting classes on Monday, I had a conversation with a fellow first-year who asked me which classes I had bookbagged. “Chemistry? Are you pre-med? Did you take upper-level chemistry in high school? Have you looked at the syllabus to make sure you are up to date on the content the professor would like you to know by the first day?” Her questions made me feel unprepared, and I promptly unenrolled from the pre-med courses and called my parents to explain that I would be “looking for other academic interests.”

Today, I am extremely happy with the academic choices that I have made, and I do not regret exploring my academic interests. However, I wish I would have had the confidence that I developed during my time with NACA during my first two years at Duke. Through working with my supervisor and completing new and challenging projects, I grew as a student and developed a number of new skills, which will allow me to better complete classes and professional endeavors in the future. My DukeEngage experience taught me that it is more than okay to ask questions, be vulnerable, and take risks, and these are all valuable lessons that I wish I would have known when I first stepped foot on campus as a Blue Devil.

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