Skip to main content

I hesitate to admit it, but it has been quite the period of adjustment. Being stubborn sometimes, I try not to acknowledge that the transition to DukeEngage in San Francisco was by no means a smooth one.


Being raised in a big city, it was not difficult for me to be surrounded by a new yet familiar scenery of buildings and incessant honking from cars all around. I quickly became enamored with the public transit here and took advantage of it by traveling to the QWOC Film Festival, the famous Dolores Park, and NorCal’s Corgicon! So in this sense, living in a new city (in the US) was a smooth and exciting shift.


My internship at Larkin Street Youth, however, required an immediate reality check. Not for the reasons one may initially assume, but rather in terms of productivity. I realize this is not a novel feeling among undergraduates, but I felt as if my time was not being maximized. We were warned of this and were told that our experience ultimately would be what we make of it. Larkin has a myriad of opportunities for us to explore and engage in client interaction. But with a wide array of employees and interns at work, there will be downtime where we are encouraged to initiate projects or lead classes for the youth. Of course as a neurotic student, I always try to be as productive as possible. It was bit of a lengthy process in deciding what I can offer to clients; I was aiming to find something both interesting and beneficial. But of course, it also had to be something I was familiar enough with to teach.


I currently work as an intern at Larkin Street Academy where I assist with planning programs and supporting clients in the Music and Arts. One day, I was asked to sub in for my supervisor in teaching piano lessons to a client. I was anxious at first since piano is not an instrument I am too familiar with, but I did my best to mask my hesitance and managed to teach music theory. Amid the lesson, we would discuss our own lives with one other and our inclination in pursuing music. He then received a call and went on his way. At that moment, I was proud that I had my first successful one-on-one music tutoring session, but soon after, an immense wave of apathy came over me. I felt as if my efforts were meaningless in the grand scheme of it all. The conversation we had mere minutes ago was powerful and packed with so much emotion. And I knew that teaching someone scales and chords wouldn’t remedy the larger issues that were present. I felt I wasn’t doing my job well and that I failed to truly help this client in any significant way. But then, he comes back in unexpectedly.


“Hey, man. I just wanted to say thanks for taking this time with me in helping me with my dreams. As corny as it sounds, I know I’ll be going somewhere soon. God bless.”


Hold up. Wait a minute. What?


It’s as if he knew exactly what was on my mind. More importantly, what he said grounded me and gave me the reality check I needed. I am one of many here in this workplace, and our combined efforts will show. Embarrassingly enough, I fell prey into committing a mistake with one of the first things they tell you at the DukeEngage Academy: don’t expect to change the world. Regardless, I’m glad it happened. I learned that my efforts are appreciated, and honing my passion for music to teach others is an amazing experience. I had to adjust my definition of productivity a bit and realize that not every work day will possess tangible results, but that doesn’t disqualify it from being rewarding nonetheless.