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Imagine a life where you do not agree with the current government. You voice your opinions of disgust, attend many protests, and try to rally support for your cause. Consequently, you face many social challenges. People chastise you over social media, your friends argue with you, and people are hostile towards you in the workplace. You pretend to be doing well, but in reality, you feel isolated. You don’t think your situation could be any worse. This belief is wrong.


People from other countries would wish they were in your situation. Much like you, they also disagree with their government and are vocal about their opinions. The difference, however, is that it is not their social life that is suffering–it is their safety. Because they voice their negative views of the government, people in many countries throughout Latin America and Africa are forced to choose between leaving their homes or risking their lives. Many apply for asylum in the United States, but it often doesn’t work out. The US government can force them to go back to the dangerous situations they left, effectively saying their life isn’t valued in America.


So far, my life has been much more similar to the first situation than the second. When comparing my problems to those of many immigrants, I realize how fortunate I have been. When I complain about current policies, all that happens is a couple of people criticize me online. If someone in a different country does this, they risk death. While I complain about my $10/hour paycheck for my part-time job, others are forced to support their families on less than $1000 a month. My biggest problems typically involve the stress school causes me. Others, however, can’t even go to school because it’s too unsafe.


Even though it’s only been three weeks, I have already learned many valuable lessons from DukeEngage. I have been shown how trivial my problems are in comparison to those of others. I’ve seen firsthand how current systems actively work to ostracize certain demographics. My time in Miami has already opened my eyes to a wide range of issues people face, while also altering my perspective on my life. The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that no matter how bad my situation may seem, it can always get worse. I have been fortunate enough to take privileges such as safety, shelter, and United States citizenship for granted. Others can’t say the same. My problems aren’t really problems. Others can’t say the same.