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I hate politics.

Yet, I picked out DukeEngage in D.C., the center of American politics, as the “perfect” program for my interests in science writing and communication. I did not put a lot of thought into the location of this program. For me, it was just a beautiful city full of history. As DukeEngage Academy approached, I began to reflect more on the actual theme of this program: science policy. I realized that this second word might push me to vocalize the opinions that I hide. I also recognized that my ignorance on these topics might become evident in group discussions.

During one of the DukeEngage Academy sessions, the speaker asked us to stand under signs in response to various statements. When he said “I am comfortable discussing politics”, I started to head towards “agree” where most people stood, then shifted to “disagree”, and finally moved to “strongly disagree.” I was the only person in my program there.

I am from a small town in North Carolina. Everyone I know at home either avoids politics are is very conservative. But I also attend Duke University, a very liberal institution, where the majority of my friends are left-leaning. And I am a listener. I love to hear people ramble about their opinions and learn what motivates them. Because I have absorbed information from both sides of the spectrum, I have few strong opinions about politics. I struggle because I have heard eloquent and passionate arguments for both sides of many topics. The few opinions I have I am either afraid to express at home or afraid to express at school. My solution? “I don’t really know anything about politics. I don’t really care. Just tell me about what you think.” I avoid. And I hide behind Southern sweetness.