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As I’m writing my final blog post for this program, I find it hard to believe that we’re in our last week of being in Miami. At the same time, I feel like I’ve been here for much longer than two months. The clockwork cycle of our 9-to-5 workdays made the weeks feel both extremely long and like they flew past me, and it’s difficult to reconcile the two. One thing I do know for sure, however, is that I’ve come away from this program with incredible gifts of experiences, memories, and friendships.

I find myself not wanting to say goodbye to Miami. After my initial unfamiliarity with the city fell away at the beginning of the program, I found myself growing more and more attached to the beauty of my surroundings and the daily routines that I and the rest of the group have grown accustomed to. Although I was looking forward to not having to wake up at 7:30 AM five days a week once I returned home, now I can’t help but feel like I’m losing something. I know the likelihood of returning to Miami on my own is slim, but I think I’m also reluctant to leave because of the bonds I’ve made with my group here. Despite plans to the contrary, I can’t shake the feeling that returning to Duke will quickly distance us from each other with the hectic whirlwind of academics and student group commitments. I’ve been in enough programs at Duke in my first year to know that seemingly strong relationships formed during close bonding experiences can soon dissolve after it ends, even with the best intentions. However, I still have some hope that my friendships in this group will prove to be different.

Aside from those thoughts, my most overwhelming emotion right now is that of gratitude. I’m so grateful to the staff and attorneys at Dade Legal Aid, who taught me so much about law and advocacy in Miami and inspired me everyday with the immense passion they brought to their work. I’m grateful to my group for making me feel like I was home in a city I’d never been to before because of the love and concern they showed me throughout the program. I’m especially grateful to Jacques and Miguel, our program director and site coordinator, who made sure our experience in Miami was as formative as possible from the immersive events they planned for us to the incredible restaurants we were able to visit for our group dinners. And of course, I’m also very grateful to Miami for welcoming me despite my short stay and allowing me to experience such amazing opportunities that I will keep with me for a lifetime.

Now that I’m getting ready to start packing to return home, and later to Duke, I’m also thinking about what I’ll be bringing back with me other than memories. I want to make the most of all I’ve learned in my time here, from the mechanics of the legal defense of immigrant rights to the impact of redevelopment and gentrification on low-income areas and their residents. How will I do my part to tackle some of these issues in the future, either in my time at Duke or after I graduate? What career do I see myself being dedicated to so that what I experienced here isn’t just wasted as a memory in the past? I know I have some time to figure these things out, but I’m also excited to possibly be closer to knowing what I want my life’s work to be about. While I’m forging some semblance of a plan for myself in the next three years at Duke, I’ll always be able to look back at this time as one of my first big steps in whatever direction my passions take me.

And for that, I thank you, Miami.