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These two months have been incredible in so many unexpected ways, and it is definitely bittersweet to know that I only have a few days left in this city.

Through my internship at HousingNOLA, I’ve been able to gain a greater understanding of how a nonprofit functions at a high level. I have been able to delve into an issue that I had very little exposure to before this, and I have learned so much about housing policies and all the social issues it overlaps with. Although the issue is no where close to being solved, I will be able to bring that knowledge with me as I return to Durham, a place that deals with similar issues of gentrification and racial disparity.

I’ve also really enjoyed the relationships that I’ve built with my coworkers. Because of the small staff number and open floor office plan, we are able to talk freely throughout the day as we work and it has enabled me to quickly learn about their lives and experiences living in New Orleans. I was surprised by how easily they welcomed me in and being able to listen to their honest perspective of the changes they have seen in the last 10 years and discussing important local and national issues with them has been very enriching.

Overall, this summer has reminded me how to view the world in a positive light, even through hardships and adversity. I have a lot of respect for the people of New Orleans, who are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but still find so much joy in the simple things in life like food and music. The other 14 people in this DukeEngage program have also inspired me to embrace the positive, something that I honestly had forgotten how to do for a while.

Sometimes the world leaves you cynical, but I’m leaving this summer with a full heart. I have had so much fun eating beignets at Cafe du Monde at midnight, riding the St. Charles streetcar, dancing and singing and bringing the party to Rock n Bowl, and running through the pouring rain in Audubon Park, just to name a few of my favorite moments.

I will definitely be back, New Orleans!