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First Day

On my first day, as I would later tell my mother, my work was tragic. I had to call people and ask them if they still needed a lawyer. Or at least that was how I had understood it. Given a general outline of how to go about the phone calls and the voicemails, I was to connect the outline into a conversation with people, real life humans with questions and desires and needs. I hated calling. I did a terrible job. I was awkward. I was cold. I had no idea what I was doing.

That first night I felt as if the rest of the summer was going to be something that needed to be done, not something I would ever look forward to. I did not want to return to work the next day. I had failed.

The Call

I went back the next day. Sadly, I had to do the same job that I had done the previous day. The nonprofit law firm that I intern for helps low income immigrants, and I managed to forget that on my first day. I sat at a random desk with a phone and decided that I wanted to do better. I wrote myself an outline for what I would be discussing with the people on the phone, wanting to improve myself.

During the third phone call that morning, a man told me that the phone call was one sent from God and that my voice was that of an angel. As this man, and many others, exhaled in relief as they received a phone call that essentially told them that we had not forgotten about them, and thanked them for the patience they had shown us when they had pressing matters to be concerned about, it finally hit me.

My first day had been about me. I had been self-centered.

My Privilege

The problem on that first day was not that I had done a terrible job. My problem had been that I was more focused on myself. I felt like I had a tag that said I was a Duke student and felt like I needed to perform at unrealistic standards. And I was more concerned with meeting nonexistent expectations than with working.

That phone call with that man, and with many others made me recognize the privilege that I hold. I do not need to concern myself with immigration problems. I can step away from them and never care again, but for them, this is their entire lives, for many it is even the difference between staying in a country with opportunity and returning to another that they fled in the first place. My first week here, was one that allowed me to adjust to a world outside of Duke. One where others exist beyond Duke and Duke students.


Now, I do not know what to expect while in Miami. I enjoy the people, and in this week, I have grown to enjoy the work as well. I enjoy the work, but at the same time, on any given day, someone will enter the office and face deportation. My time in Miami has benefited me, I hope that I can benefit others during my time here as well.


-Josie Tarin