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When I first got to Miami eight weeks ago, I had many goals. I wanted to see if I was interested in pursuing a career in law, to explore a new city, and to dramatically change the life of at least one person. Throughout my experience, I was able to accomplish some of these goals, but I will probably never know the entire impact my time in Miami had.

My first goal was to see if I wanted to pursue a career in law. After seeing everything being a lawyer entails, I think I can say it is not the right job for me. While I highly respect everything the staff of Catholic Charities Legal Services does, I could not see myself working in this field full-time. It was slightly disappointing not getting work experience in a career I want to pursue, but I am glad I chose to spend my summer this way. I am still near the beginning of my Duke experience, and DukeEngage has helped give me a better idea of what I want to do in the future.

The next goal I had was to explore a new city. I feel like I was able to accomplish this extremely successfully. This doesn’t just include visiting tourist attractions in Homestead, Little Havana or Miami Beach either. I felt I was truly able to engage in the culture of the city. Getting empanadas from Cacique’s corner every morning before work, visiting various farmer’s markets, and riding the MetroRail everywhere allowed me to engage with Miami in a way that most tourists don’t. While it is impossible to completely get to know a place in eight weeks, I feel like this summer enabled me to get to discover a new city and culture fairly well.

My last–and most important–goal was to change the life of at least one person. While I was able to help clients find domestic violence counseling and file a petition to change their hearing venue, I do not know the impact I had, and it is likely I never will. I do not know how beneficial the counseling was or if the venue was changed. Additionally, I don’t know what the lawyers were able to accomplish with the additional time they got from giving me some of the mundane tasks. I will never know if I achieved my goal of impacting at least one person, but I think I was able to play a small role in changing the lives of many.

I accomplished my preset goals to varying degrees, but my time in Miami has also allowed me to do more than I had originally thought. It has allowed me to preview what it is like to live in the real world. For the first time in my life, I was responsible for making my own meals, keeping track of my expenses, and working a full-time job. Additionally, it has shown me exactly how messed up current institutions are in the United States. Before this experience, I knew the immigration process needed reform, but I didn’t realize just how broken it truly was. Lastly, the past eight weeks gave me many new friendships. I didn’t know a single person in my cohort before the DukeEngage Academy, but now I feel as if we’ve been friends forever.

My DukeEngage experience had its flaws, but I am extremely thankful I had the opportunity to participate in it. It has greatly impacted me academically, professionally, and personally, and it was a fantastic way for me to spend my summer.