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Before this program, I used to tell myself I was politically aware. I felt strongly about my political beliefs, I was relatively caught up on the news stories that would circulate through social media, and I had firm thoughts on the current political administration. However, a few weeks into this DukeEngage program, I realized that I was completely wrong. Two key experiences really changed my attitude towards and my interactions with politics.

First: trivia. During DukeEngage academy, our site coordinator told us about a fun activity we’d have during the program. We were going to split into teams, and we’d have a trivia competition every week, with a majority of questions regarding the politics of the week. We started during the academy itself, and I felt pretty confident going in. But with that very first quiz, I immediately knew I needed to learn more. I had a relatively superficial knowledge of many of the topics of the week and felt confident that I knew what was going on. But when asked to delve into the details of each situation, I realized I wasn’t as informed as I thought. This was a big wake up call: a small game intended to foster collaboration and competition among our cohort showed me that I really needed to change the way I made myself aware of the world, and I had to stop feeling satisfaction with knowledge of the headlines that pleased me. From that moment, I proactively decided to inform myself, subscribing to a couple different news sources and challenging myself to dive deeper into news stories that were important to me. In my opinion, being politically aware is extremely important since politics touches so many important aspects of life, and I can honestly say that four weeks being in this program has made me change the way I think about daily politics, informing myself on every aspect of an issue.

Second: our speakers. Up to this point we had been meeting speakers who I generally shared the same political views as. That changed this week, as we were meeting a couple speakers who I ideologically disagreed with. Though I tried to reserve judgement, I felt myself going into these experiences with reservations and biases, given my thoughts on the current political administration. However, both of these experience were surprisingly engaging and transformative learning experiences. Though my ideology didn’t change after these experiences, I felt that both of them were very productive, respectful conversations that taught me more about practical politics, rather than ideological. I began to learn that politics should involve more collaboration and discussion, and despite political differences, at the end of the day, practicality needs open dialogue between both sides. This transformed my attitude towards politics and, surprisingly, made me more willing to engage with politics for real political change.

With these two experiences, my approach towards politics really change for the better. I hope to take these lessons and improve my engagement with political issues for the remainder of the program and the rest of my life.