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Duke has quickly become- even outside of South Africa- a large part of my identity. Even back home, my old high school teachers constantly send me articles mentioning Duke, and family members can’t say my name without mentioning that I go to Duke. It never gets on my nerve back in the States, but here the association makes me sick. Maybe the sickness comes from the less than stellar relationship that Michaela and I have with our partner organization internship. From the very first day, our boss made it very clear what she thought about “American students who come abroad to find themselves” and who have this burdening syndrome to make a difference.

I’m not white. I don’t have White Man’s Burden. And frankly, I don’t think any of the white students on my trip suffer from it either. Yet our boss seems to have this solidified picture of what a Duke student is and refuses to alter her views- no matter how differently we portray ourselves.
What hurts the most, or bothers me unrelenting, is my questioning of why I am even here? The past two weeks at work have been nothing short of torture, from the cultural jabs (even being likened to the KKK for going to to school in North Carolina), to those aimed at my intelligence and capabilities- things I’ve prided myself in having. I have never been viewed as incapable or further more, unqualified for anything- usually if I set my mind to it, I can make something out of any experience, but here… I am the unqualified Duke student. What I learnt at school couldn’t possibly prepare me for the laities of Cape Town politics and social structure. And there is no way that I can do research here because as an American student, I am going to pass my judgments unto the archival materials and I am too much of a treat to be so close to such sensitive materials.
My day to day feels as though I’m wasting time. I wake up at 8:30, by this time most of my friends have already left for their internships, have breakfast and start my 30 minute walk to work around 9:15. Getting there is always an exciting walk through the CBD but that’s it. That’s the most exciting and probably most important thing I do all day, walk to work. Stepping into the building, I immediately feel like a burden; not like an intern who is needed or wanted (except on Tuesdays when we do arts and crafts with grandma’s almost as sweet as mine).
It seemingly is a constant battle between my co-worker and I to get work, or anything to do. At this point busy work would be better than sitting in absolute boredom and awkwardness. But I worry that my want to learn and have a fruitful internship comes off as pestering and annoying. Where does the line blur between being attentive and involved and being a nuisance? Or when is it okay for your employer to make you feel as though you are acting entitled and wanting special treatment when you finish a task and are eager for another? It is difficult getting accustomed to a new pace, but when does a new pace become me sitting at my desk for 5 hours with nothing to do for fear of upsetting my employer or having some sort of verbal attack?
As I sit and work writing this (go figure) about to leave at 1:30 because there’s no work for me to do, and frankly because no one could care less if I was here or not. I wonder why I was placed here, and if these next few weeks will get any better, but more so I am struck by how different it is. In America, being affiliated with Duke means I am more than qualified, but here I am just another American- the one’s they see every winter.