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You know those walls with clocks from all over the world? I’ve always thought we needed one in my house. Given the high volume of travel in my family, we are constantly partaking in a balancing act of time zones. Whether it be because of my sister, my parents, or now me, time zone differences have almost become second nature to me. For example, I know that my family in Delhi is either 11.5 or 12.5 hours ahead of Denver depending on daylight savings, South Africa is 6 hours ahead of Boston where my sister lives, and that Durham is 14 hours behind Sydney, Australia where I’ll be studying abroad in the fall.

Having now been in South Africa for nearly 2 months, I’ve been privy to the challenges that time zone differences impose on your ability to keep in touch with those in other parts of the world. One positive, however, is that it has allowed me to completely dive into my surroundings here whether that be with my group, my workplace, or the community at large. But like I mentioned at the beginning, it’s a balancing act. It’s important to both be present in all that you do, especially while you are in a new environment with new people but it is also important to maintain your connections with friends and family that happen to be scattered all over the world. 

A couple weeks ago, one of my group members posed a question to our group during reflection about what the relationships that we have built during this trip will be like back at campus for some and just generally outside of the context of DukeEngage. One response stuck out – someone said that we shouldn’t care if the relationships we’ve built fall apart or feel like a waste of time because we had an amazing time in the moment on this trip. Now I understand what they were trying to get at but I wholeheartedly disagree. I recognize that relationships can die out naturally but I don’t like the idea of feeling like these relationships I’ve built going to waste because of my lack of effort or something so out of our control like time zone differences.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can prevent just that given that I’ll only be home for 6 days before I embark on yet another trip across the Southern Hemisphere for twice as long. I can’t say that I’ve got a foolproof answer yet, let alone even a good one but I have become more aware of how important it is for me to try my best to stay in touch with those that I care about especially during this crazy year of travel. For example, I hadn’t spoken to my family in some time so I did a group FaceTime call for the first time with my mom in Colorado, dad in Florida, and sister in Connecticut. In short, I really enjoyed it, even though it only lasted for about 30 minutes because it was so easy to do and it allowed me to hear about everything going on in their lives while also updating them about me.

So even though I won’t see the majority of my family, friends from home, or friends that I’ve made on this trip till the new year and others till my senior year, I genuinely do want to try my best to overcome some of the hurdles imposed by time zone differences because if I’ve learned anything from my childhood, it’s that playing a balancing act with time zones is inevitable and that I might still need that wall of clocks.