After just completing our fifth week in New Orleans, I have noticed that no matter where our travels have taken us, in our conversations with locals, we always talk about one thing: where we are from. Whether we are in a taxi, on a tour, or at work the conversation seems unavoidable. Usually, when I ask this question to others, I get an answer similar to “New Orleans – born and raised!”. This statement is always said with a sense of pride.
Then the conversation then shifts to us and we usually give a reply such as “We are from all over but we all go to Duke and we are here interning for the summer”. This is typically met with similar replies but one that our taxi driver recently gave stuck with me. She said, “Oh, so you guys are from Duke. That means you must be, like, really smart. I don’t know I never went to college”. Her reply really made me think about what it means to be from Duke and living in New Orleans for the summer.
Participating in this program has opened my eyes to the sense of privilege that Duke students have whether they know it or not. Being from Duke means having an instant advantage in so many ways. It means that you have a leg-up in the job market on name alone. It means living in the wealthier Uptown New Orleans, when a ten minute bus ride can take you to neighborhoods with homes that are still boarded up from Hurricane Katrina, but you would never see this side of the city unless you were looking. Being from Duke means the creation of a strange power-dynamic when talking to locals, many of whom never had the chance to receive a college education.
I am still learning the nuances of what it means to be a Duke student living in New Orleans for the summer. But for now I think that being from Duke has reminded me of the importance of a sense of humility and gratitude for the opportunities it has provided me.