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With thirty-six available group programs as well as the opportunity to design independent projects, I’ve gotten asked many times why I specifically chose the Durham program for my DukeEngage experience.

While many people decide to apply for a program because the theme lines up with their interests, I chose this one because of its location in Durham. Many Duke students stay isolated within the bubble and never explore and learn about the vibrant community surrounding our school. Admittedly, it can be difficult to find the intentionality, time, and effort required to venture out beyond the gentrified areas of the city, especially with all that’s available and happening on campus. The truth is, it can be easier and more attractive to simply stay within campus boundaries at Duke since there aren’t necessarily immediate drawbacks to choosing this option. Furthermore, it can be challenge to navigate the risk of seeming like an elitist savior college student when participating in volunteer activities in Durham. Yet, this challenge is something we should work overcome, particularly when we consider the privilege we possess.

Prior to this program, I had never truly critically considered my positionality within my own hometown, and with this new phase of my life I want to be able to understand how I can function better. I will be residing in Durham for at least the next four years, and yet I am not a Durham resident. I feel a responsibility to strive towards becoming an active community member while staying informed about the happenings of the city. DukeEngage Durham provides me with an opportunity to spend a good chunk of my summer in Durham without the logistical factors of the school year acting as a barrier stopping me from immersing myself within the city. Even though time and school work are no longer limiting me, I still need to intentionally consider how my status as a Duke student places me within Durham. While I’m not expecting six weeks in Durham as part of DukeEngage to instantaneously ground me in this community, I’m hoping that if I approach my experiences here with genuineness, it will be a first step. Hopefully, this program will provide me with an experience that will allow me to take more and more steps throughout my Duke experience towards becoming a Durham resident.