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I was pretty nervous I wouldn’t get the summer experience I needed when I first applied to this program. Summers are a great opportunity for engineers to apply learned theories to real projects to gain technical skills for future jobs. Applying to a policy-oriented program seemed like a large veer from what most engineering students would do. However, I can’t say enough how happy I am with the decision I made.

This summer has fundamentally changed the way I approach discussions and challenges. Prior to this, I believed data was all that was needed to make educated decisions. In my mind, all you needed to know was the facts to take on an engineering project. I could not have been more wrong. Seeing how drastically science can impact everyday life has made me realize that the narrative behind the science is so much more important. A huge lesson I have learned is that the social implications of my work far exceed the value of the actual technology which is something it would have taken me much longer to figure out without this program.

I could not have reached these conclusions without my peers, Professor Williams and Joe, and all of the professionals we met along the way pushing me to constantly think and revaluate. Each day of this program is pretty exhausting. After putting in 8 hours of hard work for your internship, you don’t just go home like a typical 9-5. Instead, you go straight to DukeEngage programming where you hear from speakers, watch movies, and engage in reflections for the following few hours. This seemed like way too much at first. But looking back on the past 8 weeks, those are the times I will remember the most. This program forces you to think about really difficult concepts that change the way you engage with others and process thoughts in your everyday life. Being able to process these things together and hear different perspectives has helped me grow in ways I couldn’t image.

I also want to highlight the unique experience I had with Conservation X Labs as an engineering intern. DC is not typically known as a technology hub like the Bay Area or other places across the country. However, there are a few technology start-ups sprinkled throughout. Working for a start-up allowed me to meet several of the employees and make connections that will be very valuable going forward. I also had more autonomy in making decisions and progress on a daily basis. Between the technical skills I’ve learned and the people I’ve met at CXL, I have had the most valuable summer internship I could have pictured.

So for future engineers looking into this program, try something that seems a little different. This program will give you opportunities and lead you down paths you did not know were there.