As the final days of DukeEngage-Miami begin to wind down, I am once again drawn to reflect on my thoughts and experiences from the past seven weeks. I’ve learned a lot during my time in Miami, and a few of these lessons and my major takeaways are presented here.
In terms of Miami itself, I enjoyed going with the group to visit the different neighborhoods in the city (Little Havana, Little Haiti, Overtown, Wynwood, etc.) to learn about the different groups that have contributed to Miami’s culture and identity and to see firsthand the threats of developers and gentrification encroaching on these neighborhoods. Many of the guest speakers we saw also provided great insights into current issues in Miami and South Florida, such as preservation of culturally important heritage sites, affordable housing initiatives, the threats of climate change, and the Cuban-American experience.
While I did indeed learn a great deal about Miami from our group outings and guest speakers, I wish we could’ve gone out and further explored Miami on our own, but because of the heat, humidity, and limited public transportation, our options were somewhat restricted (however, game nights with the group were always a fun option). Miami’s culture didn’t present as much of a shock as I had initially anticipated, perhaps because it wasn’t too different from my expectations or perhaps because I didn’t see enough of the city. Nevertheless, while I did hear much more Spanish around me than I’m used to and was able to use my Spanish quite a bit at work, I wasn’t able to use it in daily life as much as I had hoped given our limited exposure to different parts of the city.
Apart from the city itself, I also gained exposure to working at a nonprofit organization and the challenges that accompany such a workplace. At CCLS, some common challenges I saw included large caseloads, long client waitlists, the need to appropriately allocate resources due to limited funding, unforeseen changes in client cases, and stressed and overworked attorneys. One important observation I made was that unlike many private law offices, the CCLS attorneys didn’t have any secretaries, meaning they had to do everything on their own, from scanning and making copies of documents to filing client documents with the court, taking all of their phone calls, etc. Combined with preparing for court hearings and rushing to submit documents by the appropriate deadlines, it’s no wonder that many of the lawyers I saw were incredibly stressed. As an intern, I often helped the attorneys with many of the aforementioned tasks; though it wasn’t as “exciting” as working directly with clients, I understood that the attorneys greatly appreciated that I was making their jobs easier and allowing them to spend more time focused on more pressing/urgent work.
Finally, I enjoyed learning more about the field of immigration law. At the beginning of the program, I didn’t really know what to expect and knew little about the field. Although I never considered a career in law to begin with, I nevertheless liked learning more about the immigration system, its intricacies, and its shortcomings. Though I’m still very much on the pre-med track, I’ve realized from this summer that I want to pursue a career in medicine that allows me to be involved in improving the health of immigrants, refugees, and underserved populations. All in all, I would say that this summer has been quite formative for me, and as I move forward in my studies and future career, I’ll continue to keep with me the valuable lessons that I’ve learned.