Each week, our group comes together for a “reflection session” in which we discuss powerful moments that have occurred throughout the week. We begin by talking about appreciations and observations, and then proceed with hopes and concerns. Last night, however, we focused on thinking about what aspects of our DukeEngage experience have impacted us most, and how they have shaped who we are. Lastly, we considered what lasting implications they will have for our futures back at Duke and beyond.
As I sat reflecting, I struggled to find words to portray what components of DukeEngage have changed me. There are many things that I have learned here, such as how learning can come in the most unexpected ways and places, the importance of taking initiatives, the benefits of immersing oneself into new experiences, and the virtues of being confident. But these things I suppose I had learned before, but through DukeEngage I was able to solidify their significance. But still, I knew there was something more that I was failing to depict. Then, I realized that was just it—the act of reflection, of taking every experience as something academic and intellectual, is what DukeEngage has taught me most. I now understand the worth of thinking deeply about various aspects of life that I encounter on a day-to-day basis—about societal implications, about race and class, about history and how everyone has a story to share, etc. In the past, I oftentimes succumbed to the temptation of thinking only superficially about certain things, or accepting them as normal. Prior to my arrival in South Africa, I viewed DukeEngage as a service trip, not as an academic trip. In that way, I have been surprised at how much I have learned: both factual knowledge and intangible lessons
Coming in to DukeEngage, I foolishly expected that I would be impacting others more than they would be impacting me. But now, I have realized that I come away from the program taking far more than I expected.