Friday, May 30, 2014

Taylor: "Two Airlines, A Three-Hour Layover, and 3,108 Miles Later…Hello Miami Beach"

Hiya Internet-World,

“Now this is a story all about how my summer got flipped-turned up side down (down isn’t always bad)
And I’d like to take a minute (I promise it won’t be long), just sit right there (and continue reading)
I’ll tell you how I became the member of DukeEngage Miami 2k14”

So yes, I kicked off my post with my own version of the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire theme song. I can promise it will be one of the least odd things I will do on this blog. But I just wanted to kick the post off with something light hearted and fun; task complete.

I want to first come out and say I have cheated. I told the rest of my DukeEngage Miamiers that they should write a pre-departure blog, and I am writing this from the comfort of my apartment in Miami Beach, whoops. But, to be fair, the program hasn’t started yet so technically I am not really cheating (I say tomato, you say tomaaato (wasn’t sure how to show the different pronunciation there)).

Semantics aside, the point of this post is for me to spill my guts to you about the things I am excited for and apprehensive/nervous about in the coming two months/eight weeks (this is another tomato tomaaato argument). I think I am going to do this in list form and explain the important list items and leave the self-explanatory ones be.

Things I am excited for:
  • Being in Miami (who wouldn't be?)
  • Working with Unidad (see first post for more information about their organization, yes that means you actually have to read the first blog post.)
  • Working with high school students – I went to an urban high school that graduates less than/up to 50% of its’ senior class. I was drawn to this program because I want to make a difference in my community and think this is a great way for practice just that. I hope that working with Unidad will not only give me insight in to how other people put on program to help urban students, but also allow me to make a difference in the lives of the students, even if it is a tiny one (like helping them remember to wear deodorant everyday because we all forget sometimes). My high school has greatly impacted my field of study (although it took me a while to catch on to that), and it turns out that I am rather passionate about public education and thus am a Public Policy major and Education minor (don't think they have to be in uppercase letters, but it makes me feel important if they are). Education policy, what does that even mean you ask yourself, don’t worry I ask myself that too, all the time. And I don’t have an answer yet. Sure you can look it up and find a definition, or ask a policy maker what it means and they can regurgitate back to you various education policy (cough No Child Left Behind cough), but I struggle to think that memo writing and policy work is what the education Gods (with some help from their friend Kenny Kahn) have in mind for me. So this internship, and DukeEngage more generally, have presented me with the opportunity to understand what education policy means to me, and I could not be more thankful.
  • Spending time with a group of Duke kids I didn’t know beforehand (didn’t know well)
  • Cooking – I think this might the second most exciting part about this trip for me. I lived in an apartment on campus last year, but with food points, why cook? So now, food-point-less, I will attempt to become one heck of a chef (wish my roommates’ tummies luck). I will keep you posted on what I try cooking and how it goes over with the ‘mates.
  • Exploring a new city
  • All of the learning that will happen – learning about myself, about my career goals, about the students/community partner(s) with whom I work, about my fellow Dukies, about Miami. ALL of the learning.

Things I am apprehensive about:
  • Speaking Spanish – I know both of my parents just rolled their eyes reading that. It’s true though. I have a huge, slightly irrational, fear of speaking Spanish. Perhaps it comes from being half Hispanic and not being fluent, or maybe it is just my slightly perfectionist personality taking over causing my muteness/fear of making a mistake when speaking Spanish. Regardless of where the fear comes from, it is there and I am apprehensive (and excited) about being in a Spanish speaking community with my limited Spanish speaking skills. 
  • Working with high schoolers – wait, but you just said you were excited to work with them, and I really am, but I am also worried they won’t like me. I know my parents just said, "But Tster you are such a likable kids and all your little campers love you." And while my little campers do love me (they follow me home after camp most days, in a noncreepy way), they are five to twelve year-olds with whom I have so much in common (love for Disney princesses, scooby-doo lunch box, joke telling ability...). High schoolers on the other hand, are different. According to my 14 year-old not-so-little little brother I am a weirdo, and I am worried these Miami high schools will think the same (not that there is anything wrong with being weird). But being the weirdo isn't my only fear. I am also worried that they might not take me seriously because I have never been in their shoes. To them I will look like a privileged white girl spending her summer in Miami “helping” the community spice up her resume while also working on her tan. (I am not sure they actually think that, but I like to take the "worst case scenario" approach so that hopefully the real experience is much better than my twisted mind has played it out to be.) So I am a little apprehensive about my ability to form meaningful relationships with the kids (maybe I shouldn't call them kids but rather young adults because I bet most of them are taller than me). 

I am going to stop there because while there are other things I am excited about  (BEACH TIME) and apprehensive/worried about (SHARK ATTACKS IN THE WATER) I think they are trivial and not really worth mentioning (if they become more important you have my scouts honor that I will mention them), plus I promised to keep this short (whoops).

So there you go Internet-World. I have officially spilled my guys to you.

Please keep reading this blog because it’s going to be awesome (pictures coming to a blog near you soon (and by 'a' I am referring to this one))!

Over and Out,
Taylor Doty.

Ritika: "Let's Roll"

Good morning!

I'm flying to Miami right now, and maybe it's because I'm incredibly sleepy, but I just can't say how I feel. I'm not nervous or worried, and I'm not super energetic either. I feel like I'm going on an adventure though, I really have few expectations because I want to make the most of this trip.

I've been home for the past three weeks and everyone I've told that I'm going to Miami has been confused. This has nothing to do with my neuroscience major or my medical aspirations, and that's just why I chose it. 

How many times in your life do you have the opportunity to devote your summer to leaping out of your comfort zone and learning about something completely new?  This is a precious summer, right smack in the middle of my college career and my one goal for it is to soak it all in. I don't want to second guess myself, I want to lose myself in whatever Miami and it's people have to offer. 

I'm open and I'm ready, let's roll.

-Ritika Patil

Mike: "Going Home"

First off, I cannot wait to visit my native home! I only lived in Miami for a couple of years but the thought of returning truly excites me given my new-found appreciation for a warm climate and, as always, a diverse people.

With respect to the civic engagement that will be occurring with the Latino population in Miami, I am interested to see how my skills that I have developed from my service-learning courses will transition towards a different demographic of people. In light of my interest, I will also enjoy utilizing my native language of Spanish, which I have not completely used in awhile, but still feel confident with regards to my linguistic immersion in the culture. I believe that the most trouble I will run into will be with remembering certain words, which, in actuality, is a good problem to have given that we are there to listen, not so much as to speak.

While part of the motto of Duke Engage is to change your world, what I aspire to leave is nothing less than an imprint of hope. I seek to have the students I assist hope to be able to pave a path that is their own, with respect to their own culture in a society which inhabits a competition second to none with regards to successful career paths. I believe that this goal can be attained simply through the manner in which I carry myself, as a Latino, which can translate through many different facets of community engagement.

However, more importantly I also aim to simply have a great time in Miami. I can already see myself thirsting for the worlds that await behind each closed door, because I know that each person I meet will inevitably influence the time I have in Miami. Lastly, it can go unspoken, that I will indefinitely be trying many of Miami’s fine cuisines while having fun under the sun!

Meghan: "Anticipation"

Tonight is the night before I leave for Miami. In six hours, I will be waking up early with my parents to groggily drive to the airport and say good-bye. 

On the eve of this much-anticipated day, I can’t decide if I want it to come or not. The fact that I was actually going to participate in DukeEngage this summer became real during Duke Engage Academy. Since the academy, I’ve been anxious and excited, but now that tomorrow is almost here, I feel myself holding back a little. 

Whenever I greatly anticipate something—a holiday, seeing an important person, the end of a semester, the waiting is the longest part. Then I experience the shear enjoyment of experiencing the event—not really knowing how to document its occurrence properly, and then it’s over. And it slips away to the mix of other exciting events for which I develop anticipation. I’ve always felt like time goes by a little too quickly and have struggled with ways to properly appreciate and document my experiences as they occur. 

I have a feeling that the next two months of my life are going to be ones I don’t want to fly by and ones I want to document properly. That is something of which I am going into this experience very cognizant. People who have experienced Duke Engage have expressed that while doing it, the experience feels incredible and life changing, but if you aren’t careful it will slip away once it is over. I don’t want that to happen, and that is why I wait on this night—not being able to decide if I want morning to come as fast or as slow as possible.

However, regardless of whether it comes slow or fast, it is coming, and ultimately I am very excited. I still don’t know what my daily routine will be or what I really will be doing, but I have a feeling I will be learning a lot. 

I love being thrown into new environments because I know I will have to adjust the way I do things—a process that typically leads to a lot of self-discovery. Aside from starting a new kind of life for the next couple of months, I am nervously excited to meet so many new people. This is the first time I will have the opportunity to use Spanish in a real life setting, and I am slightly unsure of my ability but am ready to try all the same. 

I want to go into this experience judgment free and enter into a partnership with the people I will encounter, but I am also anxious that they might misinterpret why I am there. I want them to know how genuinely excited I am and how much this means and how much I want to learn, but I’m not quite sure how to convey that yet. 

So tonight, as I sit at my kitchen table for the last time for a couple months, I am anxious yet very excited about the summer I have been anticipating.

-Meghan Price 

Hailey: "My Miami Bucket List"

 As I walked out of the house this morning and said goodbye to my parents at the airport, I could not help but want to start crying. I have never been good with goodbyes and this is not an exception. I have been very much looking forward to doing DukeEngage in Miami. It combines everything that I am super passionate about and interested in.  
   I have developed a bucket list type of list for what I would like to accomplish while I am there. They range from easy and simple to long term goals, and in no particular order. Here they are:  

1) Eat amazing food! There is no surprise that this would be my top priority!
2) Realize to some extent what it means to be an adult. This will be the first time that I will be living on my own in a completely new environment. Yes, I will have other Duke students to help me out along the way, but I am ready to face this challenge head on.
3) Become very conversational in Spanish. All of the different dialects and types of culture bring different aspects to the table and I want to be able to partake.
4) Make a difference. I know that I will not be able to save the entire Latino population in Miami, not that that is my goal, but I want to be able to make a genuine impact on the lives of some people.
5) Take it all in! I do not think I will ever have this type of phenomenal experience and opportunity anywhere or at any other time in my life, so I will make the most of it!

"Be safe! Be aware of your surroundings! Keep your purse on you at all times!" That was the resounding advice that I will take to heart from my parents and family. I cannot wait to see how this experience shapes my future career plans and what I plan to do because of it. In the words of Will Smith, "Bienvenido a Miami!" Now cue that song as my walkup song to this trip!

- Hailey Diaz

Brenda: "I am a Human Being; Nothing Human can be Alien to Me"

"I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me."

Maya Angelou's words kept running through my mind as I did final preparations for our journey (buying necessities, figuring out how to pack under the weight limit, making sure I did not forget my driver's license, and the other minutiae necessary for a successful trip). I felt anxiety for the airport (after childhood the excitement and whimsy of the airport has been replaced with the dread of bureaucracy) and nervousness about meeting new people at Unidad Miami (I always have felt nervous when meeting new people).

Upon reflecting on my anxiety I felt as though some of it was warranted; I once caught a flight right before boarding ended and on another journey my luggage was lost so my worry about airports had a historical basis. However, some of my anxiety had a base of fear – fear that I would not be liked, fear that I would not be effective, fear that I would get physically lost, and fear that I would get lost in translation when speaking Spanish. The common thread was a fear of failure, but as Maya Angelou succinctly encompassed with her words, failure is a part of the human experience, as is fear, and joy.

As I remembered what I had forgotten to pack as we neared the airport, I reminded myself that what matters in failure is how one recovers from those moments. In the case of when my luggage went missing, I resolved to always travel with a well-packed carry-on.  I also decided to focus on my positive emotions, namely the excitement I felt for exploring a city that I have only read about, reuniting with the other participants of Duke Engage Miami to share this journey, and for the new relationships that will form at Unidad Miami.  The Duke Engage motto is "Challenge yourself. Change your world" - I think we will also experience internal changes as we navigate this new terrain and overcome any setbacks,  so let the changes within ourselves and the  challenges begin! 

-Brenda Onyango 

Amrith: "Pre-Departure Thoughts"

I’m very excited to leave for Miami and to start exploring the city as the first part of our immersive DukeEngage experience. 

Although there has not been a great deal of specificity regarding the New Generation Leadership & Workforce Institute we will be assisting Unidad with during the first half of the program, I am very excited about the number of opportunities that we will have to form meaningful relationships and grow as a group. I think we have a very balanced, diverse group, and am looking forward to getting to know each of the other seven program participants better. I know that the Unidad staff, Miguel, Professor Clifford and Ms. Snead-Williams have all worked extremely hard to plan an eventful eight weeks and hope to take full advantage of my time in Miami. 

I think I will have a much better grasp of more detailed expectations after next week’s training session with Unidad, but I am probably most focused on getting out of my comfort zone and the “Duke bubble” and trying new things while fulfilling the objectives of the program. I am slightly anxious about my ability to speak Spanish, but think that I will only become even more proficient in the language. More than anything, I am looking forward to the upcoming weeks and am excited about what will occur.

-Amrith Ramkumar