Time flies by amidst the 9-5 shifts, the group bonding after work, and the daily chores. These four weeks had its ups and downs, from moments of joy in seeing final refined designs to instances of frustration when struggling to reproduce a mental image onto the computer screen. Over the past four weeks, Bryce and I have taken on a number of design projects to help Mitten Bites move forward from the farmers’ market into retailer stores. There have been many hurdles that we had to overcome in this creative process, from our limited experience in graphic design, to difficult access to various professional software. At first, both of us struggled with translating our ideas into digital images. We tried to avoid Adobe software as those are expensive and have a steep learning curve, but later found that Adobe is actually the easiest way to go. Then, there was the licensing issue because Adobe operates on a minimum of one year contract but we will only be working with Detroit Food Academy for two months. In this quagmire, I learned that communication is the key. Jen, the executive director, is a very understanding lady who immediately understood our difficulties when we talked with her about our concern for software usage. She promptly started to seek ways for us to obtain the software and promised to find solutions as soon as possible. When we explained to her that graphic design is not our forte, she gladly discussed with us ways in which we can be more involved in the youth summer internship program while keeping up with marketing projects. Inspired by our DukeEngage program director Matt Nash, we decided to bring weekly marketing workshop to the youths and ask for their feedback on the various designs we have been working on.
Aside from the internship experience, life outside work has also been enriching and informative. From the daily chores like grocery shopping and cooking, I learned how to make budget and keep track of my finances for the first time. Instead of suffering from the moment of shock when seeing the monthly credit card bill statement, I finally started to record every transaction right after it happens and began to get a better sense of how money is spent. Intellectually, two talks we went to made strong impressions on me. Shop Talk at the Social Grooming Club, from its popularity among locals, showcased Detroiters’ enthusiasm in sharing personal entrepreneurial experiences and in learning from others’ story. The talk on sustainable mobility and public spaces rekindled my interest in urban planning and encouraged me to read more into the potential of safe bike lanes and walkways. Attending these panels also remind me of the benefits that I can reap from engaging in these intellectual conversation, inspiring me to continue participating in these events after I go back to Duke. Another highlight of these four weeks is the July 4th weekend that the DukeEngage crew got to spend in Manchester, Michigan, along the banks of Pleasant Lake, thanks to the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Heuser, both Duke alumni and parents of one of the DukeEngage students, Ben. An hour away from the bustling city of Detroit, Manchester, with its water, grassland, and vineyards, demonstrated the beauty of countryside Michigan. As I was sunbathing on the dock and watching energetic puppies swimming alongside with laughing kids, I was able to truly appreciate the simple beauties in nature and everyday life.
With four more weeks left in this engagement experience, I most look forward to meeting Detroit youths in the DFA and working alongside with them in farmers’ markets. Interacting and getting to know the kids will be another big step in this immersive experience. I believe that there is as much for me to learn from their stories as, if not more than, I will be able to teach them during the upcoming marketing workshops. All in all, Detroit, has so far been an absolutely amazing and enriching experience.