The past few weeks that I have spent in Detroit have been unlike any other period of time in my life. Never before have I spent my summer away from home, and I have never experienced a work or internship opportunity like DukeEngage has presented me. In the past few weeks, there have certainly been rough moments, as I continue to grow and develop as a professional and person. There are three lessons that I have really absorbed this summer.
One of the most impactful lessons I learned was from watching another DukeEngage fellow, Rafa Adi. From his first interaction when we arrived in Detroit, to the latest interaction he had at a restaurant we dined at, I have learned that to truly engage and become a part of an environment, you must go out of your comfort zone and engage with locals. Rafa is always asking members of the local community about their thoughts on the area, their life stories / key experiences, what we should do, and what makes Detroit the city that it is. His ability to put himself out there to sometimes reserved people is admirable, and the connections he makes are truly meaningful. No one else in the cohort has engaged with the people of Detroit as much as Rafa. He has taught me that just because I am located in a physical environment, it does not mean I am engaged in the environment. Since attempting to engage the local community like Rafa does, it has led to my DukeEngage experience being much more immersive and such a deeper experience. I look forward to bringing this lesson with me, whether it is on my road trip in August, Durham in the Fall, or wherever life may take me in the future.
Another lesson I have learned is the importance of being proactive about communication. Growing up, both at school and at home, it was always better to quietly complete work and do what was necessary. In my public school district, proactively communicating with teachers in the classroom environment meant that you were struggling, a troublemaker, or bringing unnecessary attention upon oneself. Both in Detroit and Duke this is not the case. Never before was proactively communicating more than what I thought necessary essential to being successful. It is something I am certainly still working on, but this summer has shown me just how important it is.
The last lesson I learned is that when entering a new environment it is key to establish a routine that enables effective and sustainable work habits. At Duke this was not necessary, but here it is certainly the case that I need to proactively create situations conducive to effective work. It is something I will look out for more so in the future.