Over the next few weeks, prospective students will flock to Duke’s campus, taking tours, attending information sessions, and generally trying to answer the question “Is Duke right for me?” It’s a beautiful time to visit. The weather is warm, the grass is green, and flowers are blooming everywhere you look. Simply walking around campus at a time like this is a great introduction to the Duke experience. But the full Duke experience extends much further.
This past weekend, I visited the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina on a field trip for my Marine Megafauna class. It was a busy but exciting trip. I searched for the wild horses of Shackleford Banks (and found them), I got up close and personal with all sorts of marine critters (including a squid, which bit me), and I watched several pods of bottlenose dolphins (some dolphins swam right next to the boat).
It’s great to learn about things in the classroom, but concepts are much easier to grasp in the field. In lecture, Professor Johnston (better known as Dave) stressed the difficulty of collecting data about marine animals, even large ones, but this wasn’t fully clear to me until we encountered real dolphins near the Marine Lab. Getting a simple head count was almost impossible. A few dolphins would surface briefly, and then a few more would surface on the other side of the boat. Were these the same dolphins? How many were there in total? It was hard to tell.
I only stayed at the Marine Lab for a weekend, but many of my friends have studied there for a semester or longer. As part of their courses, they’ve conducted diverse forms of research and traveled to places like Singapore, Panama, and Puerto Rico. Marine lab students can also get into any basketball games they want when they take the three-and-a-half hour trip back to Durham. That part really makes me jealous.
I’ve had off-campus adventures of my own. I studied savanna ecology in South Africa through Duke and the Organization for Tropical Studies, and then I returned to South Africa for a DukeEngage project setting up environmental education programs in a rural village. Like me, other Duke students aren’t afraid to leave their comfort zone. In the 2010-2011 academic year, over 450 students studied abroad, and in the summer of 2011, over 400 students participated in Duke Engage.
Even in Durham, the Duke experience isn’t limited to the Duke campus. Next semester, Duke is offering more than 30 service-learning courses in a variety of departments, allowing students to apply what they’ve learned to actual civic engagement projects. Students also perform service outside of class, through over 75 organizations recognized by the Duke Partnership for Service.
In a short visit, seeing all the places that Duke students go over four years is impossible—even harder than counting dolphins. That’s why tour groups stick to West Campus. But for a student, campus is just the beginning.
The views and opinions of the bloggers on this page are their own; they do not necessarily represent the views of the Undergraduate Admissions Office or of Duke University.