During Blue Devil Days, a number of people asked me about the Focus Program. I was so excited to talk to them about it; I decided I was going to blog about it. So what’s the Focus Program really like? While each Focus graduate will give you a different answer, I can say with confidence that Focus was the second best Duke-related decision I’ve made so far – the first of course being my commitment to Duke University.
I remember hearing about Focus a little over a year ago and decided that I wanted some stability my first year at Duke – a little certainty of the upcoming year. I spent half the night writing the Focus application essays – I remember vaguely something about a meteor-showered planet and life changing ethical dilemmas. Then fast-forward a month or so later, and I received my congratulatory letter while on my graduation trip in Bangkok, Thailand. And now fast-forward even more to Fall, 2011. I was fresh off my 34-hour plane ride, stunned by all that America had to offer, and excited beyond words. I was nervous – really nervous. But trust me, everyone was feeling the same thing. We all weren’t sure where things were, who we’d be friends with, which classes to take. Even the most confident people had butterflies in their stomach. I didn’t know this then but looking back now, who wouldn’t be? Our dreams had just come true – we were now officially attending one of the best universities the world had to offer. I’m here almost a year now and I’m still in awe!
Anyways, back to Focus! I like to think that I came to Duke a little more confident because of Focus than I would otherwise. It gave me a sort of platform for my next three months. It turned the unpredictable into a little certainty – I would share a dorm with my Focus group, attend weekly discussion classes with the same people I lived with, and I would have 2 out of 4 of my classes ready for me when the semester began (no wait listing or permission number required). We were pampered freshmen!
All together there are 12 Focus clusters: I chose the Ethics, leadership and Global Citizenship one. I don’t know much about the other clusters but you can get more information at http://trinity.duke.edu/focus-program. I think they just added the ‘Humanitarian Challenges’ cluster – I’m so jealous!
My Focus was held by the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Just last week the Institute held ‘When, Why and Should We Lie: The Science behind ‘Lie to Me,’ a discussion by renowned psychologist Paul Ekman. Too cool! Our classes were small – a maximum of 15 students – and all discussion-based. It was here that I learned how to truly think for myself. In high school, I always felt that I should comply with the majority or with what was written in textbooks, articles, etc. In my Focus classes, because they were so small, I was encouraged to speak up. I was pretty hesitant but I soon figured that as long as I could back up my argument, I’d be fine. There are people in the class who will speak up from the very beginning, and those who take a little longer to voice their opinions. I belong to the latter group. But soon enough, I found my own voice. I realized that my opinion mattered, even if no one agreed with me. This lesson, above all, is why I’m so appreciative of the Focus Program. It made me more confident of my academic abilities.
And you wonder about the workload? I’m going to be honest and say that it’s a bit more challenging than other freshmen classes. While we didn’t have finals, we did do a lot of reading and writing – it was here that I learned the art of skim reading!
Did I mention we went to New York City?
A few weeks after my acceptance letter, our Focus sent us a letter inviting us all to the Big Apple – and what an invitation it was! We went to see the World Trade Memorial, spoke with a Duke alumna who now works at the U.N., met with the Director of the Huffington Post, and ate at an eco-friendly middle-eastern restaurant in the middle of NYC. Needless to say, I was impressed with what the Focus Program had to offer. They go above and beyond their role as educators. Class of 2016, I highly recommend Focus! The deadline is May 30th, so you still have time – but put it in your calendars! If you have any specific questions about the clusters, feel free to ask here, or on the ‘Class of 2016 page’ - I know there’s a bunch of Focus people there. Again, Congratulations!!!!!
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