This past Sunday, I marched into Wallace Wade Stadium wearing a long black robe and a silly-looking hat. Important people gave me advice about my future, and I received a piece of paper signifying that I had completed my studies at Duke. There was a lot of hugging and crying and picture-taking, and the ritual known as Graduation was complete.
I still haven’t fully accepted that I’m leaving. Until now, every time I’ve left campus, I’ve returned under more or less the same circumstances. Even after studying abroad in South Africa, I gained a new perspective on the world, but I still came back as a Duke undergraduate. However, next time I return to campus, I’ll come back as a Duke alumnus. Somehow that feels wrong. Alumni are supposed to be old; they’re supposed to go to reunions and reminisce about a bygone era. That’s not me. A few weeks ago, I was celebrating the last day of classes. Then I was holed up in Perkins cramming for finals. How did that turn into silly hats and important speeches? How long until I’m old and reminiscing at reunions? Sometimes time moves too fast.
Because I’m writing about graduation, you’re probably wondering the same thing as everybody else: What now?
Over the past few months, I’ve been asked about my post-Duke plans at least three times per day. It’s a natural question, but it gets old. For most of the year, the question was especially frustrating because I didn’t have a good answer. But recently, that changed, and now I can say that I’ll be spending ten months in Jodhpur, India as part of the Hart Fellowship, run by Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. I’ll be working on issues of food and water security through a non-governmental organization called GRAVIS. It’s an exciting opportunity but also daunting. I’ve never left the country for so long, and I’ll be traveling on my own. Whatever happens, it will be an adventure.
I don’t leave for India until July, so now I have some time to relax and reflect on my time at Duke. There have been many high points and also a few low points, but overall the past four years have been incredible. I’ve learned and grown immensely. As I enter into the next phase of my life, I’ll miss many aspects of Duke, especially the friends I’ve made and the mentors who’ve influenced me, but ultimately I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to stop taking classes and to start applying my knowledge to real-world problems. I’m ready focus my time and energy on a single pursuit. And I didn’t need a silly-looking hat to reach that realization. I’ve been ready for a while.
Because this is my final post, I’ll end with some advice. Duke is an amazing place with a lot to offer, but many opportunities need to be actively sought out. If you’re a current or future Duke student, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. But also take time to appreciate what’s around you—the place, the people, and the way of life. The Duke experience doesn’t last forever.
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