I’m writing this blog post with less than 24 hours until I leave Durham University’s campus and begin my long journey home. In a lot of ways, I’m ready to go. I miss my family, my favorite hometown restaurants, and sunny summer weather. In other ways, though, I can’t help but feel like I’m leaving things behind here—both in Durham, England, and with my DukeEngage experience as a whole. I understand the Bull City now more than I ever did, and have stronger ideas on international service than I did before pairing it with domestic engagement, but I’m also more challenged by the issues I’ve been introduced to now than I was ten weeks ago. With all of the thoughts and questions I’m leaving DukeEngage with, I decided to list three that I’m still figuring out—a means of ending the summer without ending the conversation and thought surrounding what I’ve seen, learned, and experienced in the last ten weeks.
- Domestic service enriches international experiences. My six weeks in Durham, NC informed my last month in the UK, and made my service here more meaningful and engaging. At the same time, different cultural norms, social behaviors, and political influences create distinct contexts for service in different countries. How do we utilize local and global experiences in service of each other without disregarding the uniqueness of different nations and populations?
- People define place. The differences in how they do that in Durham, NC and Durham, UK speak volumes about their respective cultures, communities, and economies. I see the ever-changing nature of the Bull City community in the innovative, diverse market it fosters. The loyalty to history and origin story in northeast England is evident in the sense of community and belonging present in our placements and locals we’ve met. With all the ways I’ve seen location shape behavior and economic development, I’ve often thought about what places I define, and how they define me. How do the places we identify with change our views, our perception by others, and our local and global engagement efforts?
- Service-learning is rarely a perfect balance of its two parts. It’s difficult to determine whether active service or learning—being for or being with—has more sustainable, long-term, meaningful impact. Educated, informed service is key to creating change, but where do we distinguish between observation and engagement? How do we define and enact effective service, and how do we use what we’ve learned to create real change?
These questions and reflections have filled my DukeEngage experience, especially in the last few weeks. Thankfully, there are some things I know without question—that I’ve loved my time at Changing Lives, that I’ll miss this Durham, that sticky toffee pudding is my new favorite dessert, and that none of my pictures will ever do the hills of northeast England justice. I know that I’m excited to return to Durham, NC with real appreciation for what it offers, that I’m grateful to have spent six weeks moving below the surface of the Bull City and its people, and that this summer has been one of growth, fun, and loving new places while rediscovering old ones.
So, DukeEngage, thanks for broadening and bettering my views on service, economic development, and global citizenship. Thanks for answering some of my questions. More importantly, thanks for helping me form new ones—questions about people, place, economy, community, and myself—that I look forward to exploring in the months and years following this summer.