The recent influx of prospective students on campus for Blue Devil Days has brought to the attention of the current first-years just how close they are to surviving their first year at Duke. It seems like only yesterday they were the high school seniors being whisked around campus for Blue Devil Days, trying to figure out the layout of West Campus and wondering which dorm they would be assigned to come August. Now those same high schoolers are spending hours in Perkins studying for their upcoming finals and beginning the arduous process of sorting through the mountains of free T-shirts they’ve accrued over the past few months. Their first year is coming to an end, which is stirring feelings of excitement and dismay as they pack their bags and prepare to bid East Campus farewell.

“I'm going to miss the sense of community that East Campus provides,” first-year Maria Pita said. “I like that East feels like a world of its own. I'm not sure if living on West Campus will be quite the same in that sense.”

While some students have expressed frustration with East Campus and its isolating distance from the university’s center, most seem to have developed at least some degree of attachment to the campus. Its small area — the dorms are proximate to one another, and the centrality of Marketplace and its quad essentially forces the first-years to mingle and form strong bonds that will hopefully carry over into the significantly larger, less-dense world of West Campus. 

Pita isn’t alone in missing East Campus. First-year Brooke Scheinberg echoed Pita’s sentiments about the intimacy of East.

“I'll also miss East Campus,” Scheinberg said. “Living on West will be super convenient I'm sure, but having a place where everyone in my class lives, eats, et cetera has helped me cultivate more relationships with freshmen that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise, and I'll miss that.”

In addition to the change of scenery, first-years are also coming to terms with how they’ve changed over the course of their first year at Duke. Most students would probably be surprised by how much they’ve learned about themselves and their interests — academic or otherwise — since O-Week. A student’s first year is a transformative period that will set up how the student decides to tackle the rest of his time at Duke, whether that means changing his planned major, joining a new club or putting himself out there to make new friendships.

Pita said that her first year at Duke has been a tremendous period of self-growth. 

“I knew and expected that coming to Duke would be an amazing academic experience but I was caught off guard by how much personal growth I experienced,” Pita said. “I didn't expect to learn so much about myself, the things I value, and how I approach my relationships with people. Duke has made me more introspective than I've ever been and I think that's because I've met a lot of people I've come to admire and this in turn has made me look at myself and my actions more critically than ever before.”

Scheinberg shared the sentiment. “I also made significant progress in figuring out what I want to do with my life, which is really comforting,” she said.

Moving on in one’s academic career is always a daunting process, especially when that movement is accompanied by such a drastic change in environment and expectation. With most of the introductory classes behind them, students will finally be tackling the more specific, rigorous courses that pertain to their planned major and taking on more responsibility as they assume leadership roles in the clubs and organizations they joined as a first-year. Duke is a place of great academic stress and rigor, and it can be easy to dread the upcoming transition and long for a return to the simple bonding activities of O-Week. The current first-year class, however, isn’t deterred by the increasing difficulty and the challenges they will meet upon returning to campus in August.

“I'm excited to dive deeper into my fields of study, take harder and more interesting classes, settle more into Duke, and act as a mentor for the new class,” said Scheinberg, expressing enthusiasm rather than unease about her future at Duke.

Pita is also optimistic about her transition from first-year to upperclassman, viewing it as an opportunity to continue her journey at Duke. 

“I feel that in this year alone, I've gained a better sense of what I want to do in the future and I'm excited to see how those passions develop or whether I abandon them altogether and take up new ones I don't even know about yet,” Pita said.