This time last year, all of our friends were drunk at Oktoberfest.
Whether it’s tenting for the Duke-North Carolina game or climbing Baldwin Auditorium, we like to think there are activities here that create an authentic Duke experience. It’s these moments—big or small, intellectual or slightly moronic—that give us a special connection to our University. We know they cannot be recreated anywhere else.
Another tradition each class buys into the Fall of their junior year is studying abroad. Last year, 505 of the 1,725 juniors packed their bags and flew across the pond to drink in Germany, country hop and oh learn too of course.
But while most of our friends were expanding their knowledge of draft beer, we spent the majority of our time editing articles and making the final touches to the daily paper in 301 Flowers. Our jobs were so time consuming that any of our friends still on campus forgot that we hadn’t gone abroad. And to be honest, sometimes it seriously—for lack of a better word—sucked.
Here’s the thing, our friends abroad did not have to deal with a squirrel running over their personal belongings as they worked on major supplements or wrote papers from the third floor of Flowers. And our friends abroad certainly did not have to learn the art of attending class and acting like a human being on three hours of sleep. Let’s not get started on the angry emails and phone calls...
But given the opportunity to make the choice again, we would gladly choose our sleep-deprived life as college journalists all over again (though we could probably have benefited from eating less buffalo chicken pizza). It is very rare to be given an opportunity at the age of 20 to take complete control of an organization that guides a significant portion of campus dialogue. Being an uppermast editor on The Chronicle allowed us to take a role in University life that our fellow students will never experience. We called administrators in the middle of the night, we were recognized by Duke’s upper echelons, we wrote stories that—for better or for worse—made waves nationally.
When our friends returned to us last January, they tried to explain how four months in Spain or Australia had completely changed their life. We looked at them and laughed.
Living in another country can teach you a lot of valuable lessons—and they probably learned some of them—but we invite them to give a semester living in 301 Flowers a shot. Last year was a crash course in running our own small business—managing a staff, creating and implementing strategies, dealing with crippling pressure and making split-second decision making. One false move could get us sued.
There was no way you could really prepare for it. We learned on the job, just like someone would learn to navigate an unfamiliar European city with a language barrier. And, hey, we got through a decent amount of beer too.
A year later, we get to look back on our abroad experience, of sorts. Was it the most fun that we’re ever going to have? Probably not. But was it something we can regard—without a doubt—as life-changing?
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