Duke, and colleges and universities in general, are often criticized for being out of touch with the real world. An insulated bubble, if you will, isolated from the happenings in the world around it.
Personally, given the frequency of student protests and activism in our Gothic wonderland, I am not entirely sure that concept of ignorance holds true here. But for the purposes of this reflection, let’s say it does.
As we’re so frequently reminded, the world is a scary and screwed-up place and as educated young people, it’s our job to go out and fix it. The reality is many students here will go out and do exactly that. Duke students may work to eradicate discrimination. Duke students may discover the cure for cancer. That Duke student who sat next to you in Writing 101 may become the President of the United States—or perhaps that’s just my wishful thinking this election cycle.
But for four years, these future illustrious alumni get to just be.
These students take different forms, shapes and sizes. Some are athletes, some are artists, some are researchers. Here at The Chronicle, we like to think some are journalists.
If you had told me when I stepped on East Campus as a freshman that I would be pursuing sports media and journalism after graduation, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. I had no journalism experience, besides one semester of high school yearbook (where I mainly put photos into premade boxes). A career in media sounded unstable and difficult. I liked structure. Besides, girls didn’t get to have careers in sports anyways, right?
Sometimes life throws you curves.
A chance encounter at the end of my freshman year led to the opportunity that would provide me some of my happiest memories at Duke. The Tuesday afternoons I’ve spent working with Coach Cutcliffe’s Duke Football show every fall completely shaped my Duke experience. I walked away from every filming session happier, infused with passion and more informed about the inner workings of a football program on the rise.
The producer of the football show, the talented Renaissance man, John Roth, prodded me to look into writing for The Chronicle.
It’s been the small moments serving as a beat writer that have been the most rewarding. Coaches have made an effort to express interest in my own life when I’m in their office asking questions about the week’s games. Fellow students have wowed me with their ability to reflect and articulate complex team strategies or personal feelings after the high of a big win and the low of a crushing loss. Sports information directors have gone out of their way to help you, offer advice and throw me some juicy statistics about the week’s matchup that will make my story that much better.
Through these experiences, there are two things about Duke that I have learned. The first: everyone at Duke, regardless of position, has something in common. No, it’s not the ability to sleep in a tent or moan about construction—though those may be true of the vast majority of our population. It goes deeper than that. There is not a single person at Duke that you can dismiss as being one-dimensional or can categorize into a cookie-cutter mold. Everyone here is smart, yes, but everyone here is also really stinking cool. It’s like going to a college where every single person is that one kid from your high school who built a well in Africa, launched a city-wide literacy initiative or was a McDonald’s All-American-—because, honestly, you were probably one of those kids.
I’m not sure when the second lesson hit me for the first time. There was no reckoning moment, but rather a period of reflection over the opportunities and moments I have been fortunate enough to experience at Duke. There are people here—coaches, athletic administrators and employees, in my case—who will go out of their way to help you when they do not stand to benefit at all.
Through these people I have made connections, found internships and improved as a writer, reporter and lover of sports.
That’s what has made Duke special for me.
So maybe the real world isn’t like that. Maybe those people only exist here under our little invisible bubble.
I don’t think that’s the case. But if it is, how lucky were we to live underneath it for four years?
Cassie Calvert is a Trinity senior.