The Class of 2022 had a whirlwind of a college experience. With a pandemic-torn four years bookended by normalcy in their first and last years, our recent graduates became experts at adapting to new circumstances and learning to thrive amidst it all. The Chronicle asked three members of the Class of 2022 to share what they learned from their Duke experiences. Here’s what they said.
What would you say to first years who are just getting their bearings in this huge new place?
Margaret Gaw: Give yourself time to breathe amidst the busyness and trust your gut. I biked around campus in those first few weeks to get oriented and that was wonderful in getting to know where I was. I met some of my best friends to this day in my pre-orientation program so be open and curious, strike up conversations with those around you and talk with upperclassmen too!
Samarth Menta: Stay grounded. For many freshmen, this may be the most stressful social experience they will have been a part of. By the end of it all, it may seem like the end of the world if you didn’t find your “people.” This is definitely not the case: some of my best friends at Duke, I met during sophomore or junior year. Just keep an open mind during it all and don’t force anything and just remember there is no pressure to find those close connections that quick.
Matthew Webber: Don’t worry about finding friends and think more about finding activities. There’s a huge pressure to find your best friends during O-Week but that doesn’t happen for a lot of people. The majority of my closest friends I made were through the activities I did, so as long as you’re able to figure out a few things you’re interested in, you’ll be just fine.
How would you recommend spending time outside of class?
Menta: Unless you really, really need to buckle down and work, don’t reject a friend’s offer to hang out or study together. As I have reflected over the past few weeks, I realized that you are probably never going to have the opportunity to be in the vicinity of your friends in the same way that college offers. I regret not having more time with the people that I grew to love at the school, so just cherish those little moments that you can make on a daily basis.
Webber: Outside of class, try as many things as possible. Duke gives you so many opportunities to do some of the most random things, and it’s not something I think you’ll have at any other time in your life. Take advantage of it and don’t be afraid to try something you don’t end up liking. It’s a lot better to have tried and known than to potentially miss out on a lifelong interest or hobby.
How did you know that you were pursuing something (a major, for instance) that was right for you?
Gaw: I chose my major because I trusted it was the right one for me, because I loved my English class and resonated with what the department was doing and wanted to read and write. That doesn’t mean I don’t wonder what could have been if I stuck with another path I was considering. Trust yourself. It’s really not ‘make or break.’
I majored in English but am going to work in clinical research at a major hospital and hopefully apply to medical school. I was able to combine interests in my major—whatever you do that excites you and adds to that aliveness makes you a more well rounded person. Ask yourself why you’re pursuing something. Talk to people a few steps ahead, talk to your advisor. At the end of the day, listen to yourself. Trust yourself and the various turns you may take along the way.
Webber: You can know you’re pursuing something right for you when you legitimately enjoy it. There’s a lot of classes I took at Duke that were fine, but there’s classes that I would look forward to going to and would be engaged the entire time I was there. My sophomore year, when that first started happening to me in economics classes is when I knew for sure I should major in economics. When you find things that make you really want to learn and do more, I think you’re on the right track.
What is something you wish you could have done or known more about before you graduated?
Gaw: It is very challenging for people in my year to answer this question about “what we wish we had done” because two years of our college was in the middle of a global pandemic. I can say what I find most meaningful—what I’m carrying away from college—are relationships and experiences. Prioritize, put time into those people you love and can be you around. Do spontaneous things with them and just go for it. Duke has mental health services on campus which is one of the many convenient things that comes with living on a college campus and being a student. I would recommend using these services if they improve your wellbeing. I recommend getting off Duke’s campus and getting to know the city of Durham you’re living in.
Menta: As I have reflected on my time at Duke, as obvious as it may seem, I took Duke for granted. Although we pay thousands and thousands of dollars in tuition, we rightfully have so many resources in our palms. If you think there is something that Duke can’t offer in terms of resources, there is a good chance you haven’t found that resource yet. We deserve every single thing we get given how much we pay, but I have realized that it will never be this easy to utilize all of these resources and have them all together at the same place.
Webber: I wish I could’ve done DukeEngage before I graduated. It feels like you have so much time and so many summers, but you realize pretty quickly that there’s internships and other things you want to do during them.
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Ishani Raha is a Pratt junior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.