‘A mix of purpose and serendipity’: Class of 2023 graduates give guidance to incoming Blue Devils

<p>Graduates looking towards stage with hands raised above the crowd.</p>

Graduates looking towards stage with hands raised above the crowd.

The Class of 2023 has gone through the entire range of the college experience. After almost a full year of normalcy, the COVID-19 pandemic changed campus life drastically, forcing Duke’s recent graduates to adapt, reflect and succeed despite all obstacles. The Chronicle asked three members of the Class of 2023 to share what they learned from their Duke experiences. Here’s what they said.

What would you say to first years at O-Week who are just getting their bearings in this huge new place?

Nellie Sun: It's okay if you don't remember the names of everyone you meet during O-Week. Stay in touch with the people who celebrate you for who you are and with whom you feel comfortable being unabashedly yourself. For me, joining a club was one of the best ways to do this. I joined mock trial my first year and met people who I know I will remain friends with for a long, long time. 

Skyler Graham: If there’s anything you’re interested in, check it out! Don’t worry too much about how a certain club will look on your resume, since your passion and dedication from any activity will shine through. I was interested in journalism and the arts, so I went to a Recess meeting freshman year. I don’t know if I’m going to keep writing for a living, but I do know I met my best friend from that experience. 

Kaleb Amare:  Everyone is in your shoes. Everyone is nervous about making friends, doing well in school and making a place for themselves, so just relax. You’ll figure it out, even if it seems like other people are figuring it out quicker than you are.

How did you know that you were pursuing something (a major, for instance) that was right for you?  

Amare: I realized I really liked philosophy and political theory when I found myself talking about it with friends, reading books about it and just generally doing it for its own sake, not for a grade. I consider it to be a part of my life, and I want to keep on learning about it, even after graduation. 

Sun: It's a two-way street of understanding your own passion and being open to your interests changing. My first major, political science, was a natural fit for me because I was politically engaged in high school. It provided a great framework as I went on to do democracy, election and voting rights work in college. I didn't expect to also pursue a history major but decided to after taking classes that reignited my interest in the field. And now, I'm so glad I did because history is a necessary tool for understanding how ideas, practices, laws and institutions came to be. So I'd say my journey was a mix of purpose and serendipity.

Graham: I knew psychology was right for me when I was eager to share what I learned with my friends. My psych classes gave me so many “Did you know?” topics that deepened every casual conversation I had. I also saw a lot of myself in my professors and could tell they were passionate about the subject. 

What is something you wish you could have done or known more about before you graduated? 

Sun: I wish I took more time to fully appreciate the beauty and history of the place I was living in. I wished I studied more in the Gardens, visited more exhibits at the Nasher and explored more restaurants, shops and museums off-campus. 

Graham: I wish I looked more into financial aid provided by Duke. As a first-gen student, sometimes paying for college is difficult just because you don’t even know what resources are available or how to access them. In my case, I didn’t even really know how many resources were available. 

Amare: I wish I went to more basketball games and cleaned my room more.

Has there been a big life lesson that you've learned in your time at Duke, or any words of wisdom that you've carried with you throughout these past 4 years? 

Amare: There’s very little that you know about love, friendships, politics, religion and the world. College is the process of trying to figure all that stuff out, but you can’t do that if you think you already have all the answers. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong.

Sun: Ask questions. In high school and college, we're programmed to demonstrate what we know — to prove that we've grasped a concept on a test, in a paper or through a project. But learning should equally be about asking ourselves what we don't know about the world and what we would like to find out. 

Graham: Each person is on their own timeline. Don’t compare yourself to where your friends or peers are right now. Comparison in general often feels unavoidable, so if you have to, compare yourself to where YOU were last year or two years ago. Have you learned something, tried something new or met someone new recently? Then you’re on the right path. 

Ishani Raha profile
Ishani Raha | Senior Editor

Ishani Raha is a Pratt junior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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