‘Don’t rule anything out’: What students wish they knew before coming to Duke

Halfway through the academic year, both new and experienced students reflected on what they wish they had known before coming to Duke. 

One common theme was the importance of East Campus in allowing first-years to bond with members of their class in a secluded setting. For first-year Simone DeBerry, East Campus allowed her to unexpectedly connect with friendly faces and smooth over her worry that first-years would already have friends before arriving at campus. 

“In some regards, it's frustrating to have to take a bus … but you really get to build community your freshman year because it's only freshmen,” she said. “... People are super open, especially at the very beginning of the year, to having different people sit with them at their meals and just really meeting as many people as you can.”

Echoing DeBerry’s sentiments, sophomore Sophie Mansoor said the difference between the two campuses is noticeable in her second year, describing East Campus as having a much stronger sense of community compared to West Campus. 

For junior Olivia Ares, Duke’s campus feels more secluded from Durham than she expected. She touched on the lack of economic diversity, which she feels is especially noticeable compared to her community in Tennessee, which she feels is more socioeconomically diverse. 

Ares described Duke as “really not representative of Durham,” pointing to an opinion column by senior Pilar Kelly that described the author’s experience as a tour guide. 

Parents would often ask questions about what the crime was like in Durham — what Kelly described as “an innocent enough sentiment, though when paired with a suggested look and follow-up questions about the ‘bad parts’ of the city communicated much more.” 

For sophomore Bill Ssewanyana, one unexpected aspect of his Duke experience was staying on top of coursework. He explained the importance of having prior knowledge before class so students can continue to build on the material and encouraged students to prepare at least a week in advance when studying.  

Coming out of his first semester, first-year Jay Kaisera mentioned the importance of establishing routines and taking care of oneself, including getting eight hours of sleep, eating good meals and going to the gym. He said that these practices allow for a better school experience and a more balanced life.

“I think that having a set routine in college is really important. It’s something that I didn't completely understand first semester,” Kaisera reflected. He said that after he took better care of himself, it set him up to better focus on his classes.

First-year David Mann emphasized the importance of immersing yourself in all college has to offer from the beginning of your experience. This early involvement is important because the first semester is the “easiest time to get involved in new things and meet new people.”

“Go to the club fair, join every club that looks remotely interesting,” he said. “Join every mailing list, go to every interest meeting, hang out with people even if you don't think they're gonna be lifelong friends, and don't rule anything out.”

Madera Longstreet-Lipson profile
Madera Longstreet-Lipson | Associate News Editor

Madera Longstreet-Lipson is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor for the news department.      


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