Students reflect on how they have changed since coming to Duke

The spring semester marks many milestones for students at Duke — for first-year students, it's the beginning of their second semester, while for seniors, it's the beginning of their last. 

The Chronicle asked students to reflect on how they've changed since coming to college, and despite the differences in their times at Duke, their responses followed similar threads.

Finding community 

Many students believe that Duke helped them broaden social circles and find a sense of community, noting the Duke-based camaraderie that built their spirit for the school. 

When junior N Wang arrived at college, his goal “was to be able to know two people in any room [he] walked into.” 

“In high school, I had a very limited pool of people to talk to, whether that's just because the school was small or because everyone's kind of locked into existing social friend groups,” Wang said. “At Duke, I've been able to talk and meet with people from a diverse set of backgrounds, from a diverse set of experiences, and really just be able to learn so much from them.” 

Like Wang, first-year Dhruva Barua emphasized that his college experience so far has exposed him to people with backgrounds he had never encountered before, making him "completely change" how he views people. 

Sophomore Ishan Vyas sees this sense of community as a byproduct and a feature of Duke itself. 

“Just go to basketball games, and you're part of one of the many thousands of people in the crowd, all uniting around a common cause,” Vyas said. 

Gaining perspective 

Over 80% of Duke students come from out of state, according to CollegeFactual, meaning college at Duke is inherently a breakaway from comfort for most students. Many students reflected on the broadened perspective this created.

Senior Michael Cao learned how to handle academic adversity by putting things in perspective, crediting his first and second years at Duke for allowing him to see the bigger picture. 

Junior Vineet Chovatia believes that college has given him a greater appreciation for relationships after realizing that friendships from high school were sometimes difficult to maintain. 

“In college, I have a better conception of the finality of things,” Chovatia said. “And so I've learned how to appreciate time with people and being able to ask to spend time with people too because I didn't usually do that before.”

Roxana Haas, a junior, believes that valuing relationships comes with gaining perspective on what is important. Since coming to college, Haas has learned to focus on “the relationships [she’s] made and the people that fill [her] cup.” 

After excelling in high school, senior Andrew Owens learned to find a balance between academics and social life. 

“I was the guy that was always on a grind, never stopped, didn't sleep. And that was my persona. And when that changed, I think a whole world of opportunities opened up to me,” Owens said. “Tenting sophomore year absolutely tanked my grades. That's the worst semester I've ever had, almost embarrassingly bad. But that's a story that I get to tell 40, 50 years from now to my grandkids."

Finding yourself 

Many students believed that their time at Duke helped them leave their comfort zones and find the things and people they cared about.

In high school, senior Sophia Sacchetti tended to do the activities that her friends did. However, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions during her first year meant she had to try activities where she didn’t know anyone to meet new people. 

“I became more open to exploring things that I otherwise wouldn't have and became independent after realizing how great it is to join intramural sports or club committees without knowing anyone,” Sacchetti said. 

Michela Arietti, a sophomore from Italy, found the college adjustment process challenging. Arietti and the friends she made during orientation auditioned for the same clubs, and their relationships were strained when only some of them were admitted. 

“You're stuck eating dinner at Marketplace while your friend goes to the club meeting that you really wanted to get into. It can feel very isolating,” Arietti said. 

Arietti also felt a lot of homesickness as an international student, but despite these initial difficulties, she made close friends and found her academic niche. 

“I was looking for anything Italian to remind me of home, but now I realize that home is reflected more like the relationships I have here,” Arietti said. 

Waning idealism 

Although students believe they have grown positively since coming to Duke, they admitted that these changes are not all rosy. 

Haas believes thoughts of what comes after Duke have made her more future and financially focused than she would like to be. 

“A lot of the things that I want in life, and a lot of the lifestyles that we live really do require a healthy amount of money … The whole pre-professional drive here has really sunk in,” Haas said. 

Chovatia believes that his approaching graduation has prompted him to reconsider whether his aspirations are realistic. Although he still has plenty of goals, he worries that they're becoming "blunted by reality," noting that before arriving at Duke, he rarely thought about the road to achieving these dreams. 

Still, Chovatia believes that since coming to college, he has changed for the better. 

“In college, I think I became a much better person, and I'm really happy about that. And I'm really glad that I went to Duke too because I don't think I could have changed like this if I didn't."

Zoe Spicer profile
Zoe Spicer | Staff Reporter

Zoe Spicer is a Trinity junior and a features managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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