As a high school graduate from Camden, NJ, I would not have believed that one day I’d be living in Morocco, preparing to climb Toubkal, the tallest mountain in North Africa. “I only climb figurative mountains, and they aren’t in Morocco,” I would have joked, especially given my aversion to most nature-related activities. Yet there I was,13,671 ft in the air at the summit of a mountain that represents so much more than the physical strength it took to conquer it.
During the several hours it took to ascend the mountain, I thought about my journey to that moment in time. I thought about the sacrifices my mother made as a single parent trying to raise a child in one of America’s poorest and most dangerous cities; I thought about the nerves and anxiety I had on my first day of class at Duke freshman year; I thought about the joy I felt on my first international flight to Kenya with the DukeEngage program; and of course, I thought about the sense of accomplishment I felt on graduation day.
As I look back on my years as an undergraduate, I realize that I was definitely a student that tried to take full advantage of the opportunities at Duke, some of which include: two summers in Kenya (one with DukeEngage and the other with Duke Global Health Institute), a spring semester in Strasbourg, France through Syracuse Study Abroad, and ten months in Cape Town, South Africa as a Hart Fellow through the Hart Leadership Program. Now I’m serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco with close to nine months under my belt. All of my work abroad has been focused on youth and educational development programming. I’m currently working on a project called Olympics of the Mind, Arts, and Culture (OMAC), which will be a community-wide competition for youth aimed at celebrating their excellence, nurturing their skills, and encouraging volunteerism. Our plan is to pilot OMAC this year in my small coastal town, and take it to regional and national levels in the coming years.
I’m still not 100% sure where my journey will take me after Peace Corps, but I am sure that I will take with me a sense of global concern, a strong intellectual curiosity, and a foundation of analytical tools that will continue to serve me well wherever I go, all thanks to the ICS program. And although Toubkal will most likely be the first and last literal mountain I climb in life, I won’t abandon my pursuit of the summits of figurative ones, where I hope to find like-minded hikers on the same search for solutions to our world’s most grave issues.