This piece is by Betty May Wanjiru, a 2010 high school graduate who interned with Duke University’s Office of Community Affairs this past academic year. Betty was placed with us through YO:Durham, which serves at-risk Durham youth with its Year of Opportunity programs.
Starting this internship back in September, I wasn’t sure what to expect because I had never worked in an office setting before. I wasn’t sure what it takes to work in an office and didn’t think I would do a good job. Fortunately, immediately after walking through the door on my first day of work, I was welcomed with open arms which made it easier to immediately get to work.
After Stacey Craig Riberdy, Program Assistant, explained the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership and how the office collaborates in its efforts through the Partnership, I immediately became interested in learning how they were able to collaborate with various groups of different people and minimize the amount of conflict. It was important for me to learn about collaboration because I always preferred working alone instead of in a group because group work often resulted in conflict and no work getting done. I wanted to learn how to compromise in a manner where everyone benefits and no one feels excluded.
By working, observing, and talking with different people associated with this office, I learned that collaboration is not easy, regardless of how large or small the group is. I must be willing to compromise my ideas and listen to others, have a positive attitude and ultimately do what benefits the group. As I learned about working with others, I also learned about myself.
I realized that the reason I disliked group work was because I wanted to be the leader and have people do things my way. Now I am able to let someone else be in control and compromise my ideas. I have learned to listen and hear and to be attentive to the needs of others. Learning about collaboration has taught me that I am not always right.
Through my internship, I was able to participate in hands-on activities such as tutoring, photography and a harvest festival—all things I never thought I would do because I was working in an office. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to take pictures because I was able to explore my creative side and do something good with it. Taking pictures showed me that I can be creative and artistic and that I shouldn’t doubt myself. I learned to have more confidence in myself and my abilities.
Tutoring at Northside was also very enlightening. The kids were always eager and excited to learn which made me feel pleased to be there. I am glad I was able to tutor there for two semesters, because I was able to see the kids improve as the year progressed. A few of the students had difficulty reading and doing math at the beginning, but as the semester continued, they became more confident in their ability and improved drastically. I’m glad I was able to have a small influence in their lives and hope they remain confident in their abilities and continue to improve on their math and reading.
Tutoring was sometimes a challenge (especially on Mondays) because the students sometimes had difficulty staying on task and would distract each other. I had to keep them focused without seeming harsh or frustrated. I learned to be more patient and calm through Northside, and I will continue to improve on those skills, because I realize that sometimes people won’t do what they should and I have to gracefully adjust to such situations.
The internship as a whole has taught me that I should be more open to the unknown. Before Community Affairs, I would rarely consider working in an office because of my assumptions. I always assumed that office jobs were structured and boring. I wanted to work here because it was different compared with everything I had ever done, and I wanted to see whether it would be what I expected. I am glad to report that all my assumptions and expectations about office work were very, very wrong.
My time at Community Affairs was anything but boring. My assignments ranged from inputting data into excel to creating display boards to photocopies. The variety in assignments allowed me to gain exposure to a lot of the different types of tasks that people in the office do, and to meet people. It also kept me on my toes, because I was never completely sure what to expect on any given day – this gave me something to look forward to when coming to work.
I am thankful for all that I have learned and experienced and for all the people I have met. Thank you all at Community Affairs for giving me the opportunity to intern here. I have enjoyed my time here and gained so much knowledge that will forever stay with me. Thank You.