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First-Year Students

Not Insignificant

We had just wrapped up at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, drained from taking in all the incredible history exhibited in the museum’s three buildings. The consensus was to take the tram to a spot for lunch, then hop on it again to find a baklava shop we’d heard is amazing. The tram is one of several fantastic methods of public transportation used by what feels like everyone (at the same time) in the city of Istanbul. A seat on the bus, metro, or tram is a highly coveted spot that is not easily attained. In fact, sometimes just getting on any of these vehicles is a nearly impossible feat because they are so crowded. “Maximum Capacity” doesn’t seem to be a concept as firmly held here as it is in the U.S. As we approached the tram, desperately seeking nourishment after an exhausting outing of museum-going, we discovered hoards of other people on the platform who we would soon have to fight for a spot. The tram arrived and its doors opened, the poor passengers inside desperately trying to escape before being trampled by the masses boarding. Amidst this commotion, while trying to edge my way in without elbowing an elderly woman in the face, I felt a hand squeezing my butt. Suffering some sensory overload from the experience of getting on the tram, it took me a few seconds to realize this was happening, and to notice that the hand had not let go. When I did finally realize, I whipped around—no easy task when one has no more than a half-inch radius of personal space around her—and attempted to identify to whom the brazen hand belonged. My friend had witnessed this all go down, and pointed to a short, middle-aged man in a blue dress shirt and grey slacks who was holding a briefcase. He had turned to face the door, but looked over his shoulder a few times at me as I glared at him and shared some choice words I wish I knew how to say in Turkish. Our stop came soon after my futile attempt to give him a piece of my mind, and he was quickly lost in the crowd of passengers exiting.

The incident, his subsequent looks of complete indifference at me as I uselessly berated him, and the absence of a reaction from any of the passengers nearby who’d also watched it all happen brought me to the disturbing realization that what I had just experienced was, in a word, insignificant. I felt violated and uncomfortable in my own skin. The members of our group did their best to console me, through belatedly cursing the perpetrator or sharing their own stories of being publicly groped by strangers. I was overwhelmed with fury, but social etiquette urged me to stifle my anger and attempt to distract myself until I could be alone and reflect.

I never thought I would feel more like a compilation of body parts, assembled solely for the purpose of being assessed, criticized, and used by men, than at a Duke fraternity party—until I came to Turkey. I was warned, of course. Both of my parents effectively told me to put my feminist identity on hold during my time in Turkey, reminding me constantly that my views would not be received well in a country whose deputy prime minister told women they shouldn’t laugh out loud in public. They and many others warned me that life would be different as an American woman in Turkey—especially one who does not look Turkish in the slightest—and I would be expected to adapt. I’m okay with adapting. I want to be challenged. I enjoy exploring beyond my comfort zone. Being transformed against my will into a walking piece of meat for men to invade with their stares and debase with their words, among other things, does not fall into any of those categories. Nor does being expected to accept it as normal.

Throughout my first month and a half here, I have already met several incredibly intelligent, outspoken, headstrong Turkish women whose respective brilliances inspire me. Simultaneously, I have seen how the day-to-day culture of male entitlement, especially as expressed through street harassment, treats these women and all women as disposable objects. My experience on the tram was insignificant—to be expected, even. Because, from my western point of view, if you identify as a woman in Turkey, you automatically forfeit the basic human right of being treated as an equal to someone who identifies as a man.

The realization that the previous sentence requires no “in Turkey” to be true is an incredibly uncomfortable truth to accept. The idea of women as objects—to be owned, to be used, to be disposed of, to be replaced—is certainly not unique to this country. As I mentioned, the most objectified I’ve ever felt prior to coming to Turkey is when in attendance at a frat party at Duke. I have realized how easy it is to sit on the high horse of a westernized perspective and criticize other countries for the inequalities they are enforcing and perpetuating. It is far more unsettling to recognize the fact that, though it may manifest itself in different ways, gender inequality is as much a constant in our society as it is anywhere else. Being violated by a stranger on the tram was a blatant reminder that I am living in a man’s world, a world in which my womanhood renders my rights, my experiences, and my value insignificant.

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Student Health Closed Saturday 10/11

The Student Health Center will be closed on Saturday, 10/11, for Fall Break. We will re-open with normal operating hours on Monday, October 13th, at 8:30am.

For after hours health care options, please call us at 919-681-9355.

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More carbs! Less carbs! No carbs! More protein! Less protein! No protein?

Swimming in a sea of conflicting nutrition advice? Have no fear! “The Big Three” are here!

“The Big Three” tutorials are streamlined guides to understanding carbs, proteins, and fats. Complete with colorful pictures (featuring some of your fellow Dukies!) and “take-home messages,” these user-friendly tutorials offer the basics on the 3 essential macronutrients - what they are, where to find them, why they’re important, and how much our bodies need to succeed!

“The Big Three” tutorials will hopefully serve as a springboard for more extensive discussion in the “Nutrition in a Nutshell” series, coming soon!

Hungry for more??

Follow Duke Student Health Nutrition Services on  Facebook and Twitter for nifty tips, nutrition myth-busters, and news on awesome foodie events (like “Meatless Monday” specials at Penn and Marketplace for Vegetarian Awareness Month). 

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What I Say, As An RA

October is one of the hardest months of the fall semester, especially for freshmen. Up until midterms, the first few weeks of class are a time for settling in, meeting new people, and trying out new clubs at Duke. After about a month of wavering between friend groups and activities, many freshmen start to wear out and become frustrated with their experience. Around this same time, they are taking their first midterms and writing their first papers, adding to the overall stress of feeling uncomfortable here.

Midterms can leave freshmen shocked and disappointed with themselves. Most of them are accustomed to being straight-A, top of the class students, and they expect to continue this successful academic trend in college. It’s frustrating to work as hard in college as in high school, but receive substantially lower scores. In many math and science classes, the average test grade can be lower than 50%, and even though the freshmen know their classmates all failed the test with them, it’s still hard for them to feel comfortable with the score. It takes time at Duke to realize that being average here is something to be proud of. We’re surrounded by superstars of all types, inside and outside of the classroom, so being perfectly average is actually amazing compared to the world outside the Duke bubble. With time the freshman class will begin to understand that they don’t have to live up to the expectations of high school. Courses in college are designed differently than they are in high school, and it takes a couple semesters for students to build a new academic identity.

Another aspect of college freshmen struggle with during the fall is finding their niche. From O-Week up to about the third week of class, East Campus is an exciting place to be. There are always new people to meet and new events to attend. It’s almost like summer camp. As the school year becomes more intense, people have less free time and the social scene dies down. Freshmen start to feel lonely and can’t seem to find a place where they fit in at Duke. Friend groups from O-Week can dissolve quickly once classes start, and there aren’t any more large orientation events to help the entire class meet new people. After the activity fair is over it can also be difficult for freshmen to find student groups that interest them.

In my experience, it took more than the first few weeks to fully understand where I fit in at Duke. It took me my full freshman year, and my idea of where I belong is still evolving. It’s important for freshmen to keep trying new activities to meet new people, especially when they’re at the point of giving up. It’s frustrating to feel out of place for such a long time, but the only way they’ll find their place at Duke is if they continue exploring.

Balancing work and social life is a third way freshmen have to adjust around this time of year. This combines what I previously said: trying to get good grades while also making friends. School and social life always seem to be at odds with each other. To stay in and study, or go out and have fun? Something that impressed me my freshman year was how many people decided to stay in to do work rather than go out. It often seems like everyone goes out to parties on weekends, but only because we don’t see the people studying in their rooms or the library. It will take time, but eventually freshmen will find friend groups who will help each other make good decisions about balancing life.

If I could give all the freshmen one word of advice this semester (and I do as an RA), it would be “patience.” Balancing the workload and finding true friends takes time for everyone. No one makes a best friend immediately. Relationships need time to grow and strengthen. At this point in the semester it gets tough to keep a positive attitude through feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, but no freshman is alone in this struggle. It’s a class-wide difficulty that happens every year in college across the country. Luckily for the freshmen at Duke, they’re at one of the most diverse colleges in the nation. There’s something for everyone here, and as long as they don’t give up they’ll figure out where they fit in. Before we know it, the class of 2018 will be next year’s sophomores and a new set of freshmen will arrive on campus looking to them for guidance on how to find their way at Duke.

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My Residence Life Family

As a junior I thought I was prepared for the upcoming school year, especially in my role as a second year RA on East Campus. I expected my life to be relatively similar to my sophomore year in Bell Tower, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the changes that have come with a new RA team in Blackwell this year. Not only do I have 34 new freshmen in my hallway, but I also have five new RA’s who have become my residence life family.

Even as an RA, I sometimes feel slightly out of place being an upperclassman on a freshman campus. It’s hard to maintain relationships with the people in my own class because I live far away, and sometimes it’s difficult to be close friends with freshmen because they view RA’s as an authority. But that’s why it’s important to have a few RA friends who are in the same situation. Facing the same challenges brings us closer together, and when the RA team is strong, the overall community of the dorm is stronger, too.

The Blackwell team this year is five sophomores and myself, so I’ve become the “veteran” RA. I’m more confident this year in my ability to build community through planning events, and I’ve helped the new RA’s to learn about the logistics of our role; the paperwork, planning, and meetings can be a little confusing at the beginning of the year. However, I have had a lot to learn from them as well. They bring fresh new ideas to the team, and they have renewed my enthusiasm for building community. It can be frustrating when people don’t come to programs, but having a team of new RA’s who are excited to work hard for the dorm is refreshing and inspiring.

Before the freshmen arrived on campus, the RA’s went through a week of training to learn and practice the skill of solving problems. We discussed the policies and procedures of dealing with various situations ranging from alcohol and drugs to homesick and depressed students. It’s a lot of information to pack into one week, and after training during the day the teams in each dorm completed tasks such as putting up bulletin boards, making door decorations, and checking for damages. Training could be overwhelming and stressful, but the challenges provided a great way to bond with the other RA’s on our teams. We worked in small groups to accomplish tasks and shared individual experiences during training sessions to help each other learn about new ways to solve problems. When we weren’t working we spent time together at the gym, watching movies, and getting to know one another better. I’m appreciative to have such a supportive team to work with this year, and I’m excited to see how we’ll continue working together to create a home for the freshmen of Blackwell.

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Student Health Closed on 9/1

The Student Health Center will be closed on Monday, 9/1, in observance of the Labor Day holiday.

We will re-open with normal operating hours on Tuesday, 9/2, at 8:30am.

For after-hours care and nurse advice, please call 919-681-9355.

 
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Student Health Closed until 11 AM

The Student Health Center will be closed until 11 am today, Wednesday, 8/13. For nurse advice or healthcare options, please call us at 919-681-9355.

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