Challenging Questions, Expansive Knowledge and Yummy Cupcakes


by Dorielle Obanor

First semester of my junior year at Duke, I was presented with an unparalleled opportunity to apply to “Duke Immerse: Black Freedom Struggles.” I had never studied abroad at Duke largely because I was weary of being away from campus for an extended period of time. However, Duke Immerse presented an opportunity for me to travel to South Africa during spring break for FREE and study throughout the semester both the Civil Rights Movement and Anti-Apartheid struggle, two areas of interest. I ended up being one of the twelve students selected to participate in this immersive opportunity and the experience I gained from being a participant truly surpassed my initial expectations.

Throughout the course of the semester, I forged a bond with 11 other students unlike any other I have formed in the classroom at Duke. To this day we still have “weekly meals” at the Smart Home and send constant updates on our exclusive Facebook group. Furthermore, my experience ignited in me a deep passion for the country of South Africa, which I was fortunate to visit just months later through Duke Engage. However, one of the most impactful elements of the program was certainly the bonds and relationships I formed with the three instructors of Duke Immerse. Taught by two professors and a graduate student, this dynamic trio was a critical element to my amazing experience in Duke Immerse.

Coming in to my initial interview for my program, I would’ve never guessed how much the three individuals sitting across the table would impact me. Through Dr. Shapiro’s straightforwardness and challenging questions, to Dr. Chafe’s jovial laughter and expansive knowledge on the American South, and Karlyn’s yummy cupcakes ☺ and interesting perspective they all played an integral role in helping me move outside of my comfort zone in the classroom. For me, this experience was a humanizing one, as I often felt both distant and intimidated by most of my earlier professors. This environment allowed me to not only grow as a student, but allowed me to learn more about the people who teach me on the daily basis.

My experience was phenomenal and I truly owe it to this dynamic trio. Forming relationships with professors is crucial. It can certainly be useful for that letter of recommendation for law school or medical school, but for constant support, knowledge, and encouragement having a close professor serve as a mentor or support system is even better!