Life of a First-Year Intern: How My Relationships Have Changed

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By: Casey Tissue, Trinity Class of 2016

I’ve been writing blog posts about my first year experience at Duke as a way to share my story with Duke families.  I am working as an intern with the Parent and Family Programs, and so far I’ve written about topics including O-Week, academics, stress, and communication.  To follow up on my last post about keeping in touch with my family, this week I’m writing about how my relationships with family and friends changed when I returned home for breaks. 

I’ll never forget the moment my mom drove away only a few short days after I arrived at Duke in August.  As I walked back to my dorm from the parking lot where we had said good-bye, I realized for the first time just how different college would be from home.  I’d never felt so on my own before!  For a while, it was exciting to meet new people and explore the campus.  For the first two weeks, I was not homesick.  I compared college to summer camp; I had a roommate, a schedule, planned activities during orientation, and a far distance between myself and everyone I knew. 

Yet, after those first two weeks I started to miss home.  I wanted my own room, my comfy bed, my own bathroom, and my refrigerator filled with all my favorite foods.  College was weird!  I made a countdown to Fall Break, and could barely wait to go home and reunite myself with my family and friends, in addition to my bed, bathroom, and kitchen.

However, when I finally returned home, I was surprised by the many differences I found there.  I had expected to feel as though I had a double life: there was the “Duke Casey”, and the “high school Casey.”  But, when I went home, I found that to everyone else, there was only the Duke Casey.  I wasn’t a part of high school anymore, and most of my friends still were.  I felt separated from them and I didn’t know how to bring myself closer.  They talked about people and events I didn’t know about.  I was confused!  Hadn’t I only been away for two months?  How could I already miss out on so much?

When I went back home, I didn’t have the same relationships with my friends.  I had expected life to “pause” back home, and hoped that while I was at Duke, people would stay the same.  However, as time goes on, people change, and I’ve now learned to accept that.  Undoubtedly, I was different as well when I returned home.  I have begun to think differently in college; I am more focused on my goals and my future, I want to use my summers to get internship experience, and I have learned to be more independent.  College has allowed me to see the bigger picture of my life.  I realize that high school has helped me to achieve my acceptance at Duke University, and now my experience here at Duke needs to be able to help me achieve a life-long career.  Until I actually got here, my goal in life had been just that: to get here.  Now that I’m here, I have created new goals and met new people, all of which has changed my perspective on my future.  I realize now that high school is not as important as I thought it had been.  Gaining experience in my interests at Duke over the next four years is going to strengthen me much more than anything I did in 9th through 12th grade.  This complete turn-around in my perception of my goals has affected my relationships with my high school friends.

When I began writing this blog, it was the week before Spring Break, and my plan was to go on a beach trip with Cru to Topsail, NC.  I was upset with my past returns home because nothing had lived up to my expectations.  I had imagined myself going back home and spending every free moment with my friends and family.  However, the reality was that my friends in high school still had classes all day when I was on break, and my family members still had errands to run and jobs to do when I returned.  Because of this, I made the decision to spend Spring Break becoming more involved in Cru through the trip to the beach.  I wanted to make new friends in college and to go on a small adventure to Topsail.  However, as the week before the break continued, I started realizing how homesick I was.  I missed my friends and family, even if they didn’t immediately clear their schedules for me when I came home.  Seeing them even for five minutes was better than nothing at all!  On Thursday, March 7, I called my mom and we talked about the possibility of coming home.  We had already paid for the beach trip, and I even had a plane ticket for a trip home over Easter weekend.  Unfortunately, the plane ticket could not be switched to a flight over Spring Break, and all the busses back to Washington D.C. were sold out of seats.  It seemed impossible to find a reasonable way to get back to Pennsylvania!  However, I finally decided to buy another plane ticket, and on Friday, March 8 I was on my way back home.  I spent time with my family during the school day, and when my friends were free in the evenings I was able to visit with them.  I was so excited to return home, and so thankful that my mom helped me to come back that I wasn’t bothered by everyone’s busy schedules.

I had a wonderful time at home, and I definitely learned my lesson.  I was too ambitious in deciding to go to the beach.  I realized at the last minute that I simply wasn’t ready to leave my home in January and return in May.  I needed the break in March and I desperately needed to reconnect with my family and friends.  Becoming completely independent is a much longer and harder process than I had thought it to be.  Some of my freshman classmates went away for the break, and I was likewise determined to prove my independence  However, I know it was the right decision to go back.  I feel refreshed and ready to take on the last several weeks of the semester.

Stay tuned for the upcoming April Newsletter where you’ll find my final blog recapping my overall First Year experience here at Duke.

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