Nobody Told Me

Author name
Grady Lenkin, '14

Nobody ever told me that sometimes Duke was going to suck.  Nobody told me that I would study night and day for two weeks for a single exam only to get my first C. Nobody told me that after weeks of trying to find a group of friends I would still feel like an outsider. I missed the memo saying that I would feel like I didn’t deserve to be at Duke because while it seemed that everyone around me was curing cancer, feeding the hungry and playing three club sports on the side, I wasn’t involved in a single extracurricular.  There are times when being a Duke student feels like punishment.

To clarify, I love this university. Coming here was one of the best decisions of my life. The reason I love Duke is because these conflicts have allowed me to obtain the education that I really came here for. My first C motivated me to understand, explore and deliberately improve upon my academic strengths and weaknesses. Failing to initially fit myself into various social groups taught me how to make and maintain friendships that actually matter. Waiting a year to get involved in extracurriculars gave me the time to identify and engage with my passions rather than going through the motions of getting involved with clubs and activities that had no meaning for me.

At times, all of us will sink. But the students who are able to swim back to the surface all have one thing in common: a network of supportive outlets that helps them endure and make meaning of their difficulties and conflict. For me that network includes CAPS, my parents, a handful of amazing professors and student mentors. It’s also been taking the leap to tell my friends the truth when thing’s aren’t going my way instead of lying through a shiny smile, shallowly pretending that life has never been better. 

If you gain nothing else from reading this, I hope that you take a second to clarify what the outlets are that allow you to weather the storms and make the most of Duke when skies are clear. And whether it’s of use to you or not, I’d like to suggest one additional outlet for you to consider: Peer For You. Peer For You is a student run resource dedicated to helping undergrads endure the tough times and make the most of Duke. There are 20 talented, trained and passionate students available to have an online conversation with you while you remain anonymous. Message in about anything you’d like, be it your first C, feeling like you haven’t found your fit, thinking that you don’t deserve to be here and anything in between.

Grady Lenkin, a Trinity senior, is the co-founder and co-president of Peer For You. This is the first in a series of posts by members of Peer For You about student life at Duke. Check out the website at