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I got COVID-19 this month. I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan home to a university whose COVID response has left much to be desired. This has lead to an influx of infection in the community that is deeply intertwined with the university. I got COVID from a friend who got it from a student, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I tested positive and that I gave it to my mom. I was forced to confront the reality of the pandemic. Not to say that this reality didn’t already permeate all aspects of my life, but sitting alone in a room for 2 weeks knowing that you are infected gives a new dimension to the situation.
I am a believer in science. I am the daughter of a doctor. I take this pandemic seriously. I got a stab up the nose and a positive result. But mostly, I got lucky. I experienced only mild symptoms for 2-3 days. I felt exactly how I was told I would feel, halfway between a cold and the flu. The thing that surprised me was the shame and guilt I felt on top of that. No one has sympathy for young people with COVID. I suppose my symptoms were hardly severe enough to deserve sympathy but I was surprised by the stigma around the virus. The few people I spent my time with were angry. I understand the risk-reward equation that is attached to any and all lifestyle choices made during a pandemic, however, some people close to me seem shocked that they could have been exposed. I did not pass the virus to anyone besides my mom, but people who were potentially exposed to me reacted with anger and shock that their bubbles could be broken. This was where the shame I felt came from. The guilt came from seeing the news report rising COVID numbers and knowing that I was included in that. The guilt came from the lives of my immediate family members who were forced into quarantine, missing work, and Halloween. The guilt came from driving my mom to the hospital in the middle of the night to make sure that she didn’t have a blood clot as a result of COVID.
I am grateful to say that I and my family are now safe and healthy. However, I am also filled with sadness for others who cannot say the same. I recognize that my experience was singular and I urge everyone to take the time to understand the changes they are taking every day. You get to decide what you are willing to risk.
This last month I started an internship at Renegade, an NYC marketing agency. This was a huge opportunity for me that was realized by reaching out to a Duke alum. I began this process in August, contacting alumni who were working in fields that aligned with my interests. My more niche career aspirations are in the application of behavioral economics in marketing, so that helped narrow my field. However, I did not confine myself to the specifics of that field, instead, I simply looked for work that excited me and could eventually connect back to my interests. For me, the larger goal of a gap year internship was a hands-on experience, valuable networking, and a clarifying career insight. With this in mind, I reached out to someone whose career I admired, Drew Neisser the CEO of Renegade, to ask if he had any wisdom to share. I was surprised when he quickly took the time to respond warmly and enthusiastically. He mentioned that there was an open intern position at Renegade and helped me organize an interview. Not only was this exciting from a professional standpoint, but it made me feel like part of the Duke family even though I’m not attending this year.
After the interview, I was hired as Renegade’s youngest intern ever. I couldn’t be happier with this opportunity! I was grateful to find that this was not just a coffee run position (although, there wouldn’t be much coffee to run with a virtual internship anyway), I was welcomed into the work-family and given tasks of actual substance. I work on transcribing episodes of Drew’s podcast, Renegade Thinker Unite, which is a bit secretarial but allows me to listen in depth to interviews with top CMOs. These podcasts give me a unique opportunity to learn about a diverse array of marketing skills. With this I find myself learning new things every day that will give me a leg up in the future. Additionally, it keeps my grammar skills sharp. Recently, I have also be enlisted to co-produce a new LinkedIn live series. I am particularly excited about this. While I could go on about everything I have learned so far I will likely save that for my next blog post. I am very grateful and excited about this internship, in my current tasks and future prospects.
Treat customer service workers like human beings. While this is always applicable, it takes on a new meaning in the midst of a pandemic. Now, it means the lives of the workers and their families are worth no more than the minimum wage. Unfortunately, this truth seems to have been lost on much of the public.
This summer, I have been working at a locally owned ice cream shop in the middle of a college town. Parking was expensive, I made most of my wage from tips and I was constantly putting myself and my family at risk. Due to the economic challenges presented by the pandemic, which were amplified for a business that relies on the presence of college students, we got no hazard pay. In the small shop it was impossible to distance myself from coworkers, whose lives and social responsibilities I had no control over. Not to say that I hated my job. There were many positives including the friendships formed with my coworkers and of course the free ice cream. However, every shift involved asking customers to wear their mask or stand 6ft apart. Both of these often ended in an argument despite the statewide mask mandate.
This shines a light on the flaws in public health policy and management on both the macro and micro levels. As well as the politicization of the issues. I am very interested in exploring these issues in depth and paying attention to the way it plays out in the future.
I hope that as the pandemic progresses that people pay extra attention to those who make the few things we can still do possible. Ideally more people will understand that the mask is less for you and more for the person behind the counter who has served 200 people today. So mask up Blue Devils!
I used to dream of palm trees, sandy beaches and salty air. I used to dream of being surrounded by new languages and old cultures. For as long as I can remember my mind was in love with everywhere that I was not. Despite obvious challenges, the last few months gave me the gift of falling in love with where I am. This is an ode to my home, Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is an ode to the beautiful things that we can control in a time when nothing is certain.
This summer has been a haze of confusion, a cycle of making plans and then seeing them obliterated. This was particularly painful for me, as an avid planner. I schedule everything from breakfast to an afternoon nap. Instead of immersing myself in French culture, as I had previously planned to do beginning August 1st, I have found myself immersed in Ann Arbor. It turns out I had just as much to learn here. This summer I had the opportunity to intern with a local prosecutor campaign. Not only have I learned about local politics and navigated uncharted virtual campaigning terrain, but I have explored my county. Dropping off yard signs, I discovered that not only does my county extend far beyond the bounds of what I had imagined but that these surrounding areas were stunning. Roads framed by overhanging trees casting a kaleidoscope of light below became something I looked forward to daily. Finding joy in these moments is something I can control. Once I applied the wanderlust I previously felt to my own home I began to fall in love with every moment. Following that same logic I have made it a goal to watch every sunset I can. Whether it be from the park adjacent to my house or the docks along the Huron river, this has made a huge difference in the way I have been viewing my days. I’m looking forward to making the best of the next year and discovering the most I can wherever I may be.