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Spending these three weeks in a new state with new people offered a truly rejuvenating experience, not only for my determination to care for our world but also for my personal, social, and professional priorities.

With an unwavering passion to combat climate change, I was determined to learn everything I could from the organizations we connected with. My environmental studies at Duke came to life at each new adventure in unique ways, creating a truly unique hands-on learning application for me. However, it wasn’t until meeting people like Hannah from Coldharbour Institute and Jewell from MSI where I experienced just how impactful the people surrounding this work can truly be. Our experiences became meaningful in hearing their stories and engaging with their infectious love for what they do. In feeling the impact they had on us, I am leaving hopeful and inspired to pursue my career goals in science communication after seeing their ability to be so influential by following their passions.

“Putting our bodies and minds to work together to give back to the environment was so empowering and getting to work and learn alongside my new friends was both motivating and inspiring in ways I will always cherish.”

– Alayna Burns, Duke Field Hockey

Connecting with fellow Duke student-athletes over the course of this program may be one of the most fruitful experiences from Colorado. In encountering challenges we weren’t quite expecting, we worked hard together to bring our best each day, driving us closer as friends and ACE teammates while offering me incredibly valuable new perspectives in school, sports, and life. Putting our bodies and minds to work together to give back to the environment was so empowering and getting to work and learn alongside my new friends was both motivating and inspiring in ways I will always cherish.

Embracing the chance to learn more about my planet and how to protect it, I also enjoyed every opportunity I found to learn more about myself. Being in a place where I could push my comfort zones in various ways, I appreciated this new environment surrounded by supportive teammates. Reflecting on the trip, I realize how much the mindset I embraced to explore, challenge, and question shaped my experiences. I would encourage everyone to adopt this approach to an ACE experience, but I also love how it doesn’t require a daunting mountain or hopelessly wrecked terrain to warrant this mental approach. Returning to Duke and my life, I hope to be bold more often while encouraging others to do the same, recognizing the benefits of exploring what lies beyond your comfort zones in learning, dreaming, working, and more.

“Returning to Duke and my life, I hope to be bold more often while encouraging others to do the same, recognizing the benefits of exploring what lies beyond your comfort zones in learning, dreaming, working, and more.”

– Alayna Burns, Duke Field Hockey

I am grateful for the opportunity ACE granted me to be myself and better myself while doing the same for the world and with others. I cannot wait to see where I can continue to take the perspectives I’ve gained from Colorado to tackle future challenges in my life the way the humbling moments and mountains of Colorado have taught me, always remembering that the best answers lie within nature, waiting to be unlocked.

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