Montana Lee, a Journey to Togo, and the Duke Diary Dispatches


Does time abroad teach you something about the world, or about yourself? Whether you are a student, staff, or have gone alt-ac, you’ve likely considered what travel might mean for your education and your career goals, and for your relationships. There are real challenges in keeping in touch when your family and friends are suddenly far away—but what if we revived the old-school tradition of sending travel letters? What would that look like in today’s world?

In this episode, we explore the Duke Diary Dispatches and how a handful of students agreed to post diary entries online during their summer trips. Montana Lee joins us talk about her own diary entries, living in Togo, how her previous travel experiences prepared her [and how they didn’t], and the unexpected things that happened to her.

Our guest is: Montana Lee, who is an undergraduate student at Duke University in the class of 2026. Fluent in French, she lived in Paris during part of her gap year and spent May and June 2023 in rural Togo with a university program, where she taught Mandarin, creative writing, and the art of correspondence to local children and adults. She is the author of a popular series of journal reflections recounting her Togo experience on Duke Today. You can read them here.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, who is the creator and show host of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in history, which she uses to explore what stories we tell and what happens to those we never tell.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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