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Going into this summer and this program I had no idea what to expect. What would an online service project entail? How would it feel like Thailand despite being thousands of miles away? I never would’ve guessed that I was going to leave the program feeling so fulfilled in so many different ways.

As soon as the program began and we met with Siobhan and Nicole, our GVI supervisors, and Brendon, the co-founder of Shark Guardian, our task we had been assigned was always in mind. All of our efforts were going to be towards stopping shark finning in the European Union. It would have been easy to think that our impact, three college students coming from the United States, would not be able to overpower the EU. However, that thought never crossed our minds. Through meeting various partners with such inspiring stories and passions, there was one common theme–every single person can do the little things, and the little things matter most.

Everyone we met, from Vanessa with GVI in Peru to Diony at Ocean Pledge in South Africa, radiated such joy when talking about their projects and only further sparked passion in what our project was and what it could do long-term. Between our group meetings every day, when Emma, Finn and I would work together on answering questions, thinking of new questions and working on our content, we all had one goal in mind–to end one-third of the Shark Fin trade in the world. Once our project was complete, it was incredibly rewarding to notice the change we had promoted and the impact our work could and will have on such a global issue.

“From understanding a consumer’s impact on the plastic industry to learning the ‘spin elbow move’ in a Muay Thai class, being able to meet and interact with such inspiring people has led me to consider so many different ideas of experiences and careers I hope to consider in the future.”

– Alana Vawter, Stanford Softball

Ultimately, this program sparked interests and passions in me that I may never have discovered without this experience. I have a better understanding of Thai culture and appreciate life as they do there–“Sabai Sabai,”or just go with the flow. From understanding a consumer’s impact on the plastic industry to learning the “spin elbow move” in a Muay Thai class, being able to meet and interact with such inspiring people has led me to consider so many different ideas of experiences and careers I hope to consider in the future. This global perspective of being the change in the world was a common theme that I fully intend on spreading to my friends and family all across the country.

I cannot thank everyone enough for coordinating such an impactful program. From the experiences to the people, the entire three weeks were beyond unforgettable. This experience was more than I could have ever imagined. ACE in Place Thailand exceeded all expectations, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. A huge thank you to Siobhan, Nicole, Brendon, Emily and Sean for the opportunity of a lifetime!

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