I was nervous going into my ACE experience, as I had no idea what it would look like. I was handed a schedule of Zoom meetings and told that I was going to be working with an organization in Peru – Mujer Peruana. Other than that, I had little idea of what my work would be or what my relationship with supervisors, teammates, and our community partner organization would turn out to be. However, once we started meeting, I quickly realized that the program was going to move quickly and provide meaningful connections.
I worked specifically on translations from Spanish to English, to ensure that the organization’s documents would be professional. While working on this with one other ACE teammate, we participated in Zooms as a whole team which tended to focus more on personal development. During these times, I found myself being vulnerable with people that I had never met face-to-face. We shared our goals and anxieties to people who were complete strangers less than three weeks ago. I never would have imagined I would have so willingly shared this information about myself.
The ACE program (and our supervisors) worked so that during the first week, we formed those connections and built that trust with each other. Once the base level connection was established, I was surprised how open I was with the rest of my team, and I was surprised how easily the work for our community partner was able to be done. By focusing on creating a strong team atmosphere before doing any “real” work, I saw that it made the rest of the project work for the community partner more efficient. It was easy to continue doing real work based off the team bond we established in the beginning.
“The ACE program (and our supervisors) worked so that during the first week, we formed those connections and built that trust with each other. Once the base level connection was established, I was surprised how open I was with the rest of my team…”
– Catherine Purnell, Duke Women’s Swimming and Diving
I think that the strong bond that we created was due to the fact that we had to participate online and not face-to-face. In some ways, the team felt really disjointed; we were coming together from three different countries and more time zones than that. As we were all also training or working on top of the ACE program, it felt as though our time together was important, and I think we all tried to make the most of the small time we had.
Being online we missed the casual connections of interacting over meals or on off-time. This made the first few days move really slowly, but with the help of cultural enrichment activities, it felt that we could form a deep bond without these seemingly unimportant conversations that we would have had in-person. One such cultural immersion activity we did was to watch an Incan ceremony which blessed the land. The ceremony really drew us all in. I think that having times like this where we were all captivated, the virtual barrier melted away and the reinforced real connections made over Zoom.