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The ACE in Place South Africa program was eye-opening and possibly even life-changing. I’ve always had the passion to change the world, engage in service, and commit to something meaningful. At the same time, however, the prospect of slipping into a meaningless 9-5 job and becoming content with my life felt very close. ACE combats this complacency by having speakers who have accomplished their goals or are doing something meaningful. There was a particularly impactful speaker, Rory Dickens, who created the NGO, Recycle Rebuild. He started the NGO while in Dominica after quitting his job the day before. His courage to quit his job when it no longer aligned with his values was inspiring. When I see someone with that much commitment it leaves no excuses for me to not uphold the same commitment.

Our objective in the ACE in South Africa was to present SA Harvest, our community partner, with ideas about how to combat nutrition deficiencies and nutrition illiteracy in South Africa. The task was honestly intimidating at first: we were told to solve a problem in a country we knew very little about. But as we dove in, asked questions, and started to gather information, it became easier to plan and accomplish the task. The barrier between seeing a problem and doing something about it started to vanish when I began to realize how easy it was with the right dedication and commitment.

“There is sometimes a pressure to equate success and money, but the speakers we heard from definitely changed that perspective.”

– Suhas Chundi, Stanford Wrestling

The cultural immersion was also great. Even in a virtual setting, it was cool to shift to a non-America centric view of the world. Personally, the Zulu and Xhosa cultural classes got me to value the people around me more. There is sometimes a pressure to equate success and money, but the speakers here definitely changed that perspective. Both South Africa tribes place an emphasis on the good of the whole tribe as opposed to the individual. It was also fascinating to learn about the history and origins of these nations.

The “coaching sessions” we had during the program got me to consider my values and create goals that align with those values. I also learned what motivates me, what prevents me from achieving my goals, and how I can stifle my inner critic.

Lastly, I had a ton of fun. In addition to discussion sessions and supervisor check-ins, we got to make traditional South African Malay curry together. I will remember making jokes on Zoom calls and getting to know people through side chats. 10/10 I would recommend this program to a friend.

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