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What initially seemed like a trip that would last forever was finally met with a day full of goodbyes. We ate the last bowl of warm noodles for breakfast at Hoa Mai Hotel and waved goodbye to the family that treated us like their own. After the last 10-minute drive to school, we said our farewells to the students and hugged each and every one of them, unsure about when we would see them again. We slowly got onto the bus and waved at the students through the window; most of them waved back with tears dripping down their faces. Hours passed and one-by-one my fellow coaches departed.  It was honestly a surprise to see how I managed to have tears left to shed for every person. At the end of the day, I found myself alone at the airport as I had the latest flight. This gave me time to reflect on the trip that quite literally changed my life. As much as I wanted to stay and see my students again, I boarded my flight and said my last goodbye to Vietnam, a country I fell in love with over the last three weeks.

“Despite the language barrier, I learned so much about Quang and bonded with him in ways that I never thought would happen in three weeks. I thought back to Quang’s sharing session every day, and it made me strive to be a better coach.”

As I look back, I realize that I gained meaningful insight from all moments of camp. From dancing up the stairs to playing thumb war with the students, even the smallest moments brought a smile to my face, motivating me to work harder every day. However, the most humbling moment of Coach for College was my growing friendship with one of my students. Quang, one of the ninth grade boys on the Green Team, was on the quiet side and would rarely crack a smile in class. During Week 2, each coach got to sit down with students for a sharing session, a 15-minute individual question and answer period made to get to know the kids at a more personal level. As a coach of the Green Team, I had my sharing session with Quang. I learned more about his family, his aspirations to become a doctor, and his wish to come to America to reunite with the coaches from CFC. After the sharing session, the wall between Quang and I disappeared and he changed. He greeted me from down the hall and he smiled more during class. As a result, he was the hardest to say goodbye to. The conversation not only showed me how meaningful CFC was to some kids but it also presented the true significance of this trip to me. Despite the language barrier, I learned so much about Quang and bonded with him in ways that I never thought would happen in three weeks. I thought back to Quang’s sharing session every day, and it made me strive to be a better coach. I regret not being able to express to him the effect the sharing session had on me before I left. I don’t know how else to convey this to him except by way of a letter, so I wrote one during my long journey home.

Dear Quang,

It has not even been a full day, and I miss CFC so much. Vietnam was so fun, and everyone at camp made my trip truly unforgettable. I miss so many aspects of camp, but I also miss hanging out with you every day. I will never forget that beaming smile of yours that you showed from down the hall as you waved your arms at me. I will never forget walking back from competition events together and laughing about how many high-fives I gave you. Most importantly, I will never forget the sharing session that changed everything for us. I wish I knew Vietnamese so that I could explain to you how thankful I am that you shared your story with me. Your story has shaped me in a way that I know will last forever, and I owe you so much for that. I’m sure that saying goodbye to us was hard for you as well, but I wanted to leave you with some words of advice that I hope you continue to live by after CFC.

I know you said being alone was both the best and worst part of home. Time alone may seem hard but remember that it can be valuable time for yourself. Personally, individual time allowed me to realize many things, including the importance of CFC on my life. Cherish the moments alone but also cherish the moments with your family.

Study and work hard to become the doctor you aspire to be. Although it seems far away, if you put in the work now, your dream will come true. Whether it was in the classroom or on the soccer field, you smiled the whole time and showed the importance of following your passions every day. I hope that you will continue to enjoy school like you enjoyed CFC. Please continue walking through those halls with the confidence that you gained this summer and being the kind-hearted and caring friend you are.

Quang, I wish you knew that you were one of the most important people on this trip for me. You gave me a whole new understanding of CFC. By getting to know students and coaching them in academics, sports, and life skills, we guided students to achieve their dreams. You allowed me to see why I came to Vietnam and that even the most difficult days were worth it. Although I was your teacher and coach, you motivated me every day of camp, and you will continue to motivate me as a student-athlete at Stanford. In fact, this experience has helped me recognize the importance of education. I have now decided to minor in education when I return to school. There are so many things that I have gained. I just want to say thank you for sharing your story and opening up to share with me a friendship that I did not even expect from these three weeks.

Like I said, CFC is family, and you will always have a special place in my heart. Watching you cry on the last day and giving you numerous hugs was so difficult. I will be back. I promise. When I do come back, I hope that you are just as excited to see me and you have just as many stories to share. The last three weeks were amazing, rewarding, and unbelievable. Don’t forget to follow your dreams and speak up. You are truly a bright kid, and you deserve to be heard. Thank you for everything, Quang. I will always think of you and the rest of CFC. I wish you the best of luck with everything and will see you soon.

 

Best,

Anna

 

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