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Dear Future Self,

Looking back on this three-week virtual engagement, there are so many experiences I’d like to remember and reflect on. The most important piece I want to remember is by far the people involved. The directors, Vietnamese and American coaches, and all of the students are what made this time unlike any other. The directors allowed a virtual environment to feel extremely organized, personable, and connected. The Vietnamese coaches brought the utmost energy and excitement along with contagious smiles each and every day, which is an aspect of service I’d like to remember to always try and bring to any future service experience I am a part of. Showing up with a smile on your face can truly shift the entire mood of a room.

The students (middle school Vietnamese youth) are the main reason this program felt so worthwhile and meaningful. Their curiosity to learn and full participation in both classes and live meetings with us American coaches reminds you of the impact you have the ability to make with something as simple as a teaching video or TikTok dance.

As far as expectations went for this summer, I’m not sure that I completely set any for our meetings or the program as a whole. However, I never knew how meaningful three weeks of online Zoom meetings could truly be. I was slightly nervous to begin the program with meeting a lot of new people and being unsure what to expect in an online setting, but I am leaving this program feeling more than comfortable and content with the work we did as a group, the relationships we made and all of the people we got to know along the way which we will hopefully continue to get to know beyond these three weeks.

The organization and coordination of each meeting, the activities, and breakout room meetings with teams made the experience feel as in-person as possible and extremely efficient, which is credited to the directors and all of the planning that went into the three weeks. I also loved the cultural exchange activities, as we were able to learn so much in such small amounts of time and experience parts of Vietnam as if we were there.

“The organization and coordination of each meeting, the activities, and breakout room meetings with teams made the experience feel as in-person as possible and extremely efficient, which is credited to the directors and all of the planning that went into the three weeks.”

– Tatum Boyd, Stanford Softball

Moving forward, I think we can take away a lot from this experience. Most importantly, I believe that you can always find a way to make a difference, big or small, no matter the circumstances in the world or your life. Online, in person, 3 weeks, 1 year, whatever the service or engagement may entail, there is always a way to make one person’s day just a bit better with effort and good intention.

This program has also further motivated me to try and meet more people from different places, cultures, and walks of life because there is so much more out there than what we know in America. I would love the opportunity to go to Vietnam next summer and see all of these awesome coaches and students in-person and experience everything I’ve learned online this summer in-person, as well as continue the work we have just begun and build on those memories. I also think it would be super cool if one day some of the Vietnamese coaches or some of the students we taught were able to come visit us in the US.

I was able to do a research internship at Stanford University this summer, as well as live on-campus and train with some teammates this summer, which may have looked a little different had this program taken place in Vietnam. However, ACE was my number one priority this summer after being cancelled last summer, so I would have definitely made other arrangements to make traveling to Vietnam for three weeks this summer possible if the program had been able to run safely!

Tạm biệt,
Tatum

P.S. I hope this is not my true final blog post with ACE. I love this program!

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