I awoke on our fourth day in Vietnam a mix of nerves and excitement; today was our first day of school. For the next three weeks, we would have the incredible opportunity to help run a summer camp, in collaboration with Vietnamese college students, at a local school. We would be teaching and coaching 8th and 9th graders in various academic subjects and sports.
We had planned our lessons and undergone two days of orientation, but something told me that the first day would bring experiences no amount of orientation could prepare us for. Instead, it was time to just jump in and start learning from our experiences and mistakes.
That first day felt more like 10 days. Part of this was because we hadn’t yet adjusted to the camp schedule. We were still a little jet-lagged and not accustomed to the humid Vietnamese climate. However, I think the main reason the day felt so long was due to the incredible transformation of the camp over the course of the day.
“We still have a lot to learn as coaches and many improvements to make, but if we were able to transform this much in one day, I can’t even imagine what this camp will look like three weeks from now.”
Team bonding that was awkward and disorganized in the morning became comfortable and fun by the afternoon. Classes with disorganized structure and translation challenges ran more smoothly the second time around. Coaches who initially struggled to engage the students in sports were able to have the whole class playing together by the end of the day. I had expected us to have lots of challenges to iron out in the beginning; I had never expected them to start to improve so quickly.
Already by the end of day one, I felt so attached to the kids and had started to build bonds with them. The camp at the end of day one was unrecognizable from the camp at the start. We still have a lot to learn as coaches and many improvements to make, but if we were able to transform this much in one day, I can’t even imagine what this camp will look like three weeks from now. All I know is that I’m excited to see it.