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Before leaving to Vietnam, we had an orientation meeting that reminded us time and time again to manage our expectations and to be patient. For example, “Don’t expect this trip to be a relaxing vacation.” With this preparation, I adapted to the way of life in Vietnam well … for the most part.

My hardest day mentally and physically was the first day at school. For some reason, I was not expecting the kids to barely speak any English. I was already discouraged after our 10-minute “team bonding” class and first academic lesson of the day. I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to form close bonds with the kids. How do I joke around? How can I help and maybe give some advice?

I’m still figuring this out and am far from being perfect, but now that I’m looking back at where I started, I realized that I’ve already come a long way. Most of my progress is due to learning from example. Many of the other coaches have their own unique way of bonding with the kids, and I’ve learned a lot from them. This in combination with having a few Vietnamese words in my back pocket, has allowed me to bond and laugh with the kids. I can’t wait to continue to foster these relationships in the next two weeks.

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