There are a plethora of people that I’ve met through my ACE program that I am endlessly thankful for and fortunate enough to have grown closer to over the course of the three weeks. Specifically, the person who made the biggest impact on me was my Vietnamese co-coach, Nguyen. Nguyen and I had the opportunity to work together on the “yellow life skills team” where we met each evening, alongside my fellow American coach, Naima (Duke Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field), to discuss and create lesson plans to teach to the kids throughout the week.
A million things could be said to attest to Nguyen’s great personality, the authenticity of her character, and the passion she has for life. However, I’d like to focus on the few characteristics that had the most profound impact on me. Nguyen would always come to meetings full of energy, despite having been up since 5am helping around the house and finishing up some additional schoolwork. She would come to meetings prepared to engage with us American coaches, while never failing to lose her contagious smile.
“Meeting Nguyen, and the other Vietnamese and American coaches alike, was an eye-opening experience. I’ve learned what it looks like to lead a life full of passion and positivity, while truly being present in my surroundings…”
– Kayle Park, Duke Women’s Swimming and Diving
I would come to meetings feeling a bit tired, given it was late at night, but I would instantly perk up after having felt Nguyen’s positive attitude and pure joy through my screen. Nguyen would ask questions about how our days were, what we’ve been up to, and just overall how we were feeling. As I would talk about something going on in my life, Nguyen’s level of engagement, her sincere curiosity, and her attentiveness was unmatched: it truly amazed me. She would ask about the minute details, how I felt about the particular subject matter, and just showed a genuine interest.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives, quickly shuffling from one thing to the next. With that in mind, it’s also alarmingly easy to focus on ourselves rather than be present with the people around us or the environment that we’re currently in. Prior to my ACE experience, I often found myself guilty of shuffling from one activity to the next, or being physically present in the moment, but not mentally or emotionally engaged like I should be. Meeting Nguyen, and the other Vietnamese and American coaches alike, was an eye-opening experience. I’ve learned what it looks like to lead a life full of passion and positivity, while truly being present in my surroundings: something I strive for moving forward.