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My final moments on Zoom with the rest of the ACE Vietnam II coaches were filled with many mixed emotions. While I was sad that I might not see many of these individuals ever again, I slowly realized that I had never met a single one of these people face-to-face. Yet, I felt like I had formed such a strong bond with all of them that I was almost brought to tears after clicking ‘Leave Meeting.’Like many, I had my skepticisms when applying to ACE in Place. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make an impact within the program, make friends, learn about Vietnamese culture, or even have fun. In any other situation, I would have despised having 3 weeks of Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, but as soon as the first meeting ended I immediately started to look forward to the next. The reason I found it so fun? The people.

The Vietnamese coaches would wake up and join our meeting at 7am, and somehow still found a way to be cheerful and excited to be there. Their excitement was contagious, and made me want to work harder. The beginning of every meeting starred Nhi and Tieng’s radio show, where they asked their “audience” questions about life. The start of each meeting I spent with my camera off and microphone muted, but their antics would always have me laughing out loud. Throughout the program we spent lots of time getting to know each other and telling life stories. It really showed me how Vietnamese life is so different, yet so similar to my own.

“In any other situation, I would have despised having 3 weeks of Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, but as soon as the first meeting ended I immediately started to look forward to the next.”

– Sarah Snyder, Duke Women’s Swimming and Diving

My fellow Vietnamese coaches, Hieu and Đat, who I taught Biology and Life Skills with respectively, were some of the most genuinely sweet people I have ever met, in person or online. Their work and role in the program was challenging since they created lesson plans and taught the kids all afternoon over Zoom using the American coaches’ videos. Hieu, a future doctor, always had high expectations for the kids. He wanted to teach them as much as he could about every topic, and relate everything back to everyday life, which made the lessons much more helpful and engaging for the kids. Đat was such a character and great to be on a team with. Orange Life Skills team would usually finish discussing our lesson plan within 5 minutes, and spend the rest of the time talking about funny things that happened to us during the day or picking out matching zoom face filters.

My American coaches, Stephanie and Kees, were amazing to work with and both had creative ideas and input. Best of all, we got along super well, and they were hilarious. I look forward to meeting the two of them in person in the near future.

And last but definitely not least, were the Vietnamese kids. Although quiet at first, they opened up quite quickly and their true personalities started to show, even if it was through a computer screen. We bonded over solving Rubik’s cubes, stuffed animals, and 20 questions. Even though my Vietnamese is subpar, I found that no child is immune to the hilarity of my pig noises or the Mario Kart soundtrack. Go Orange Team!

While most of these people I will sadly never get to meet in real life, I felt that I created a bond with them through 3 weeks of Zoom meetings, even though most were half a world away. Sitting here, at the same desk that I joined all the meetings at, I know that I made an impact within the program, I made lots of new friends, I learned about Vietnamese culture, and I definitely had a lot of fun. Thank you, CFC Camp 3 2021, you were a blast

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