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ACE in Place South Africa – I chose this program not only because I was interested in community service but also because I had already been to South Africa which was a beautiful and exciting holiday experience for me. Next to the beauty of the landscape, people and animals, I noticed waste and the remnants of apartheid. So, I thought it might be a good chance to return to South Africa virtually this time, learn more about the nation through a different lens, and hopefully give back.

At first, I was unsure if an online program could provide me with this experience, but this program and all the people I met definitely went above and beyond, meeting and exceeding my highest expectations. I experienced South Africa through a unique perspective and rediscovered the country with a different meaning. Throughout the three weeks we learned interesting information about South Africa from a local viewpoint. We had different culture classes, like an animal conservation talk or a cooking and history class.

My favorite class of the 3 weeks was the language class with Minenhle Msane, our “cultural chaperone” who joined us daily on our zoom meetings to offer her insights and perspective. It was exciting to learn words in Zulu and to get to know her culture as well as her as an individual better. These courses made me think differently about my visit three years ago, and I was able to reconnect the pictures taken on that trip with the newfound local insights. In addition, Minenhle not only showed her deep knowledge during the presentation but always gave us good tips and information from the South African perspective throughout the program.

“At first, I was unsure if an online program could provide me with this experience, but this program and all the people I met definitely went above and beyond, meeting and exceeding my highest expectations.”

– Cara Sambeth, Women’s Field Hockey

These insights coupled with peer discussions and our project cast a new light on the critical issues of the world. I was able to discuss topics in our peer discussions and work on a real-world problem with an engaged team, great support, and an amazing organization. In the beginning, it was hard to connect online, and I wasn’t sure if it could get better in only three weeks, but it did. This part of the online program showed me that, in the modern world, we can help whenever and from wherever we are.

Last but not least, I also discovered more about myself as I was in an unknown and new environment. It was my first-time doing community service for a longer period of time which was definitely out of my comfort zone. The coaching and reflection lessons about me and our team’s values as well as inner critique have helped me to question myself not in my familiar sporting environment but in a new, unfamiliar field. Overall, thanks to the team of student-athletes and the support from the ACE and GVI teams, I enjoyed and grew from an eye-opening, rewarding experience. Thank you!

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