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The past three weeks have been such an enlightening experience full of growth and understanding. From meetings with Ocean Pledge’s founder, Diony Lalieu, to cooking classes to language classes, ACE in Place South Africa 2022 has been an incredible learning opportunity. Not only have I learned more about ocean conservation efforts and the culture in South Africa, but I also now better understand my own values, passions, and goals.

I came into the ACE program with little expectations and a big passion for creating change. Right from the start, I immediately felt so welcomed and motivated to get to work. It was incredible to be surrounded by a group of such driven individuals. Even in a virtual setting, this program was filled with many unique opportunities to learn from a variety of different individuals. Leaders including Diony, Minenhle (our cultural expert), and our MasterClass speakers exponentially fueled my drive for service and widened my perspective regarding culture and politics in South Africa. I know that I will continue to implement skills including communication, critical thinking, and teamwork in different community engagement avenues in the future.

“I know that I will continue to implement skills including communication, critical thinking, and teamwork in different community engagement avenues in the future.”

– Amanda Zeng, Stanford Women’s Gymnastics

Out of all of the cultural immersion experiences, my favorite by far was the cooking class. We made multiple dishes: Cape Malay Curry, Tomato Sambal, Savory Rice, and Turmeric / Golden Milk. Our cooking instructor was amazing at giving instructions and definitely made the experience a memorable one. Reflecting back on the class, I am still in awe of the multitude of different spices and condiments commonly used in South African dishes. I learned how intricate South African dishes can be.

“…not often are Stanford students given the opportunity to meet student-athletes at different schools.”

– Amanda Zeng, Stanford Women’s Gymnastics

I am beyond grateful for this experience in that it granted me opportunities to grow, learn, and connect well with others. Being able to meet new student-athletes at Stanford is always fun. However, not often are Stanford students given the opportunity to meet student-athletes at different schools.

For that, I am so thankful for the ACE program for introducing me to Aleyna and John at Duke. It was amazing to be able to work alongside Cara, Caitlin, Aleyna, and John. Until we meet again, in-person! Thank you so much to Kristen, Emily, Sean, Bex, Nicole, and everyone else involved -this program would not have been possible without you

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