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ACE in Place…I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to work, even after I accepted my position on the Vietnam team. I decided to apply because, as a rising senior, this was going to be my last opportunity to join the ACE family. With an internship and some other summer obligations, the virtual format of ACE this summer made it possible for me to do it all together. Looking back, I am so grateful that I decided to go through with my decision to participate.

I never would have guessed that, in the course of three weeks, I would be able to make so many memories and friendships through a computer screen. Between planning lessons and preparing videos for the students, the US and Vietnam coaches showed off our (questionable) dance and modeling skills, shared stories and pictures of our childhood and home, and played games. Needless to say, our meetings never lacked good humor and laughs. Truly, I would not have traded these past three weeks for anything.

“When you take out the excitement of immersing yourself into a new country, all the focus gets to be on developing relationships with one another and thinking of ways to make the students’ camp experience the best it can possibly be.”

– Sydney Simmons, Duke Women’s Soccer

By the end of camp, I was really able to recognize just how much of an impact one can make from a distance. The farewell letters that I received from my Vietnamese students touched my heart more than they will know—it was such a great feeling to know that I made an impact on them, even if we were never able to engage in real time. I believe there is something special about virtual service work. When you take out the excitement of immersing yourself into a new country, all the focus gets to be on developing relationships with one another and thinking of ways to make the students’ camp experience the best it can possibly be. Because of this, the service we did during this virtual camp felt particularly intentional and pure.

During my ACE experience, I grew especially close with the coaches on my life skills team, Hwin Ngân and Tâm. We were “green team,” and I was fortunate enough to spend time with them every meeting. These ladies are astonishingly beautiful inside and out. They are confident and motivated, and I admired how present they were during each meeting. I saw firsthand how selflessly they worked to prepare for each day’s lesson, and I learned a lot from their passion in teaching. I am grateful for all the time that we were able to share together, and I am hopeful that I will be able to visit them in Vietnam one day!

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