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The virtual ACE program this summer completely exceeded my expectations. The friendships I made and the various people I had the pleasure to meet have all made a lasting impact on my life. Throughout the program, we would meet nightly on zoom from 8-10 pm. This format gave me a good schedule to follow and allowed me to do various other activities throughout the day. For example, I was able to take a class, work at a lab, and practice for my sport as if it was a normal summer. All of these additional activities would not have been possible without the virtual format.

The virtual service experience included various activities that changed from day to day. We participated in cultural presentations that explained more about Thailand. My favorite part of these presentations was learning about the various festivals that take place in Thailand throughout the year. We also had the opportunity to do coaching and reflection sessions. These helped us to reflect on the service project we were working on and set goals for our group while also learning more about ourselves. Additionally, we were fortunate enough to take a cooking class where we made Pad See Ew and joined a virtual Muay Thai class, both of which allowed us to learn more about Thailand’s rich culture. We also attended master classes where outside speakers came to talk to us about their work and offer answers to any questions we had. All of these presentations were very inspiring because the speakers were all very passionate about what they do.

“The flexibility the ACE program offered was so wonderful because it allowed me to do so many things at once, while still being able to appreciate being immersed in Thai culture and language as well as participate in an extremely rewarding service project.”

– Emma Shuppert, Duke Women’s Swimming and Diving

The best part of the program for me was that we were able to work directly with Brendon, co-founder of Shark Guardian (the NGO we partnered with). This experience was unlike anything I have ever done before. We were challenged with the task of creating social media content for Shark Guardian, which included infographics, videos, and a blog. Because we were able to work directly with Brendon, he was able to provide us with helpful feedback as well as accurate facts, images, and videos to include in our creations. The end product was greatly appreciated by Brendon and hopefully will make a huge impact on Shark Guardian’s social media platforms.

The reason I chose to participate in the ACE program this summer was to gain more real work experience in conservation efforts and also to meet new people. Both of these were fulfilled by the ACE program and helped me to develop new skills through international collaboration on a virtual service project. The flexibility the ACE program offered was so wonderful because it allowed me to do so many things at once, while still being able to appreciate being immersed in Thai culture and language as well as participate in an extremely rewarding service project.

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