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Junior Ema Kuczura of Duke Women’s Rowing and Senior Morgan Hentz of Stanford Women’s Volleyball, both ACE in Vietnam 2019 alums, sat down with the Blue Devil 360 Podcast for the first-ever joint Duke-Stanford ACE interview. They spoke about their time in Vietnam, the impact ACE has had on their lives, and how the experience has changed their perspective as student-athletes. The following are highlights from their interview:


When asked about what initially attracted her to the ACE program, Kuczura said:

“For me, when I was getting recruited my coaches made a point to let us know that if we were to choose Duke as the place we wanted to row and study, that we would have this really unique opportunity to go abroad. As potential collegiate athletes, you’re thinking about what kind of college experience you want to have, and that looks very different for people that are choosing to do DI sports. I knew right away that this willingness to provide student-athletes with an important cultural experience was something I wanted to be a part of.”


Speaking about the unique service opportunity ACE provides to Duke and Stanford student-athletes Hentz had this to say:

“I thought it was so incredibly fun to be able to meet the student-athletes from Duke. We wouldn’t have been able to meet each other without the help of this program. It’s people who have a such a similar passion to you, super driven and motivated people. To be able to meet them and hear about their different experiences at their own college and figuring out ways to work together and find commonalities was really fun. We’re all still friends and hopefully that will last for a long, long time.”


And on her initial experience stepping into Vietnam and immersion in Vietnamese culture, Hentz shared:

“Going to Vietnam and being there for three weeks was definitely the longest I’ve ever been out of the country. At first, I was very taken aback. The first thing I remember is what the streets were like. So many people on mopeds, people walking in and out. The mopeds know to go around the people walking in the street. It was so amazing to see the ebbs and flows of everyone walking through the city in Ho Chi Minh.”


Speaking on how the experience has impacted her perspective as a student-athlete, Kuczura said:

“An element of the experience that I think was really valuable was the ability to let your guard down for those three weeks and allow yourself to be a learner and be vulnerable. I think there are a lot of situations, at school and in sports, where you’re supposed to be tough and know what you’re doing and being on the ball…[In Vietnam] you’re still expected to bring that same energy, but it wasn’t as though you had to be perfect in everything you were doing. It was ok to need people’s help, that was the whole point. By the end, it was a really freeing experience and state to be in.”


When speaking about how ACE has influenced their career paths, Hentz said:

“ACE has definitely influenced my career path. I would love to go into some type of philanthropy-oriented work. I’m majoring in psychology and I think a huge part of psychology is figuring out how to implement these amazing psychological studies into real-world situations. I would love to be a part of that in some way, trying to figure out how can these studies help others, not just doing the research.”


And to the same question, Kuczura responded:

“I’ve always wanted to go into the nonprofit or policy sector. ACE has definitely educated me on where I fall in that mission. There are so many different philosophies of service and so many different views on what ‘help’ or ‘need’ actually means. It’s something I study a lot in class, but it’s not the same thing as being part of something and having to reflect on your impact on others. For me, [ACE] was a good experience in an introspective sense – cementing what I believe I can do and what I believe it is my place to do. Getting that real-world experience and committing yourself to something is different from what you get in the classroom and I’m really grateful for that.”


The interview ended with Hentz saying, “It’s so fun to talk about our time in Vietnam. It brings a huge smile to my face when I talk about it with anyone. It brings me back to one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

Click here to listen to the  full podcast