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After much of my college experience was defined by the pandemic and coming in and out of lockdowns, I took on many new attitudes about my worldview, relationships, and the ways I spend my time. The primary new attitude has been openness to new people and experiences and generally an idea of not saying “no”when opportunities arise. This has been particularly influential on my summer plans, and my ACE experience was a big part of that.

The Vietnamese college coaches that we worked with were this kind of openness personified. The joy and willingness they brought to each session was infectious. Their ability to jump into friendships without hesitation gave us Americans the freedom to do the same. Throughout the course of our three weeks together, I noticed myself adopting their friendliness outside of our evening calls. ACE was transforming my day-to-day self even beyond who I am as a volunteer.

“I am going to make it a goal of mine that every time I remember my ACE experience this summer, I will be reminded to be extra kind.”

– Laurel Foster, Stanford Sailing

In our preparation for the experience, we thought long and hard about ways to make sure our American habits of filling silences, jumping in, and always offering our thoughts did not affect our Vietnamese counterparts’ ability to participate and voice their opinions. Because of the virtual format and the fact that the Vietnamese college students were the only ones directly interacting with the kids on a daily basis, I believe they adopted more confidence in speaking with us than we had expected. One of our goals that we had established for the CFC program from my first involvement in the prototype back in January was to focus on empowering the Vietnamese coaches to teach rather than worrying about making sure our ideas made it into the lesson plans. As the weeks went on, we saw our Vietnamese counterparts coming to our lesson planning sessions with more structure already built out and questions for exactly what we could offer insight on. This was such an exciting thing to experience because it was confirmation that we truly achieved that goal.

All said, openness and friendliness serve to benefit the individual and all those with whom they interact. I am going to make it a goal of mine that every time I remember my ACE experience this summer, I will be reminded to be extra kind.

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