I have never wanted to miss a flight before, until the return trip from ACE.
It is hard to put into words, into a short blog post, the feeling of connection I had developed with everyone in this program. The Vietnamese coaches taught me of a completely different culture and their views of the world left impressions on me that I will not soon lose. The American coaches helped me open up and feel close to people who are familiar with my situation, as we all came in the with the same naïveté . The directors were understanding and exciting, fostering a positive and safe environment. But the kids. The munchkins taught me about perseverance, strength, wonder. They took me to places I did not think I had the capacity to reach.
Saying goodbye was hard. Real hard. Kids with whom I barely could speak were crying in my arms and holding me as to never let me go. I was crying too. And I did not want to let them go either.
Yes, I will miss their smiles. I will miss them waiting for us to get off the bus and run into the classrooms blasting music. And I will miss watching them play baseball for the first time and hearing their dreams and goals. But what I will really long for, why I just could not hold back crying, was knowing that the next day I was not going to learn from them in the same way. Because even though I taught them academics and athletics, what they taught me was infinitely more valuable. The moment it all hit me was at the last day after giving a speech about how much I was going to miss them, how proud I was of them and how excited I was to see all of our selfies on Facebook. I sat down next to the students, facing the board and other coaches, and realized how much I was the student. And it was humbling to know my place there.
“But the kids. The munchkins taught me about perseverance, strength, wonder. They took me to places I did not think I had the capacity to reach.”
I can confidently say that I am not the same person I was when I boarded the flight to Vietnam, and I am proud of who I have become in such a short time. I knew this program would have that influence on my character, but the extent to which it did continues to surprise me. I believe that I am going to have a much more successful and meaningful Duke career because of this amazing experience, and I am excited to return home this fall.