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Going into my ACE experience this summer, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I was excited to interact with the Vietnamese children and learn more about the culture, but I was unsure of what I would take away from it, especially given the fact that we couldn’t physically travel to Vietnam. Now at the end of the program, I can say that the virtual setting actually had some advantages of its own, and I ended up learning more than I ever thought I would.

One positive aspect of the meetings being over Zoom was that the social playing field was leveled out a bit, and I was able to really connect with the Vietnamese college students. In an in-person camp, I might have been tempted to hang out with the American students more than the Vietnamese, but over Zoom, everyone was equal and I didn’t gravitate towards one group over another. This allowed me to connect deeply with the Vietnamese college students, as well as better understand their culture and even learn a thing or two about myself.

“Now at the end of the program, I can say that the virtual setting actually had some advantages of its own, and I ended up learning more than I ever thought I would.”

– Addie Stonecipher, Stanford Women’s Gymnastics

At the end of the camp, I would have to say my biggest takeaway would have to be about my mindset in everyday life and how it differs from the Vietnamese that we got to know and worked with. After three weeks of meetings, I realized that the Vietnamese college students we partnered with are amazing at being present. When you talk with them, they are so engaged and in the moment. They never seem to worry about what is next in their day, instead they focus all their attention on who they are interacting with. This was really eye-opening to me, as I tend to want to get through things quickly and move onto the next. Now that the camp is over, I hope I can use this idea of “presence” in my everyday life. When I’m working, training, or just having a conversation with someone, I want to be in the moment.

Overall, I am so grateful for this experience, and I can’t thank the Vietnamese enough for their hard work, generosity, and kindness they displayed to us over the last few weeks. I learned so much from them that I hope to apply in my daily life. One day I hope to maybe meet them in person!

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