After participating in ACE in India 2017, Stanford Women’s Water Polo and 2019 Stanford alum Mackenzie Wiley continued to pursue international opportunities throughout her time at Stanford. Now five years later, Wiley is abroad again as she pursues a masters degree in management from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Wiley credits ACE for her desire to pursue a career that focuses on international work and building relationships.
What are you doing now? How did ACE influence your career?
I just started graduate school at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland studying management after working for two years in San Francisco for an agro-business firm. Participating in ACE and traveling to India was the second time I had ever been outside the US in my life. I had always been interested in volunteering and gaining international experiences and my interest in this only grew after ACE. I’m so grateful for the program for that since I don’t think I ever would have gone to India by myself otherwise.
After my ACE experience my sophomore summer, I sought out other international opportunities during my time at Stanford. The following summer I went to the UK and the next summer I spent 10 weeks studying abroad in Chile for my international relations major. My experience with ACE in India prepared me for all my future international experiences and made me more adaptable to language and cultural differences.
“ACE also taught me that there are many ways to impact the world through all kinds of organizations and businesses – you don’t just have to work for a non-profit or NGO.”
– Mackenzie Wiley, ACE in India 2017
Thinking about graduate school, I knew that I wanted to study abroad again and so decided to pursue my masters degree in Scotland. ACE also taught me that there are many ways to impact the world through all kinds of organizations and businesses – you don’t just have to work for a non-profit or NGO.
What was the most meaningful part of your ACE experience?
For me it was learning and experiencing that there are so many different ways to live in this world. I came into the experience with a lot of different preconceptions about India and through connecting and building relationships with the other ACE student-athletes, the children we worked with, and other program staff I realized that people around the world all have everyday lives – it’s just what you get used to and grow up with.
Share a lesson you learned from your ACE experience that still holds true today:
During this past year and a half with Covid, I realized this even more that people are so important in my life. We are so used to chasing the next thing, and this time has helped me reflect on my time in India again and realize that it’s important to be grateful for what you have in this moment.
Describe your ACE experience in as few words as possible:
An essential experience
What’s one thing you want people to know about ACE?
ACE is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, even though that sounds cliché. I was 20 when I participated in the ACE in India program. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about the impact this experience would have on the rest of my life. Back then in 2017, ACE was also very new since the program was only a year old. At the time, ACE sounded like an exciting opportunity for me but those three weeks I spent in India were such a defining experience for me – it was the longest time I had spent away from home and also in another country and I was surrounded my completely new people, food, culture, language, etc.
“ACE is not just a three-week program but also something that continually impacts you for the rest of your life.”
– Mackenzie Wiley, ACE in India 2017
Just coming off my second year of college, ACE opened my eyes to the world and gave me such a different perspective. Thinking back on my time at Stanford, ACE impacted what I studied, what experiences I pursued and what I’m looking for in life. I’m still figuring out my life, but ACE is always in the back of my head. I always want to have a job/life that is focused more internationally and be about connecting with others. ACE is not just a three-week program but also something that continually impacts you for the rest of your life.
What’s your hope for the future of ACE? What advice do you have for future ACE participants?
Get to know the others in your program – the other ACE students, the other program staff, the kids and teachers, etc. Ask them lots of questions and listen. Especially listen to what kids have to say – they will share with you so much about their world and life. And if you get the chance, play sports with them!