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Mackenzie Willborn is a Duke 2019 graduate and a former member and co-captain of the Duke Women’s Swimming and Diving team. As an ACE in Vietnam 2017 alum, Willborn shares how five years later ACE empowered her to return abroad for a teaching opportunity at her engineering company. Willborn also reflects on how ACE built up her confidence to lead as a teacher and as a team captain.

What are you doing now? How did ACE influence your career?

I work for a medical device company called Abbott Labs as a Clinical Engineer. I recently accepted a position to train our field engineers in Brussels, Belgium. ACE hugely impacted my desire to train and teach within my company, as well as my desire to live abroad! Being in Vietnam lead me to greatly appreciate and respect cultures other than my own, as well as gave me the confidence to chase another experience outside the US through Abbott.

What was the most meaningful part of your ACE experience?

As a student-athlete, my ACE experience gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to lead and motivate people. After teaching physics and dance everyday in Vietnam, I came back to Duke to become a captain my senior year.

Share a lesson you learned from your ACE experience that still holds true today:

My favorite part of my ACE experience was that, while teaching physics in Vietnam, the language barrier was basically non-existent! All of the formulas, numbers, and equations are the same. I could sit down with a student and work a problem with them on paper with no words at all. It was awesome to connect with them through something I was passionate about, especially when I couldn’t with words alone!

group of people in yellow t shirts smiling

Describe your ACE experience in as few words as possible.

Life changing!

What’s one thing you want people to know about ACE?

It is such an awesome opportunity for student-athletes since we don’t get to the typical study abroad opportunity.

What’s your hope for the future of ACE? What advice do you have for future ACE participants?

Be open to the experience and just go with the flow!