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Beginning my experience with ACE in Place Vietnam, I was curious to see how the program would operate in a remote environment. Given the mission of ACE and Coach for College to provide an opportunity for cross-cultural exchange and to develop student-athlete civic engagement skills, I knew there would be challenges yet also immense potential benefits to the virtual aspect of the program. For example, maybe the remote environment would create a barrier in which ACE participants could not develop personal connections with the Vietnamese teachers and students. Or maybe the academic and life skills content we were providing would not come across as well through a virtual setting. I thought to myself, “Would this program maintain its feelings of a unique international experience?”

ACE in Place Vietnam provided me a platform to interact with a culture and community I otherwise would not have. Memories I will hold onto include showing the students an American Fourth of July fireworks show, learning how to use Vietnamese chopsticks (still a work in progress), and creating American and Vietnamese food dishes.

– Zach Barry, Duke Men’s Cross Country and Track & Field

The answer is “Yes!” I believe it is “yes” because the quality of human interactions, virtual or in-person, are ultimately determined by the amount of effort each participating individual puts into it. Throughout ACE in Place Vietnam, my fellow Duke and Stanford student-athletes, Coach for College alongside their Vietnamese partners, as well as the Vietnamese students enrolled in the program put forth genuine effort to make the most of our time. Whether it was sharing academic content with students or conversing about random topics pertaining to life in Vietnam or the United States with the teachers, I was pleasantly surprised about the quality of relationships I was able to create and the impactful content I was able to deliver alongside other ACE athletes and Vietnamese teachers.

ACE in Place Vietnam provided me a platform to interact with a culture and community I otherwise would not have. Memories I will hold onto include showing the students an American Fourth of July fireworks show, learning how to use Vietnamese chopsticks (still a work in progress), and creating American and Vietnamese food dishes. Such interactions were deeply meaningful and provided a setting in which all participants could share their own personal stories and perspectives, thereby establishing bonds and life lessons that will last well beyond the end of the program.

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