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This first week and a half in Vietnam has been incredible. From the moment we set down in Vietnam I have felt like I have been doing something or experiencing new things, and I have loved every second of it. I do not want to go to bed and I enjoy waking up early because it means I get to soak up more of this amazing country. The most fun has been working with the children. I would like to share one story in particular about a student in my ninth-grade class.

“It has given me a much greater respect for each student, because even though I interact with them in school on a daily basis, I am still only scratching the surface of who they are as individuals.”

In addition to teaching a sport and a subject to all the students (basketball and physics for me), we also teach life skills to one class that is our home color. We go over topics such as speaking responsibly, writing reports, encouraging self-love and courage, etc. During these lessons one of the students often acts very disinterested. He also dresses and acts like a cool, tough guy, complete with bear tooth chain. On the life skills quiz, there was a question asking what you would do if your parents asked you to drop out of school and work to help the family.

This student’s response surprised me and my life skills team greatly: he said that he would drop out of school and save up enough money to pay for his younger brothers’ school tuition so that he could have more opportunity than him. Hearing about this completely changed my perception of him; I completely underestimated his maturity and compassion. I am a little embarrassed to say that I judged him by his outward appearance. It has given me a much greater respect for each student, because even though I interact with them in school on a daily basis, I am still only scratching the surface of who they are as individuals.

Words written on chalkboard
Penmanship demonstrated by some of the students when asked to display some of their talents to practice self-positivity

Sight-seeing and enjoying the culture like the food (sticky rice at every meal which I am a huuuge fan of), the weather–I sweat so much during one workout that my hands started pruning– and the markets, where bargaining is expected, are entertaining, novel and captivating for a couple of days. However, after a while the touristy appeal wears off. What has kept me feeling engaged and excited for each new day is the relationships that are developing with the Vietnamese and American coaches and staff as well as those I am forming with the kids. I am having so much fun getting to know these people that homesickness has not crossed my mind, and three weeks seems like hardly enough. I am excited for what the future holds.

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