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Early Bird 2017
Courtesy: Duke Athletics
ACE Class Checks in from Vietnam
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 07/12/2017
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DURHAM, N.C. – Five Duke student-athletes – Kevin Gehsmann (football), Alan Ko (fencing), Maddy Price (track & field), Jonathan Schwartzman (fencing) and Mackenzie Willborn (swimming & diving) – are in Vietnam this summer as part of the second class of the Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement (ACE) program. The program provides one-time funding for Duke and Stanford student-athletes to engage in a three-week international service project.

All five Blue Devils provided blogs on their initial experiences in Vietnam, which can be read below.

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America's Pastime
July 10, 2017 l Jonathan Schwartzman, Duke Men's Fencing and Reagan Damoose, Stanford Women’s Lightweight Rowing

Intro: JD and Reagan both coach baseball with two Vietnamese coaches, who prior to the camp had never played the sport before. 

1. What is your experience with baseball?

JD: Baseball was my first real sport that I grew to love. It was the first time that I had been genuinely competitive, which came along with a necessary but unfamiliar level of commitment. I remember times in which I wanted to do anything but go to practice, but I was always there in the end. Baseball taught me about honoring my commitments and staying true to my word and team. It also showed me that competition is not always fierce. Being an outfielder in little league was not always the most exciting, but it was always a steady battle between the batters and fielders. Baseball taught me about the importance of relaxed intensity, which has developed over time into something I bring into everything from the classroom to friendships. 

Click here for Schwartzman's full blog post.

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Red Team Cố Lên!
July 10, 2017 l Kevin Gehsmann, Duke Football, and Allie DaCar, Stanford Women's Lacrosse

The two of us coach together on the same color team. We partner with Reagan and two Vietnamese coaches to teach our 8th and 9th grade Red Team's life skills and to lead them on competition day. We spend the most time throughout each day with this group of kids, so the relationships are stronger within our team than with other kids in the camp. However, we can both agree that it was hard to adjust to teaching in a classroom with students who we could not directly communicate with. It was natural to want to have conversations with the students when they were doing individual work, but this proved nearly impossible. But over time we grew more comfortable talking to them regardless of their understanding. With the help of our Vietnamese co-teachers and friends, we were able to build on our relationships with the Vietnamese kids.

While the communication barrier still exists, we were able to make a big leap in week 2 thanks to some activities meant to bridge the distance between us and the students. During life skills lessons, we usually share our stories, play a couple team bonding games, and the students will try their best to find something in our stories that can be related to their drastically different lives but, we changed it up this week. While the students wrote letters to their future selves, we pulled them out of the classroom in pairs to have deeper conversations with them to learn more about their lives. Some of their stories were heartbreaking, but we were honored to have those conversations. Learning about some of the difficulties that these kids face on a daily basis was an incredibly humbling experience for us as Americans. Over this period of two days we got to know our students much more thoroughly, and now we all feel much more comfortable navigating the classroom. 

Click here for Gehsmann's full blog post.

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The Blue Devil and the Cardinal Should be Friends
July 10, 2017 l Alan Ko, Duke Men’s Fencing, and Tara Shannon, Stanford Women's Squash

The farmer and the cowman should be friends
Oh farmer and the cowman should be friends.  
One man likes to push a plow the other one likes to chase a cow  
But that's no reason why they can't be friends
-From Rodger & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!  
 
So begins the classic number out of Rodger & Hammerstein. In the same vein of the musical conciliation that plays out in the lyrics of Oklahoma! (but perhaps less violently) at first glance the differences that divide us as Duke and Stanford student athletes may seem incredibly significant. We all play different sports, we are all involved in different organizations on campus, pursuing different academics, not to mention the fact that half of us attend completely different universities from the other half of our ACE cohort. Nonetheless, after having spent two and a half weeks together, working, teaching, coaching and socializing, the awkward introductions and interactions that characterized our first few days in Vietnam have dissolved into a true camaraderie and collective friendship despite our differences as Duke and Stanford student athletes. 

Click here for Ko's full blog post.

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Gratitude for Good Company
July 10, 2017 l Maddy Price, Duke Women’s Track and Field, and Haley Farnsworth, Stanford Women's Swimming & Diving

Four more days of teaching and coaching, that's all. This trip has been a whirlwind of learning and experiencing new people, places, and things, and we don't want it to end. 

 That being said, we don't think this trip would be the same without the help and guidance of our Vietnamese counterparts. They have facilitated the bonds we have created with the kids, and have spent an extreme amount of time and effort sharing their culture with us, despite our child-like excitement and amazement at every ounce of what this culture has to offer. We can't imagine how exhausting it would be having to constantly answer questions about things that, to them, are common sense and common knowledge. Not only have they put up with our loud, inquisitive personalities, they have let us in to their lives, and let us hear their stories, and for that, we are extremely grateful.

Click here for Price's full blog post.

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Intercontinental Collaboration
July 10, 2017 l Mackenzie Willborn, Duke Women's Swimming & Diving and Sajan Patel, Stanford Men’s Fencing

After two weeks of working together, us coaches have all become much closer as a group; we have shared a lot about our backgrounds, culture, and more. As such, this past weekend has been a great time to reflect upon the relationships we have developed thus far.

After we reflected on our experiences with other student-athletes, we thought that it would be interesting to interview one of our Vietnamese counterparts, Khanh. 

In addition, we have made relationships with the Vietnamese coaches that are just as strong but very unique. Khanh teaches physics with me and is on the Green color team with Sajan, so we thought it would be awesome to see what she has to say about the program. She has amazing English and a great sense of humor, so without further ado, here is a bit of Q & A with her! 

Click here for Willborn's full blog post.

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Broken Expectations
July 6, 2017 l Jonathan Schwartzman, Duke Men’s Fencing

When people asked me what I was doing this summer, I would tell them that I was to do a unique service trip to south Vietnam. I figured that I would just teach kids biology and baseball. How very wrong I was. 

First of all, I was taken aback by how little I can communicate with the students. Besides a wave and thumbs up, it is challenging to communicate with these students. I have never been in a position like this before. I’ve worked with kids from different backgrounds before but had always been able to talk with them. This has been a challenge which I am soon realizing is an opportunity to learn about myself.

Click here for Schwartzman's full blog post.

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Bong-da, Conjugation, and the Cupid Shuffle
July 5, 2017 l Alan Ko, Duke Men’s Fencing

"Bong-da!"

It's soccer time at our little school in rural Vietnam, and the kids run outside to the field — the sounds of their rubber sandals flip flopping down the stairs. Me, Yen, Minh, Ally, and Maddy race down with them, trying to keep up with their eagerness for "bong-da." Outside, Kevin, Tara, Sy and Sajan are already hard at work putting the orange team through a game of knockout on the basketball court. Meanwhile, out on the pavement, J.D, Hoang, and Reagan are demonstrating how to pitch to the attentive yellow team. From the dance team, led by Hoai, Mackenize, and Haley, the Latin rhythms of the Macarena blare through a Bluetooth speaker and into the ears of the footloose red team.

Down near the "bong-da" field, Seth, our Coach for College coordinator, is cutting the grass with his newly purchased machete. As for us, we're a little bit late it seems; the kids were having trouble with conjugations towards the end of English class. With a quick "xin chao" to the smiling faces of the green team, we begin our bong-da lesson. The focus will be on dribbling today, and we have the kids dribble through the cones in a relay style race — their bare feet ignoring the muddy field and murky puddles. Before we can continue onto shooting, however, an impromptu flash storm begins to pour down on us, transforming our soccer field into a tropical swamp.

Click here for Ko's full blog post.

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Reflection
July 5, 2017 l Mackenzie Willborn, Duke Women’s Swimming and Diving

Towards the end of our first week teaching 8th and 9th graders in Vietnam, all 10 American coaches and our director met up to reflect on our ACE experience so far. We might have done a bit more laughing than discussing — this is one hilarious group. We mesh so well and really can feed off of each others ideas, opinions, and energy. I love being surrounded by other passionate student athletes because we thrive in the same atmospheres. It's something special that you get with ACE! However, another thing I noticed was that with all of the new faces, places, and feelings, I hadn't had time to even begin a reflection on what this week has really meant to me.

So, sitting along side the other coaches, it was a bit overwhelming to try to put into words a quick reflection of this eye opening week. Instead of trying to comprehend this massive intake of new information in just one night, I decided to focus on the word 'reflection' itself.

Click here for Willborn's full blog post.

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Trust the Process
July 5, 2017 l Maddy Price, Duke Women’s Track and Field

Vietnam is a cultural masterpiece. Every meal we get to try different and amazing food and even got to make some of our own food this weekend on our trip! Hanging out with the Vietnamese coaches is such a special part of this program because not only do we get to bond and teach with them but also explore together. I couldn't have imagined a better first week from getting into the groove of teaching and coaching (especially with a big language barrier), to our first competition day, to staying on an island and rowing through the river together.

Trust the Process ...
I was taught this phrase by one of my coaches and have used and loved it ever since. This may sound like a strange addition to a blog post about my experience so far in Vietnam, but I have found that so much of this experience has been about trusting this journey and living every moment fully. To me, trusting the process has to do with knowing that there will be bumps in the road but that those bumps are part of the greater journey and that journey is what makes the success or end result worth it.

Click here for Price's full blog post.

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Language - A Mere Separation
July 5, 2017 l Kevin Gehsmann, Duke Football

We first met our team of kids on Sunday during a pre-camp orientation. My first reaction — shocking. Having never been outside of America, I had never before been confronted with such a fundamental barrier like human communication. The other American coaches and I felt helpless, and our Vietnamese partner coach was overwhelmed trying to control a classroom of both grade levels (15 students in each) and translate what we were attempting to say to the kids. After Sunday's orientation, I wasn't sure how I would be able to bond with the kids, let alone coach or teach them at all.

The three main areas of instruction are academics where I teach physics, sports where I coach basketball, and life skills where we promote higher education and important virtues. Each area includes two or three American coaches paired with two Vietnamese coaches. The language barrier was overcome in physics through demonstrations, real world examples, and equations that use the same letters and numbers allowing examples on the board to be possible and effective. With the help of some incredible Vietnamese coaches, even individual assistance was possible, and very rewarding. Basketball was similarly communicable through demonstrations and the motivation to help your team win or just to “Get Buckets.” It was initially hard to accept that most kids would not uphold the standards set by our Division 1 athletic programs — starting behind the line, giving 100% effort on every rep, etc. — but their passion and enthusiasm was more than sufficient. Life skills offered a time to come together as a team through a variety of games and activities targeted to promote virtues like attitude and confidence as well as goal setting, overcoming adversity and pursuing higher education. It is awesome to see the excitement on their faces when they get an answer right in the classroom or make the game winning layup in a relay race on the basketball court.

Click here for Gehsmann's full blog post.

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For additional information on the ACE Program, visit www.ace.duke.edu.

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