Kolbi Brown ’17 | Football

Hua Giang, Vietnam

This summer I was given the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Hau Giang Province in the Mekong Delta Region of Vietnam through a program called Coach for College. For three and a half weeks I taught and coached Vietnamese 6th and 7th graders alongside Vietnamese bilingual college students. Before this trip the furthest I had travelled out of the United States was to Mexico and The Bahamas on vacation, so travelling across the country and being immersed in such a different culture was a very eye opening experience for me.

I heard about the Coach for College Program from a few teammates and friends who had done it during previous summers. They all had positive things to say about their time in Vietnam and the program, so I was very excited to apply and was ecstatic when I found out I was selected to participate.

I expected Vietnam to be much like it was, but imagining something and actually seeing it in real life is extremely different. One of my fondest memories of the trip was visiting the home of one of the sixth graders. In order to get there, we traveled at least a mile and a half down a dirt road with nothing but rice fields to our left and trees to our right. It was a small hut built by his father with two makeshift beds and a TV on the inside and a small makeshift kitchen that was covered by a shed attached to the hut on the outside. This was home to the 6th grader, his two little sisters, and his two parents. At first, their small hand built hut, an obvious indication of their poverty, made me feel sad and sympathetic towards the young boy and his family; however, after being welcomed so warmly into their home and spending time with them, I was very inspired by their generosity and how proud and thankful they were. They did not have much, but they offered beverages to all of their visitors and knocked down mangosteens from their mangosteen tree for us to eat. Traveling to this kid’s home, meeting his parents, and experiencing his lifestyle, reiterated to me the importance of not taking things for granted, for there are many other people in the world facing larger obstacles but are still happy and smiling.

From a teaching and coaching aspect, trying to communicate with kids who only spoke and understood Vietnamese (while I only spoke and understood English) was difficult and very frustrating at times. We worked alongside Vietnamese bilingual college students, but they were not always there to translate the less formal conversations I wanted to have with the kids outside of instruction time. However, I do believe that whether it was a Vietnamese word, something about their culture, or just watching their interactions with one another, I learned just as much from the kids, or more, as I taught them. By the end of the three and a half weeks, we had overcome our difficulties and were able to communicate through a mix of English and Vietnamese words that we both understood.

Seeing how much happiness we brought the kids and how much they gave us in return made saying goodbye an extremely difficult task, much harder than I expected. I never would have thought that I would have been able to develop such close bonds with a group of kids in such a short amount of time, especially with such a significant language barrier.

Now back in the U.S, I can't say I am not happy to be home, but I can say that I developed special bonds and memories with the kids, coaches, and directors that I will never forget. I fully believe this experience has enhanced my leadership and problem solving skills, all of which will benefit me as I incorporate them into whatever career path I choose.

Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to say thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Weissman. This trip would not have been possible without your support and generosity. The three and a half weeks I spent in Vietnam were an experience of a lifetime. I was taken out of my comfort zone and had to adapt to a new and very foreign environment. It was an environment I embraced and made the most of. Thank you again for this phenomenal opportunity.