During the summer of 2016, seven Princeton student-athletes were selected to travel to the Hau Giang Province in southern Vietnam to volunteer for Coach for College, a global initiative aimed at promoting higher education through sports. These student-athletes taught academics, sports and life skills over the course of three weeks to disadvantaged youth at various Secondary Schools. The Princeton Varsity Club provided funding for the majority of the necessary expenses associated with the charitable service trip, with the remainder of the funds being raised by the individual participants. The PVC sat down with each student-athlete to learn more about their educational experience this summer.
Our third conversation is with Allison Glossinger ’19, a member of the Princeton women’s track & field team who traveled to Hau Giang Province, of southern Vietnam.
What were your expectations for the trip after you learned you had been selected to represent Princeton University?
I did not have many expectations going into the trip, but I knew that I was going to have a great experience leaving the country for my first time ever. I tried not to think too much about what it was going to be like participating in the program and representing Princeton because I wanted to be surprised about all the new experiences I was going to have while I was in Vietnam.
How did the language barrier affect your teaching/coaching strategies?
Without being able to directly speak to the students, it was sometimes difficult to help them understand concepts without having a translator saying what you wanted. However, I was teaching math, so it was easier to help students answer questions in their workbooks by writing down the correct way to solve an equation since numbers are universal. In regards to coaching, by the end of the camp, all of the students understood most of the English terms that are used in volleyball, which made it easy to coordinate drills and games with the kids.
Can you tell us a little about the children you taught as part of the program?
The children we taught were energetic and passionate about being at camp to become better learners and athletes. I have never witnessed students that had such a drive for academic achievements, which allowed me to witness a dramatic change within the kids through out the camp. Seeing the change from the students we first met to the students we said goodbye to made me realize how much of an impact I had on their lives in such a short amount of time.
Can you tell us what a typical day was like?
I woke up for a typical day at 5 am to run, then I headed to breakfast after showering. We loaded on the buses at 7 am to teach the 7th grade morning session and returned at our guest house for about a 2 hour break for lunch. It is common in Vietnam to nap around noontime, so we always enjoyed a little bit of time to relax before we headed to our afternoon session with the 6th graders. After 6th grade, we returned home to eat and lesson plan for the next day until we went to sleep. On Fridays, we had competition days where all the students took tests and competed against each other in the sports we coached, which was always a lot of fun!
What is your favorite memory of the trip?
One of my favorite memories from the trip was when we had our awards ceremony on the last day before we departed for America. Students won awards for academic achievements, and it turned out that my 7th grade orange team had won the overall most points out of all the teams! It was a lot of fun cheering and celebrating with my students and fellow orange team coaches on our victory, but at the same time, we all knew that the camp had come to an end so it meant we had to say goodbye. Everyone felt a rush of emotions about the few final moments we had left with each other, and I’ll never forget all the teary eyed and smiling faces I hugged goodbye that day.
How have you changed as a result of participating in Coach for College?
Being back in America, I definitely appreciate small things more that I would not have thought much about before the trip. One example is having a laundry machine because we had to hand-wash all of our laundry in Vietnam, and now I will never feel that doing laundry with a washer and dryer is not much of a chore anymore. Appreciating and being thankful for little things is something I would not have learned without my experience as a participant in Coach for College.
What is the most important thing you learn/realized from this opportunity?
Since I have never left the United States before, I never knew how different lifestyles were in other parts of the world. Styles of clothing and home life were two major things that were different in Vietnam, and even little things like how their carrots were white instead of orange made me realize how different people really are around the world. I now appreciate how people’s lifestyles and cultures are different in various parts of the world, however I also understand more about why everyone is different in America and I can appreciate differences more.
What would your advice be to current Princeton undergraduates about participating in this program?
I encourage everyone who has time next summer to participate in this program! It is very rare to be able to visit a foreign country and have translators with you the whole time! Not only did our Vietnamese college student translators help us communicate with the children, but they became our friends and biggest guides on how to survive and love living in Vietnam. They were with us at almost every moment, helping us choose what foods to eat, choosing the quality gifts we should bring home for our families, and teaching us about the traditional Vietnamese culture. I don’t think that you could fully understand or appreciate being in Vietnam without the help of all of the amazing coaches that are there with you!
To see more photos from our student-athletes’ experiences in Vietnam, click here.