The Princeton Varsity Club has partnered with the Coach for College program since 2013, providing Tiger varsity student-athletes the opportunity to teach and coach underprivileged middle school students in rural Vietnam (to-date, the PVC has sponsored 51 student-athlete participants). This summer’s program took on a different look and feel, with participants engaging with their Vietnamese coaches and students virtually. The PVC recently caught up with Aria Nagai ’24 (women’s soccer), who participated in the program’s first three-week camp earlier this summer, to hear more about her experience.
Can you outline what a typical day in the program consisted of?
Aria: Mostly, my summer has been training for soccer, and then I also tutor English, which was actually really helpful to my Coach for College experience. During the day, I would get those two areas taken care of then, and then for Coach for College I’d make a short video focused on that evening’s lesson. At night – we started about 8:00pm my time, which was 7:00am the next day in Vietnam – I’d have a live meeting with the Vietnamese coaches where we’d discuss the lesson plan and fine tune the video portion, which the Vietnamese coaches would use during the lesson with students. That was the schedule Sunday night through Wednesday night, and then on Thursdays we’d meet live with the kids to discuss how the week of lessons went and see where we could improve. We would also work on English pronunciation with them and then do a cultural exchange, like making a well-known Vietnamese or American dish, talking about different holidays and celebrations, and more.
What did your lessons and videos cover?
Aria: This year we focused on English and Math academically, and we also covered Life Skills lessons like budgeting, decision making, and goal setting. Every day there was a life skills lesson, and every other day there was an academic lesson. So for life skills, from the American side, it mostly consisted of talking about our experiences and any advice that we could give, and then our Vietnamese counterparts would share with the kids and translate where needed. For the academic lessons, I was on the math team, so our videos mostly focused on explaining concepts, providing examples, and working through problem sets. We originally planned to include sport lessons as well, since they were all going to be in person in Vietnam, but we unfortunately had to pivot when COVID cases increased in Vietnam and everything on their side also had to transition to virtual.
What was the most impactful experience of Coach for College?
Aria: Definitely the live meetings with the kids. It was really awesome to see the progress they made in such a short time, and I was surprised by how much we were able to bond virtually. A favorite memory that sticks out was our last live meeting with them: our team made a video for me and my American coaching partner saying thank you and telling us how meaningful the program was. Hearing them talk about what they learned as part of the lessons and how they enjoyed them, and being able to see the impact we had was definitely one of the highlights.
What has been your biggest takeaway from Coach for College?
Aria: I think the biggest takeaway has been accepting unknowns and being open to learning about new perspectives. I didn’t know a lot about Vietnamese culture beforehand. So learning about their different lifestyles in Vietnam, and even the differences within Vietnam was really interesting. The exposure to a different lifestyle was something that was pretty eye opening, and even doing so virtually, I feel like I was able to come away with an entirely new understanding of Vietnamese culture.