About the Author: Kelli Davis is a program officer in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' (ECA) SportsUnited Office. She is currently traveling in Kansas City, Missouri with 12 student athletes from Vietnam. Around the world, SportsUnited works with boys and girls ages 7-17 in discovering how success in athletics can be translated into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom.
Just hours from now, 12 student athletes from Vietnam will get their first glimpse of competitive collegiate volleyball. For the last week, these young volleyball players have been learning about American sports and culture and shared Vietnamese culture with their U.S. counterparts through visits to local high schools, pick-up volleyball matches with local volleyball clubs and Special Olympians. Tonight, these youth will head to the NCAA semi-finals in volleyball.
Hoang Lan, a 17-year-old member of the Vietnamese delegation, shared her first thoughts about America:
"I see many differences between the USA and Vietnam. Americans are different from the way they think and act. Americans go to work early and on time, but Vietnamese always keep late hours. Most Americans work independently. They consider carefully before they want to do something.
"Sports in schools and schools in general are not the same. We went to the University of Missouri Kansas City. We got to play volleyball. The facilities and floors were so modern. Everything was so large, and the equipment was all very good. We had everything available for us.
"We were able to go to Shawnee Mission North high school and there were so many differences. They had an indoor gym, football field, and anything you could imagine. This high school had over 1,600 students. In Vietnam the teachers switch classes. In American schools the students change. It was amazing how organized the halls were with all the students. I also noticed that for both coaches I met had a lot in common in how they train their athletes. They give their students a lot of exercise in strength and conditioning. And they take care of their students.
"I am not the best volleyball player. I am in a very low level. I hope that after this trip it will help me to improve and build my skills in volleyball.
"This trip has helped me to improve my English, and I have grown more confident in myself and the ability to communicate with foreign people.
"This is the first time out of my country, and when I return home I will share with my parents, friends, coaches and teammates everything I've seen and learned in America. I will teach them all that I have learned from my American coaches and teammates. The spirit of commonality, unity and team!"Learn more about SportsUnited and fan us on Facebook!