Softball's Savannah Bradley spent six weeks volunteering in Vietnam this summer (courtesy Savannah Bradley).
My name is Savannah Bradley and I am a rising junior on the Harvard softball team. This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer in Vietnam through the Coach for College Program. I worked with other American student-athletes and Vietnamese college students to teach middle schoolers various subjects and coach them in sports. Athletics are not valued in Vietnam as much as they are in America and as a result, kids do not have many opportunities to reap the benefits of team sports. It was wonderful to watch the kids have so much energy when practicing their new skills. I will always cherish the memory of seeing their excited faces as they learned different sports. In the classroom, teaching biology and math, I was impressed with the diligence of the students and the respect they granted to me and my fellow teachers.
One thing that made my experience even more fruitful was that I was able to stay longer than most volunteers. The CFC Program runs three-week camp sessions, bringing in a new set of volunteers for each term. However, I was lucky to be able to stay for two camps! After the first three-week session in the Hau Giang Province (southern Vietnam), I flew up to the central region for the second camp in the Da Nang Province. I learned that Vietnam is quite a varied country- the central part is much more developed than the southern region. Having the opportunity to see different areas of Vietnam opened my eyes to the impacts of urban planning and development in third world countries, a field that I am now very interested in. The schools in which we taught were in rural areas and although the kids came from simple backgrounds, they were always enthusiastic and brimming with happiness at school.
After six weeks had passed and the second camp came to a somber close with sad goodbyes to the kids, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to subsequently travel with my mom. We spent a few days in Vietnam while my new Vietnamese friends from camp showed us around Hoi An and Hanoi, and then we left to spend 10 days in Thailand. After an action-packed CFC experience, it was quite enjoyable to relax on the beaches in southern Thailand, visit elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, and finish off the trip with retail therapy in Bangkok. I've been back for about two weeks now at home in Tampa, Florida, but all I want to do is go back! When I told others that I would be spending my summer in Vietnam, I received a wide range of responses- everything from "Oh, how wonderful!" to "Vietnam? That's different…". In hindsight, I am so thankful that I participated in this program and had the opportunity to do something off the beaten path. My CFC experience has changed my life and I have returned with fresh perspectives, an adventurous soul and a humbled mind.
Although I continue to miss the kids dearly and will never forget my experience in Vietnam, I am looking forward to making new memories with my teammates and friends, both on and off the field. Here's to the end of an unforgettable summer and the beginning of another successful year for Harvard Athletics.
Class of 2017