June 11, 2012
by Parker Preston, UNC Athletic Communications
CHAPEL HILL - Not only is Chapel Hill a far drive from The University Of North Carolina's own women's lacrosse player Zoe Skinner's hometown of Baltimore, Md., but Vietnam is definitely nowhere close to either of her two homes. This summer, Vietnam will be Skinner's home away from home, as she travels across the world through the Coaches for College program, teaching kids education through sports.
In the Mekong Delta, a town called Thuan Hung is where Skinner will work at a secondary school with fifth and sixth graders helping them learn English and volleyball.
At the beginning of her sophomore year, Skinner first heard about this opportunity, but with the start of the semester approaching, she knew she didn't have the time. "I couldn't do this, I can't focus on applying for something like this and doing all of this work and I just kind of put it on the back burner," she recalls.
Being part of the ACC Outreach Program has taught Zoe how to be a student-athlete, while still having time to reach out to the community, and in this case, abroad. Along with English and volleyball, Skinner will be teaching a Leadership Development class.
Southern Vietnam is known as the "rice basket" for all of Vietnam, due to the drive for agriculture, which puts a lower demand for education, not pressuring the kids to go to school. "Most children go to our equivalent of elementary school, less go to middle school, and very, very little go to high school and even out of those little that go to high school, it's a very small percentage that go onto college."
Being a political science major and a history minor, Skinner hopes that "this really gives me an inside look at the people, not just a look at these grand structures that have been there for hundreds of years or the horrible wars that were there. This will just give me a more in-depth look at the actual people in this culture."
Skinner and others in the program will most likely publish a blog during their journeys for family and friends to see how their experience and journey is going.
"The people that I have just read about in textbooks will now be people whose names I will know. Actually having conversations with them, teaching them and living with them is going to be extremely different."
On the weekends, Skinner and others will get the opportunity to travel with the Vietnamese college students to their homes to see the difference between how they live compared to how we live here in America.
Skinner mentioned how, in Vietnam, they alternate days electricity is provided. "I just thought it was interesting that they don't have enough electricity to power all of the people living in the Mekong Delta so they have to ration out their electricity and that would never happen in America. Like, can you imagine if all of the electricity was shut off?" Skinner does admit to some nervousness about the trip.
"Playing a varsity sport at UNC has definitely taught me and built a great foundation to handle adversity when it hits and to not be faced by it, but at the same time I am dealing with people that are speaking a different language, [in a] different culture where I'm not used to the food, not used to the time, not used to the heat. Those are obviously things that are stirring up some anxieties inside of me."
Another thing that Skinner hopes to get out of this experience is seeing other cultures and how they value things differently. "Also why I want to know a lot about the culture, their laws, their traditions, and their standards are so that I am not crossing the line unintentionally and that I might get myself into trouble if I didn't mean to."
Hoping to join the Peace Corps after college, Skinner knew, when she found out that she was accepted for this opportunity, that, "This is what I want to do, I want to go around and help people, and teach. I want to do whatever I can, so I might as well start now."
Skinner will be traveling with seven other students, even a fellow UNC student on the last of 4 sessions of this camp in the Mekong Delta. After the three-and-a-half week camp session, Skinner and four others will be continuing their Asian tour by visiting Cambodia, Thailand, Bali and the last stop, a day trip to Singapore.
Not only will Skinner be a new friend to these children, but she will always be part of the backbone of their future for guiding and teaching them the English language to help pursue dreams of their own.