Face-to-Face Connections

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by Dalton Bui

One year ago, SM’s English Initiative (EI) was created to help college students in Vietnam (AKA mentees) improve their English skills by having weekly video chats with Vietnamese students in the US (AKA mentors). The mentees are comprised of SM scholarship recipients and the mentors are made up of mostly SEEDS (the youth board of SM). Not only did the mentors achieve our goal of helping the mentees improve and be more confident in their English, we also learned more about the life of a student in Vietnam. Just as important, we made new friends!

Taking advantage of already being in Vietnam for workcamp, a group of us mentors met up over lunch with a group of mentees during our last day in Saigon. Though two of my former mentees, Hận and Minh Thu, lived too far to come to Saigon, I very happy to able to meet one of my mentees, Trang, who got back just in time from doing big things in Laos!

Everyone had a great time meeting other mentees/mentors and comparing our lives. We discussed music, hobbies, the Avengers, foods we like and don’t like, school, our future careers, sports, clothes, riding motorbikes... everything. Sure, we have some differences as we have grown up in different places with different cultures, but at the end of the day we are all just Vietnamese young adults trying to get through school, find jobs, and establish our adult lives. Our similar roots bring us together even though almost every part of our upbringing is different.

In the past year and a half, the SEEDS have held two t-shirt fundraisers, put on a fundraising concert, assisted with planning and executing the “Where Dreams Begin” banquet, and completed two rounds of English Initiative. To do all of this has been fulfilling enough for the SEEDS. However, to see the school be completed in front of our eyes AND to meet our mentees in-person all in one workcamp is even more special. Thank you to Chị Zenda and Anh Quốc for helping to make this happen! Mentees, good luck with your studies! We can’t wait to see you all again next year:)

Cindy Au