Hopper Humbled by Service Trip to Vietnam
July 10, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. – While most students were relaxing or unwinding after the spring semester, NC State’s Dariyan Hopper was gearing up for a trip to Vietnam. The junior volleyball player from Shorewood, Ill., participated this summer in an international service-learning program called Coach for College.
“I received an email from the academic staff and I was drawn to the email because it discussed traveling abroad,” said Hopper. “I just went on a whim, but I’m so glad that I decided to go because of all the things I learned and experienced on the trip. I think it’s a great experience for student-athletes and I would do it every year now if I could.”
The goal of the Coach for College program is to promote higher education through sports by providing a series of role models for kids to encourage them to go to college and achieve academically. The camps teach academics, sports and life skills to kids in rural areas of Vietnam.
In Vietnam, only 70 percent of middle school children go on to high school and only 2.8 percent of students attend college. Varsity student-athletes from the U.S. help them develop excitement for and proficiency in math, leadership, language and life skills using sports as a means to applied learning.
A typical day for Hopper in Vietnam began at 5:30 a.m. with breakfast, which consisted of bread, eggs and noodles. After breakfast, she along with the rest of her coaching group traveled to the campsite that was about 20 minutes away.
Hopper worked specifically with the seventh and eighth graders at the camp, teaching the students math for the first 40-minute period, volleyball for the second 40-minute period and life skills for the final period of the morning or afternoon.
“It was really tough the first week, with the food and the language barrier,” Hopper added. “The hardest thing was trying to communicate with the kids and be interactive even though we didn’t speak the same language.”
Even though teaching the kids math and life skills was sometimes difficult, Hopper says that teaching them to play volleyball was no different than it is in the United States. She started by teaching the basics and then progressed to slightly more advanced skills.
After classes were done each day, Hopper and the other coaching group members would spend the evening making lesson plans for the next day with the Vietnamese coaches. The coaching group would discuss the subject areas that would be addressed in the next day’s class to ensure that the children would be able to relate to some of the examples used to explain the material. They also had to make sure that the language used would translate well to Vietnamese since some words did not have a direct translation.
For the three weeks that Hopper was there, she worked with the same group, which allowed her and the coaching group to get to know some of the youngsters very well.
“Staying with one group for the entire three-week period allowed [the coaching group] to think of them as our team,” Hopper said. “These were the same kids that we would work with and see every day so we were able to develop a better relationship with them.”
Hopper recalls being out of her comfort zone when she first arrived in Vietnam because it was her first international service trip. After spending a few days in the country, she realized how fortunate she was to have all of the things she does as an American.
“I really appreciate everything that I have a lot more now,” she said. “We have all the advantages living here in America, but the kids over there did not have the same privileges. It doesn’t matter where or how you grew up, there are always opportunities to better yourself.”
Hopper, who led the Wolfpack with 325 kills last season, returned to Raleigh in time for the second summer session, along with the remainder of her Wolfpack teammates. Most of the student-athletes are enrolled in one or two courses to get back in the mode of the regular school year with classes and workouts.
Although she knows she will learn a great deal in her classes this summer, Hopper knows that the knowledge she gained in Vietnam will be something she will never forget.