She became the starting goalie on a noteworthy Big Ten squad and didn't look back the rest of the way.

But the best part of Hudson graduate Sarah L'Hommedieu's first year at Indiana University had nothing to do with sports.

L'Hommedieu, who helped lead the Lady Explorers to 42 shutouts during her four-year high school career, recently had a life-changing experience at a place that was involved in one of the most controversial wars of the 20th century.

The rising sophomore recently was part of a program in Indiana's athletic department called the Excellence Academy.

As a result, L'Hommedieu and several other Indiana students spent some time last month in Hi An, which is located in Vietnam's Qung Nam Province.

L'Hommedieu visited a school in a rural area of the town to help provide a higher education to students through sports.

"The great thing about Indiana is that it helps us with life skills," L'Hommedieu said. "Unfortunately, school is not accessible in Hi An, especially in the rural parts."

L'Hommedieu had a translator interpret her messages to several fourth- and fifth-grade students.

"A lot of kids drop out of school, especially girls at that age," L'Hommedieu said. "Some of them get married very young. We wanted to show them that participating in sports and getting a higher education is possible."

To say L'Hommedieu's experience working with the children was a humbling one would be a major understatement.

"It was definitely nerve-racking at first," L'Hommedieu said. "It's a different way of living.

"They have trouble finding food and water. They go to school and all of them are hungry, so we brought them snacks.

"It was a nerve-wracking experience since it's a completely different culture. But it was a healthy fear, a positive fear."

L'Hommedieu not only witnessed what those children's everyday lives we're like, she lived it.

"It became very personal," L'Hommedieu said. "We knew what it was like to be hungry all day. We didn't eat as much as we used to. You got to know them personally on a whole different level."

While her experience was an eye-opener in many ways, L'Hommedieu, a prelaw major, hopes to visit Southeast Asia at least one more time before she leaves Bloomington.

"I would love to go back to Vietnam," she said. "The coaches are very supportive of it. That's what I love about Indiana. They develop us not just as athletes, but as individual people."

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