Why did you apply to the American Service Academies Program? 
My academic pathway (biology) doesn’t allow for much exploration of the deeper questions of the human condition, so this was an opportunity I wouldn’t otherwise have. 

What surprised you most about the experience? 
I was surprised by the depth of discussions we had during the experience. I can honestly say I’ve never had such deep, intelligent conversations before. It felt less like a college trip, and more like some sort of retreat for budding philosophers. 

How did the program affect you personally and/or professionally? 
Personally, it restored my faith in the future leadership of this country. We were thinking critically. Critical thinking is easy to conceptualize, but it’s so hard to actually execute. The conversations we had, the exploration of topics like genocide, morality, human nature, what makes a human being human… it showed that there exists among us many who can still contemplate the broader ethical issues. 

What is one thing you’d like others to know about the program, Poland, and/or the AJC? 
Go into the program with an open mind. Be prepared to meet all sorts of people, and more than anything else, don’t be afraid to express your ideas. Growth though discussion can’t occur when everyone is stifling their ideas with conventional thought. How will you integrate knowledge from the program into your role as a cadet? I feel that it’s about bringing a new attitude to the table. It’s about applying the concepts we tackled in the program to everyday life. The knowledge and history we learned was all very interesting and useful, but I feel like the attitudes we cultivated during the trip are what we’ll really use in the years to come.

The Auschwitz Jewish Center is operated by the Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. For additional blog entries by and about the Auschwitz Jewish Center, please visit mjhnyc.org/tag/ajc. All Spring 2013 newsletter articles are found here.