A Trip of a Lifetime

LESLIE PRITCHETT Contributing Writer

If you had told me in August that I would be attending a conference in New York, I would have probably laughed in your face. I would have convinced myself that the trip was too far or that I wasn’t qualified to go, but my professors made sure to tell me differently.

One day back in September, my professor pulled me into her office and told me that I needed to go on this trip to West Point U.S. Military Academy called SCUSA because I was an adult, and it would be good for me. I tried to come up with every excuse in the book as to why I shouldn’t go, but she wasn’t backing down.

Finally, I told her that I would apply by writing a cover letter to the chair of the department, and she wrote a recommendation letter. A few days later, I find out that I was accepted, and I was, in fact, flying to New York on Nov. 9.

I once heard from founder of Student Leadership University Jay Stract, “You’ll be the same person five years from now, except for the places you go, the people you meet, and the books you read.” This quote has never ringed truer in my life than after I went on this trip. I went to a place I had never been before, met so many people that I will keep in contact with forever and read up on so many of the speakers that we had the privilege to hear.

The speaker that I was interested in most was Richard Hass, president on the Council of Foreign Relations. He talked to us about democracy and was asked questions about the election. He wasn’t biased towards either party, and to me, it really showed professionalism as a public figure.

At the Student Conference on US Affairs (SCUSA), we were given a roundtable topic under the broad topic of democracy. My roundtable discussion was about technology and how it affected democracy. This was interesting because it talked a lot about the things that were discussed in my telecommunications class here at Piedmont.

As a group, we wrote a policy paper about our topic, turned it in and it could eventually be sent to the White House. It was so cool to be a small detail in something so big. I talked to a cadet while I was there, and I asked her why she had decided to attend West Point. Her answer amazed me.

“I believe that if you asked everyone here that same question, they would give you the same answer, and that is that they wanted to be apart of something bigger than themselves,” she said.

That answer has stayed with me ever since I left, and I was thankful to be surrounded by people like that for a short time. I arrived at West Point on Wednesday, surrounded by tons of people I didn’t know, and left Saturday not wanting to say goodbye to those who had become friends.

Four days in a different place can really change who you are as a person and make you realize how grateful you are for the opportunity you’ve had.