The Maxwell Opportunity: Welcoming thoughts for the international fellows|
Commentary by Lt. Col. Ulf Schorling
German air force advisor at the Air University, faculty member of the Air War College Warfighting Department and 2011 AWC graduate
6/1/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- You are senior leaders. You have garnered indispensable experience in the service for your country and are among the very best of your nation's armed forces. Now your country and the Air Force offer you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study at the "Intellectual and Leadership Center of the USAF" - this is your Maxwell Opportunity!
Welcome to Maxwell and what will surely be an exciting year. You have been sent here to learn and grow intellectually and as leaders. The opportunities are abundant, be it from your U.S. counterparts, the other international fellows, the multitude of Air University institutions, the local community or traveling the countryside.
You have also been sent here to educate your fellow officers. For the coming year you are the Maxwell expert on your country and region. You are integral to the educational approach that the Air University offers its students. It is your responsibility to use this opportunity to promote a better understanding of your culture, country and world views among your fellow students.
Things may get a little overwhelming from time to time, especially if this is your first time in the USA. There's the English language that will challenge non-native speakers and sometimes even native speakers from outside the USA. The rigorous academic program that you are about to take part in will become even more challenging as you seize every opportunity to experience the American culture and way of life. If you are anything like me and my family , you likely already have a detailed plan to ensure you get to see and do as much as possible while in the U.S.
So plan your time wisely. Be proactive about how you are going to spend it. And keep your work-life balance in mind. Your time in the U.S. should not just revolve around academics. You should take time to recharge your batteries and strive to have enduring experiences with your family and friends, be it while traveling the USA, connecting with the local community or simply spending valuable family-time together.
Let me offer you some advice on how to make the most of this year:
While you will surely gain a lot from the coming months even if you just drift along the curriculum and the many social events that are about to come, I encourage you to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. You are here because you are part of the elite in your home country - live up to that expectation and take charge of your time here.
- Aim to expand your horizons and leave your comfort zone.
- Challenge your assumptions and be open to new experiences.
- Don't just connect to officers from allied or neighboring countries, but connect to those you are not as familiar with and might not have the chance to get to know in the future.
- Take advantage of the fantastic educational resources not just for the sake of coping with the curriculum but for your personal development and to provide a deeper understanding of a topic that is dear to your professional development.
- Get accustomed early on to the seminar style of teaching and learning at AU. The International Officer School team will help you with this.
- Be proactive about your academics - plan your daily, weekly and overall academic schedule.
- Use this year, away from home and its obligations and distractions, to do and learn that one thing you have always wanted to but never found the time for.
- Review your "Maxwell Opportunity" halfway through (around New Year) and refocus where necessary.
A year might seem long to you now - but time is relative and you will soon find out that at Maxwell, time flies!