I recently spoke with Alexander Pliskin of Brooklyn, New York while he was in Warsaw, Poland visiting his mother's entire side of the family. This particular trip was to celebrate his 18th birthday, which is a big turning-of-age party with heavy meats, pork, and cake in that country. He was even more excited when his high school roommate from New Mexico's United World College (UWC-USA) also arrived to celebrate.
For those who don't know (like me), the UWC-USA is one of 15 United World College (UWC) campuses located on five continents. A two-year residential school, UWC-USA serves students ages 16 - 19 who typically represent more than 70 different countries. Winterline's Vice President of Curriculum, Sharon Seto, and Dean of Students, Susie Childs, most recently worked at the UWC in Las Vegas, NV, hence Alex's connection.
Although he missed Brooklyn quite a bit, Alexander admitted that attending UWC-USA was the best decision that he and his family ever made and that he is forever grateful for the opportunity to do so. (His mother attended one of the schools in the U.K.) When I arrived on campus, "I was a very arrogant kid, my behavior wasn't cool. Then my roommate sat me down and told me that I needed to think about what I say and how I act around the people surrounding me. The school helped me be more disciplined, think introspectively, and not take things for granted."
What he expects to gain from Winterline:
Please know that this is not a plug for United World Colleges, but frankly it is just one of the reasons that he is traveling with Winterline—partnered with wanting to be with other kids with an International background, learn about different cultures, and gain new life skills that may lead to a fulfilling career.
Career Clarity: "At this point, I have no idea what I want to do. I thought I would be a surgeon, but I interned at a hospital and quickly realized that it wasn't for me. I am thinking more along the lines of something in the humanities, maybe law or finance. I am planning to attend college, but traveling with Winterline is the perfect thing to do right now," he said.
Work/Play Balance: Along with discovering a career path, he also hopes to gain a better work/play balance with Winterline, which struck me as so grown up. Between his rigorous academics, being on the soccer and track teams, and serving as an RA (a dorm Resident Advisor) during high school didn't allow much time to take any breaks. (He's huge into sports and a big sports fan.) "I want to challenge myself, but also enjoy myself during my travel time with Winterline," he added.
Personal Introspection: Continuing about his future, he stated, "A lot of what I do, and the decisions for the future that I make, revolve around my younger brother, Eric (12), who has a learning disability. My family and I give a lot of time and support to Eric, which I will always continue to do."
Country—and activities—that he is most excited about:
Cambodia is a standout for Alexander. He explained, "The distinction between poverty and wealth is so interesting to me. My uncle has also been traveling to the region for the past several years. He likes the food, traditions, religious influence, etc. It's a different style of living. There's really cool art and statues, too."
Learning proper cooking techniques is also a draw. He and his father are big cooks. They watch cooking shows and videos all the time. He plans to soak in all he can from Shaphan Markelon, our traveling chef and food connoisseur during the first part of the trip.
What excites his dad so much is that Alex will learn to scuba dive. He's been licensed for 8 years and is always egging him on to try it. "I am learning more and more, if you don't take risks, you don't live," he remarked.
A small amount of apprehension:
Every student that I talk to expresses a concern or two about the program. His apprehension (and candid confession) about his 9-month journey with Winterline is that he's a little nervous about the group. "I think the group really makes the trip. We all have to be collaborative and work together—be willing to try new things and gel." (Personally, I am sure the group will mesh just perfectly. No worries there.)
Just to get to know Alex a little bit more, I am throwing in these fun facts:
Favorite hobbies: As mentioned, participating in sports and his culinary interests.
Favorite music: Electric club music and techno. Also, Rap -- connecting back to Brooklyn.
Favorite and movie actor: The recent Academy-Award Nominee, Whiplash. Actor, Matt Damon.
Language: Alex is fluent in both French and Polish.
Characteristics he thinks describes him best: Observant. Persistent. Open-minded. Diligent and Focused.
Quote he likes to live by: "Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard," by Mark Twain.
Upon returning from Poland, Alexander will spend some time in Brooklyn and relish being at home before heading to Estes Park, CO for Winterline's orientation.
I look forward to my follow-up with Alexander post Winterline trip. I expect there will be much more to discover about his personality, future goals, and what he wants to gain out of life.