As a senior captain of the back-to-back-to-back NEWMAC tournament champion softball team, you might expect that a typical summer would be riddled with a painstaking amount of grounders and soft-toss in order to secure their fourth consecutive conference title. However, like most cadets here at the Coast Guard Academy, Stacia Sarwinski did not spend her summer on the field. Instead, she had the unique opportunity to travel to Hong Kong as part of the Asia Institute for Political Economy.
The AIPE is an academic program designed to promote discussions of political economy, analyze and debate issues of economics, global trade and economic developments with a group of students, well-known professors, and notable guest lecturers. The Institute's curriculum enables students to apply the concepts of international political economy covered during the course to current issues in their own countries. For three weeks, students attend classes, interact with speakers, and attend special events to engage in an educational, cultural, and social exchange.
“I saw pictures from Jess Anderson, who played volleyball here, when she went to Greece and I really wanted to do something like that,” Sarwinski explained of how she garnered interest in AIPE. “I started looking into the program, and ended up going to Hong Kong. I love learning, I’m a nerd, so I was very excited to learn how other nations work and gather other viewpoints from around the world.”
“The classes are very westernized in a sense that it is supposed to be a discussion-style as opposed to just a lecture. Being able to hear the perspectives of students from all across Asia was an incredible experience.”
During her experience, Sarwinski got to experience Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan society and get a taste of other cultures from around the globe.
“The program consisted of 70-80 students from all over - Indonesia, Burma, South Korea, Vietnam, United States, China, and Cambodia just to name a few. My roommate was from Thailand and I loved being able to learn more about her culture and teach her about mine.”
As you probably would have guessed, Sarwinski also got the chance to observe and try some things she may never would in her hometown Grove, Oklahoma.
“Some of their habits are much different than ours –they don’t drink much coffee and they do not like to be in the sun. I’m rolling up my sleeves trying to get a tan and they were doing everything they could to stay out of the sun,” Sarwinski said with a laugh. “Everyone else carries umbrellas and has sunscreen on at all times.”
“The food was real interesting too. My roommate handed me a full fish and told me that I had to eat it. I did and it was good. You had to get past the fact that there were actual eyes on it, but after that it was good. I told myself I wouldn’t ask about the food while I was there. If I liked it, I liked it. If I didn’t, I didn’t.”
Inside the classroom, Sarwinski was able to extend her government studies from here at the Academy and hear diverse outlooks from her classmates and share some of her own.
“They were surprised that we Americans would acknowledge the fact that there are flaws in our government. They thought we would say it is perfect. But it was cool to hear that other counties are striving to make their governments similar to ours. We also had a class on civil military relations, which was really interesting to see that military plays a larger role in their government.”
Sarwinski has now returned to the Academy and plans to graduate
in May, hopefully with another NEWMAC title under her belt.
Last season, she started 46 games and hit seven homers and drove in 29 runs as the Bears made their fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
“Obviously we want to go back to the NCAA tournament and we have a lot of great freshman who are joining the team. We also need to find our new identity. Obviously, [2012 graduate and NFCA All-America] Hayley Feindel is an incredible player and we don’t want to push anyone to fill her shoes – that’s not possible. Just figure out what works for us, set realistic goals, achieve them, and go out and have fun. “