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How 24 hours of grueling military training made me redesign my Wharton journey

Much like the rest of you, I have an immense amount of respect for the men and women out there who are far from home in unpleasant places, standing ready to face death so that we can live in peace. There are instances in life that remind me of these brave soldiers. Such as when I see someone pass by in a uniform. Or when a friend’s family sits down for dinner at a table with an empty chair. Or when I see the flag fly high over a capitol or stadium. Or when the world turns more terrifying and we are at combat.

But I want to take another step and say, after December 3rd 2016, I will remember these soldiers each day I face a hurdle. And each instant the thought of giving up crosses my mind. And each time I complain about being out of luck. And each moment I breathe in a safe country.

24 hours at the Quantico Officer Candidates School exposed 114 Wharton students to how the military trains, evaluates and screens potential leaders. During the training, we were split into teams of 4-5 and led by a Marine officer for the ‘evolution’, which included completing rigorous courses with names that don’t do justice to their intensity – the Tarzan Course, the Combat Course and the Leadership Reaction Course.

Was it the most arduous and physically demanding 24 hours of my life? Undoubtedly. But it was much, much more than that.  As my body recovered from severe muscle ache and injuries over the next three days, several thoughts came to mind.

I recognized the value of putting aside one’s own fears and that taking direction without question gets you through the obstacle and achieves what needs to be. This was counter-intuitive for my cynical self, but I realized that there are situations in life where it’s important to just listen without questioning.

Witnessing the hardship, discipline, and fearlessness at the course, I came back with a sense of accomplishment and a realization that perhaps I should put my daily struggles at Wharton, such as recruiting, conferences, and academics, in a larger perspective. After all, I am not standing at the borders, risking my life, not knowing whether I will survive the next day or not. So what if I didn’t get that coveted board position or that target job? If the soldiers can wake up next morning and protect our borders with the same gusto, so can I get back on the daily grind and keep pushing till the end.

Most importantly, I learnt that there can be comfort in discomfort too. Whether it was running up with a rifle my size, dealing with lack of sleep or adjusting to a scorching headache in freezing water, I looked past the discomfort and pushed through my mental and physical barriers. The end result? A sense of comfort that I can’t describe in words.

The United States Marine Corps is probably the best leadership laboratory America has to offer. It taught me to ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders. Wouldn’t you like to find out what it has in store for you?

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