This was followed by a quick Leadership Group Meeting (LGM), which included a briefing on the American Holocaust Memorial Museum, also the Smithsonian Museums. Our group discussed some rather serious issues from the past, which have resulted in many devastating and traumatising consequences. We also discussed some present issues occurring in the world today, which may potentially serve as dangerous threats if the escalation is not controlled.
We boarded the bus and arrived in front of Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and were all excited for an eventful day. As we stepped into the Natural History Museum, we were immediately drawn to the massive life-size animals; both suspended from the ceiling and placed on platforms. I first walked in the section, filled with Safari animals, and the interactive touch-screens, fascinating fun facts and stunning sculptures. Not only were the descriptions informative, providing more details on specific animals, which we wouldn't read about in textbooks, the videos and photographs of animal wildlife also made the experience more believable. Time was taken to slowly wander around the 3-floored museum, as there was so much information to take in – from being absolutely astonished by the exquisite gems, to being able to take a closer look at dinosaur fossils.
Ashley's experience at the Holocaust Museum was particularly provocative and inspirational, and she explains it here: "After a brief tour around the National Mall, we went to visit the Holocaust Museum. It was a truly emotional experience as it reminded us of how cruel human beings can become, out of the fear of losing power. We were taken through the rise of the Nazi Regime to the end of Hitler's Reign (1933-1945), through a collection of photos and displays of belongings of those who were persecuted. We were also given the opportunity to view this difficult period from survivors' perspectives, of this traumatic time for both them and their loved ones. These people have lost everything once, and saw the world fall apart right in front of them, yet they managed to stay strong; their spirit is one we should aspire to. I personally found this visit thought-provoking yet devastating at the same time."
Afterwards, we made our way towards the Air and Space Museum, also part of the series of Smithsonian Museums (National Mall), and we stopped for a bit to grab some lunch by the canteen. The Air and Space Museum was filled with dangling airplanes of various models, the development of satellites, the differences between planets, and several enlarged engines. All of the displays were intriguing and surely made Physics more interesting for me, as it gave us an opportunity to learn about more than we are taught in classes, also independently. While I was in the museum, I had the pleasure of witnessing the band of the American Air Force perform a couple of songs, which inspired me to make more of a difference in the world, while still balancing what I enjoy doing.
As we arrived back to the hotel, we had a debriefing session of our day visiting museums, and several of my group members had lots to say about their experience and emotions from visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum – from direct quotes, to intense graphics, to devastating stories. Due to the fact that everyone had so much to contribute, our dinner was pushed behind a little, but we all insisted to return on time as we were all looking forward to the exciting cultural exchange session.
The cultural exchange session, which lasted for 3 hours, flew by, because it was an absolute honor to be able to experience several cultures within such a short period, which also makes me extremely grateful to be part of such a culturally diverse and international group. Each group member was offered the opportunity to share a little bit about the culture, background, history etc of their home country or city - some brought souvenirs, some brought food, and some brought photographs, but no matter what was brought, we all got a taste of the different cultures and lifestyles. That was the main reason why this was definitely one of my favorite LGMs, and was a fantastic way to round up our last day in Washington DC, as we are headed to New York tomorrow, via Philadelphia.
By Sammi Huang, Ashley Fung