By Cadet Tyler Elliot (Class of 2012) and Cadet Zack Spear (Class of 2011)July 16, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 16, 2010) -- Seven West Point cadets landed at Almaty International Airport in Almaty, Kazakhstan, June 15, which began a two-week journey in the Russian-speaking land. The trip provided cadets the opportunity to enhance their Russian-speaking skills as well as get firsthand experience learning the culture of Central Asia.
The cadet group was escorted by Capt. Dewayne White, Department of Foreign Languages instructor. With two weeks spent at the Military Institute of Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the cadets participated in the process of strengthening United States-Kazakhstan military relations.
Throughout the trip, cadets ate, attended formations and participated in classes with their Kazakh cadet counterparts. A typical day for the cadets at the Kazakh military institute began with physical training, time for personal hygiene, formation and a hot breakfast before attending classes.
"It was beneficial to observe the different learning styles of our Kazakh counterparts," Class of 2011 Cadet James Zordan said.
After classes, the cadets enjoyed another large meal at around 2 p.m. Following the meal, the Kazakh cadets busied themselves with various duties and studies, while the American cadets and a few chosen Kazak cadets toured the large and beautiful city of Almaty. The cadets' free afternoons consisted of several exciting cultural experiences as they visited two prestigious theatres, featuring both a Russian opera and a Russian drama. Other experiences included visiting malls, hiking the neighboring mountains and dining at traditional Kazakh restaurants.
After completing their time at the Kazakh military institute, the cadets were greeted by their tour guide, Sebina, who showed them many culturally and historically significant sites in the Kazakh countryside. The cadets took an overnight train from Almaty, the biggest city in Kazakhstan located in the northeast of the country, to the Taraz and Turkestan areas, located in the far south and southwest, closer to Uzbekistan.
"The terrain difference from Almaty to Turkestan was drastic. Whereas the Almaty area contained mountains and rain, moderate temperature and very lush vegetation, the Turkestan and Taraz areas are characterized by dry heat, deserts and flat plains," Class of 2012 Cadet Tyler Elliot said.
A total of three days were spent in southern Kazakhstan as the cadets visited museums, mausoleums and bazaars, while embracing the culture of the Kazakhs and developing a deeper appreciation for the broad span of cultures in the world.
On July 2, the cadets flew to Astana, the Kazakhstan capital, to spend the afternoon visiting the different government headquarters. Though a very young city, Astana did not fail to impress the cadets with its towering buildings and modern architectures.
"The layout of the city was amazing. From an observation tower, we saw the many different ministries of government and the rest of the surrounding city," Class of 2012 Cadet Doug Gain said. "The fascinating part of Astana was how the government buildings were all in line with each other. Everything radiated from a central axis so as to really impress the observer with the thought put into the city's construction."
That evening, the cadets flew back to Almaty to catch a few hours of rest before their long flight back to New York, where they will complete their various summer activities.
"Having completed a semester abroad in Russia, visiting Kazakhstan opened my eyes to the differing cultures that exist under this uniting language; a truly invaluable experience," Zordan said.