By US Army Cadet CommandAugust 23, 2011
The classroom moved to five different continents this summer for 455 ROTC Cadets as part of Cadet Command's cultural immersion program.
Small groups of Cadets deployed to 26 nations across Central and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia as part of the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program.
The lessons took several forms for the 40 groups, from working in orphanages and teaching English to training with cadets at foreign military academies.
The program started in 2006 as a pilot and was officially established last year. The goal is to immerse Cadets into foreign cultures, both for language proficiency and to broaden their awareness of the differences between U.S. culture and others. The program plans to grow to include 1,100 Cadets in next year's deployments.
Cadet Omar Sharif, from the University of North Alabama, deployed to Costa Rica as part of the program and said his time was educational.
"We had several people who had never been out of their comfort zone, like out of their state, even," Sharif said. "For them, it was definitely a good experience. They got to experience a completely different culture."
That's the goal of the program, said Jerry Hoffman, Cadet Command culture and language deployment coordinator.
"This portion of our program is geared toward immersing Cadets into a culture," he said. "It's not that they become experts on any particular culture. But it is important they get an introduction to what it is like to experience different customs and worldviews."
Cadet Corey Souza, from California State University-Fresno, said his time abroad helped put the world into context for him.
"People think different ways, people react different ways to different things," Souza said. "It's helped me to open my eyes to other cultures and to help me think about how I come across when I'm dealing with other people."
Many Cadets shared their experiences on the blog site ArmyStrongStories.com before, during and after their deployments this summer.
"Looking back at my time in country, I realized that even though the Thai cadets and I live on opposite sides of the world, we are more alike than different," Cadet Stephen Yashinski, a junior attending George Washington University, wrote following his time with 11 other cadets in Thailand at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, the Thai military academy.
Yashinski's blogs can be read at http://armystrongstories.com/blogger/stephen-yashinski/.
Another group of ROTC Cadets, including Joel Barrett from the University of Portland, traveled to South Korea. Cadet Barrett shared his experience engaging with Korean cadets. He wrote: "My time with the ROK [Republic of Korea] soldiers was a fun and enlightening experience and let me see how our allies train and allowed the future leaders of the US and Korea develop relationships with each other that will serve both nations in good stead in the coming years."
He also explained his time teaching young Korean students English: "I have really enjoyed this experience, and as a man who looks forward to teaching as my future vocation I have loved gaining these invaluable experience points!"
For more stories in their own words of Cadets' time abroad, visit http://armystrongstories.com/tag/culp/.