CHADRON – Chadron State College Army ROTC cadets Jerrick Bowers and Megan McLean participated in a hands-on international learning experience this summer Nepal and Thailand, through the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program.
According to 1st Lt. Nathan Reicks, assistant professor at CSC, CULP immerses cadets into foreign cultures and allows them to examine different lifestyles in a personal way. Through an application process, which considers grade point average, physical fitness, language ability and other selection criteria, cadets are chosen and sent to different sites all over the globe.
In three weeks, cadets experience three separate focused venues in their host countries including military-to-military exchange, humanitarian service and cultural experience.
McLean, of Brewster, Nebraska, spent her three weeks in Thailand. The first two weeks she spent in the city of Nakhon Nayok and the third week she was in the city of Pattaya.
She helped teach English to students in Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, mastered the Thai martial art of Krabi-Krabong and also visited the ancient city of Ayutthaya to learn more about the history of Thailand.
While the experience was beneficial in numerous ways, McLean admitted there were difficulties.
“The language barrier was very difficult to work around. Very few people spoke English outside of our supervisors and those we worked with,” McLean said.
Bowers, of Bayard, Nebraska, spent his three weeks in Nepal near the capital of Kathmandu. He spent a lot of time with Nepalese soldiers, cleared rubble from a school affected by an earthquake and visited numerous temples and historic landmarks. He also cited communication as a difficult barrier.
“Different signs and gestures meant different things than they do in the U.S. Things like shaking your head no took on a different meaning in Nepal,” Bowers said.
When traveling to a foreign country, overcoming communication barriers, requires effort and understanding. CULP exists so cadets can exercise these skills, Reicks said.
McLean practiced her communication skills in Thailand.
“I really learned how to approach another culture. Sure, I learned a lot about Thailand, but knowing how to go about that when you go to a different country is just as important. Gestures or conversational norms are very different, so you have to understand that going in,” McLean said.
Bowers said the experience was beneficial.
“Cultural diversity is huge for us in the military. We are constantly seeking to diversify and CULP is a program that allows for that. It is an extremely effective program and if I could do it again I would,” Bowers said.
—Conor P. Casey, Graduate Assistant