CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Three Islander Army ROTC cadets have learned the significance of cultural awareness and foreign language study during their participation in the Army’s Cultural Understandings and Language Proficiency (CULP) program. The CULP program was created to provide experiences to Army ROTC cadets like never before, by allowing cadets to spend up to three weeks immersed in foreign cultures abroad, learning more about how others around the world view the United States, and, in the process, learn more about themselves. Cadets Steven Pedroza, Tyris Foster and Sierra Kunkel represented Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Pedroza, mathematics major and ROTC Cadet 1st Lieutenant, travelled to Hanoi, Vietnam, with a team of more than 30 other cadets. His inspiration for applying to CULP was based on his background as a child of a service member and also on his desire to travel the world and expand upon his knowledge of another culture. While in Vietnam, Pedroza worked with Vietnamese military members to improve their English-speaking skills as well as their understanding of American culture.
“This trip was a reminder that you can always learn more,” said Pedroza. “If you have a chance to meet someone of a different background than yours, do it with an open mind.”
Foster, a criminal justice major and ROTC Cadet Captain, was one of nine cadets who travelled to the East African Great Lakes of Rwanda. Foster and his squad worked closely with Rwanda Defense Force Cadets, an experience that culminated with a 26-mile foot march with some of Rwanda’s best military personnel. Foster credits the Rwanda military for helping him understand a foreign military culture, which he says will aid him in interacting with others from different ways of life, as well as prepare him for a career in the military.
“The people of Rwanda are all about resiliency,” said Foster. “They have suffered numerous disasters, but you would never know that by looking at them today. They bounced back and now they have a great society in the works.”
Kunkel, an accounting major and ROTC Cadet Captain, accompanied 19 other cadets to Sibiu, Romania. Kunkel and her fellow cadets were tasked with refining the English-speaking skills of more than 40 Romanian Army cadets from Nicolae Bălcescu Land Forces Military Academy. As the only American cadet from Texas on the trip, Kunkel shared Texas culture – including dance and music – with the Romanian cadets and dispelled common misconceptions about the Lone Star state.
“Because of this trip, I have been able to develop a deeper understanding for cultural differences between societies,” said Kunkel. “CULP was an unforgettable cultural experience that gave me a chance to build good ties with Romania’s future Army officers.”
The CULP program is selective, with slots awarded on a competitive basis, taking into account GPA, physical fitness, an essay and other selection criteria. For more information about the CULP program, go to http://www.cadetcommand.army.mil/culp/.