This is the first of the reports from this year’s CULP trip attendees. Cadet Jessica Cunningham traveled to Lithuania, and this is what she reported.
Most college students spend their summer working, taking summer classes, or trying to find something fun to do. For me, this was not the case. I was offered a great opportunity to spend a month in a foreign country and meet a diverse and interesting group of people. This program through Army ROTC is called CULP (Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency). I spent part of my summer in Lithuania where I taught soldiers from the Lithuanian Army how to speak English. On this trip I was accompanied by a cadre leader SFC Alvarado and ten other cadets from colleges and universities from all over the nation.
Lithuania is located in Eastern Europe and is one of the Baltic States. Lithuania struggled for freedom for centuries and finally gained independence in 1990. With this, their people are very patriotic and value their freedom. Their soldiers are especially patriotic and the size of their military is increasing every year.
Much of the younger people in Lithuania are able to speak basic English because it is required to take English classes during their primary and secondary education. Their military personnel were eager to learn English (or brush up on their skills) – they believed it would benefit them on their future deployments and help them communicate with a wider range of people. My team was assigned to a military base in Klaipeda, Lithuania where we were able to interact with and teach many members of the enlisted personnel. The other two teams were stationed at a military academy and a Special Forces base.
During the three weeks in Lithuania the other cadets and I taught English to the Lithuanian soldiers Monday through Friday during the morning and afternoon. We rotated between teaching soldiers on a basic English level, intermediate level and advanced level. The nights and weekends we toured different parts of Lithuania and experienced different aspects of their culture. We toured their national museums, visited an orphanage, toured a World War 2 bunker, shopped in their mall, and saw other major attractions.
My most memorable experience from Lithuania was when we visited an orphanage. We spent a day playing games with the children and getting to know them. Some of them did not speak English; however, it did not matter. The children just enjoyed having people to play with. Our cadre leader SFC Alvarado wore his uniform and the children were all inspired-we even taught them some drill and ceremony! The children also taught us Lithuanian games and we taught them American games such as “musical chairs” and “duck, duck goose”. The laughter and joy we brought the children by simply visiting with them and playing games was heartwarming and is something I will never forget.
My trip to Lithuania was an unforgettable experience and has taught me so much about the culture of the people there. It was eye opening in regards to how different people around the world are and how much we take for granted in the United States. This trip made me realize how important it is to think globally and not be as ethnocentric.