Every year, college students all over the country spend their summers partying, sleeping, and sometimes working. I, on the other hand, had the unique opportunity to spend my summer representing my country in Romania through the U.S. Army.
The Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency is a program offered exclusively to Army ROTC cadets. Through CULP, Cadets travel in a group to a foreign country to conduct non-combat missions specific to their destination. While overseas, my team was able to become fully immersed in Romanian language in culture. We made lifelong friends, ate amazing food, and overall, had the time of my life.
Our team, combined with another team assigned to Romania, consisted of 21 Cadets and one cadre leader. We were located in the capital city of Romania, Bucharest, for 23 days. Our mission in this vibrant city was to work with the First Battalion, Special Intervention Brigade of the Jandarmeria.
The Jandarmeria is a police force organized like a military unit. The men and women in the brigade all struck us as very pleasant and professional despite not appearing to make a lot of money or having the best living conditions. Specifically, our mission was centered on improving the English language skills and proficiency of the Jandarmeria soldiers.
In turn, our colleagues would help enhance our understanding of Romanian culture and history. This was accomplished by dividing the Cadets and our Jandarmeria counterparts into four different groups. This allowed for a more personal experience between the Cadets and our Romanian counterparts, and encouraged English communication proficiency with the Romanians.
We discussed topics such as holidays, sports, flags, history, the military and rank structure, and tactics. This strategy facilitated colorful discussion, and consequently showed a clear and successful increase in their English language skills and understanding of American culture. Our team also gained valuable knowledge about the Romanian language, culture and the differences and similarities between ours and theirs. These are valuable experiences that will help us when we become officers, as well as help Romanians interact with Americans in future endeavors.
While our schedule was hectic and time was precious, our team did have the opportunity to travel the country of Romania and experience two distinct and vibrant cities on the weekends. This part of our time in Romania enhanced our understanding of the distinctive regions on Romania, and how they are all different and separately energetic.
We enjoyed our first free weekend in the quaint Romanian city of Brasov.
Brasov is located in Transylvania, centered between three large mountains, which added to the animated culture of this small, mountain village. Several of our Romanian counterparts joined us to help further develop our understanding of the history and culture of the Transylvania region of Romania, as opposed to the urban jungle we were familiar with in Bucharest. While in Brasov, we visited the old city’s fortifications and Dracula’s castle which enriched our appreciation for Romania’s rich and diverse history.
Our second weekend trip consisted of a three hour adventure to Constanta, a lively town located on the Black Sea. The Romanians traveled along once again. The weekend trips provided an opportunity to experience Romanian culture to its fullest. Although the weekends were incredible and very interesting, we also enjoyed great cultural experiences in Bucharest too.
In Bucharest, we visited many museums centered on Romanian history, military, and culture. We, and our Romanian counterparts, saw the national bank—one of the most luxurious buildings I have ever seen. Other museums we toured include the National Art Museum, the Jandarmeria Museum, The Parliament Building, and the Old Village Museum. The Old Village Museum was especially interesting because it shows how the lives of Romanians has changed and developed throughout the centuries, a crucial aspect of any cultural study.
Overall, the trip was excellent. While we completed our mission of increasing their English proficiency, working with the Jandarmeria taught us how to interact with foreign units which gives us valuable experience in the future as officers. Through our weekend trips our group gained experience in interacting and dealing with a different culture which will help as officers as we deal with civilian populations. The trip resulted in many new experiences and we formed good relationships with the Romanians. The friends we made and the experience we hade will last a lifetime and will always be in our hearts and minds.