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Developing Leadership Skills and Cultural Competencies While Serving Abroad

Cadet Grace Matlock of Boise State’s Army ROTC writes about her time Romania with the ROTC’s Cultural Understanding & Language Proficiency (CULP) Program. 

CULP’s immersion into foreign cultures exposes Cadets to the realities that other countries have vastly different lifestyles, economic standing and world perspective. CULP slots are awarded on a competitive basis and take into account several factors, such as GPA, physical fitness, language ability, and other pertinent selection criteria.


One Team, One Fight

Photo of American soldier with Romanian sailor

On a Romanian training ship

During my trip to Romania for CULP 2016, I was able to take away many valuable cultural competencies for my future leadership endeavors. Three main experiences that have helped shape my view of Romanian culture were the classes we shared with the navel cadets discussing our personal lives and our futures in the military, a dinner we shared with various teachers and directors at serval different maritime schools across Eastern Europe, and having the opportunity to be on board the training ship of the Romanian Naval Academy.

The classes we shared with the navel cadets helped me develop many of my leadership abilities such as flexibility, patience, and understanding. I gained flexibility with planning due to us having to switch the cadets we were teaching every week. For example, during the first week, the cadets did not ask many questions and were very quiet. However, the cadets from the second and third week were much more willing to engage in discussion with us. This made my team and I have to gage each week differently and be flexible to work our lesson plans to their needs. I gained patience and understanding by persevering through conversations with those who spoke very little English. This helped shape my conversation and I grew very considerate to others in the process.

photo of soldiers with cadets

In the class room discussing culture with the 1st week of cadets

The dinner we shared with various teachers and directors at serval different maritime schools across Eastern Europe gave my team and I an insight into how all of the navel academies are working together to achieve a standardized academic plan for their students. The directors led us in conversation dealing with how students and teachers are often not on the same page in the classroom and how they want to change that. It also gave us insight into the culture of a normal dinner in Romanian. In the United States we are always in a hurry and expect instant gratification. During this dinner we were able to see that they are very relaxed and not rushed people by the dinner taking many hours.

photo of american cadets with romanian sailors

Final class photo

By having the opportunity to be on board the training ship of the Naval Academy, I was able to gain insight into how the Romanian Naval ships work and learn more about their navy’s interactions. This helped due to the fact that I have never been shown this type of work before and always wanted to learn more about the ships. The cadets on board discussed how their two months of training on board during their second year helped prepare them for graduation. This further helped us understand how the process of becoming officers in the Romanian Navy works.

Through all of these different opportunities I was able to build my confidence in working with not only a different branch of the military, but also a different culture. During the entire mission, one main saying that kept coming to mind was “One team, One fight.” This is due to me realizing that even though the United States Army is a functional unit of the military, it is only one unit. We have to have multiple units working as a cohesive team to complete any joint operation. This experience helped shed light on that fact and showed in many different ways how ones culture can influence ones work. I am very thankful for this opportunity and hope to return to Romania in the future!

Photo of Grace Matlock with Romanian flag

Loving Romania!

– Cadet Grace Matlock

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