The education of midshipmen is fairly well documented during the school week, and at some point it will probably be a subject of a post. However, I was recently reminded that learning can continue onto liberty.
One of the great experiences we have are the foreign exchange programs. If selected, midshipmen have the opportunity to spend a semester at foreign universities or military academies. The ones I know who have gone abroad have developed some great friendships. It’s the “grunt work” for the Cooperative Maritime Strategy’s goal of “fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships with more international partners.”
This past Friday I got to see the benefits. I went out with a friend who spent last semester on exchange at the Japanese Self-Defense Academy to have dinner with a friend he had made in Japan. She’d been living in the US for six months, so we began to make conversation about her experiences. In fact, she had taken to the T.V. show “Family Guy,” enjoyed a game of Red Sox baseball, and really liked the American food. My friend mentioned he was going to see if he could inscribe Japanese characters on the inside of his class ring, celebrating his time as a member of “Class 54″ at JDSA. We even talked about the protest the George Washington received when visiting Yokosuka.
I had tended to view “fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships” as something we see on the news: meetings between heads of state, joint military exercises, dispatching aid, etc. However, by sending service members abroad on cultural immersion trips, we don’t only gain more knowledge about another country, we develop personal relationships–the kind of relationships which make one consider inscribing foreign characters on his class ring. The experience was an excellent reminder that building human relationships is still vitally important in a service known for projecting power.
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