TAMU Cadets Engage Chinese Counterparts
From May 19-30, 2011, twenty-four Texas A&M University cadets traveled to China and Taiwan to participate in the 2011 Corps of Cadets International Excursion-East Asia program. Through this high-impact international learning experience, the cadets were afforded the opportunity to visit key cultural sites in the cities of Beijing, Qingdao and Taipei, and to participate in briefings and lectures from key US and Chinese military and government leaders, academics and journalists. The most transformative and unique element of the excursion, however, was the cadet to cadet exchange that occurred at both Tsinghua University in Beijing and Ocean University of China in Qingdao, two of China's top universities. This type of cadet to cadet exchange is rare between the US and China, where military to military ties remain tentative and often strained. The excursion served to help future leaders from the US to establish personal contact with their counterparts, who will soon take leadership roles in China's military as well.
Cadet Colin Henion, class of 2013, reflects that the cadet to cadet interaction was the most important aspect of the excursion; "...the cadet to cadet exchange was so important...the media cannot be our main source of information about another culture. [This trip] gave us a glimpse into the Chinese culture, eliminated many stereotypes, and provided us with a better understanding of the beliefs and motivations of a Chinese student/cadet." Texas A&M University cadet Rachel Strong, class of 2013 also noted:
"Being able to interact first hand with the cadets from the universities in Chinacallowed us to experience how their school and daily lives come together in such a way that isn't at all that different from the lives we lead in the U.S., or even that different from our lives at Texas A&M for that matter."
In Beijing, the Texas A&M cadets were welcomed at Tsinghua University with a campus tour and dinner facilitated by ten Tsinghua National Defense students. Tsinghua University is one of China's top universities, and served as the host institution for the cadets while they were in China's capital city. Throughout the four day stay in Beijing, the Tsinghua Defense cadets traveled with the A&M cadets to many of the cultural sites, providing more time for student interaction and deeper insight into the cultural and historical significance of the sites visited.
During a two day visit in Qingdao, the home of Texas A&M partner institution Ocean University of China, the cadets were welcomed by many of the nearly four hundred National Defense students at Ocean University of China (OUC). Upon arrival at OUC on the afternoon of May 26th, the cadets were greeted by twenty-four Chinese National Defense Students. The students then paired off to engage in conversation, where they discussed topics ranging from family and pop culture to the rigors of cadet life in a non-military university. The A&M cadets were then escorted around campus and into the National Defense Students dormitory, where they discovered many of the standards and requirements of their Chinese counterparts where quite similar to their own. After the campus tour, the cadets played a basketball game together, and later had dinner together to commemorate and celebrate the cadet to cadet exchange between TAMU and OUC. "Students all around the world can relate to each other no matter the cultural or political boundaries that keep us apart," Zachary Robinson, class of 2012 asserted following his interaction with the OUC cadets.
The trip enabled the Texas A&M cadets to see that their counterparts in China are not all that different. Dean Tate, class of 2014 noted, "Discipline is discipline no matter what country you're in." Plainly put, the Chinese National Defense students were more like them than they ever imagined. During the ten day International Excursion, Texas A&M University cadets' world views were challenged and transformed through their interaction with the Chinese cadets. Phillip Coselli, class of 2012 said, "We can learn from each other and through that we gain valuable experiences...that are important...for anyone interested in the military or international relations."
The cadets were accompanied on their travel by Will Schrank, Assistant Commandant; Kelly Kleinkort, Assistant Director for Asia Initiatives, and Qingyun Wang, a visiting scholar through the Confucius Institute, who provided the cadets with extensive background material on their travels, to help them better understand China's past, present, and future.
The Corps of Cadets International Excursions allow cadets to participate in high-impact educational experiences abroad, to increase cadets' understanding of important historical, cultural, and geopolitical issues around the world. The programs are designed to increase cadets' international understanding and competence. Previous excursions have included trips to Morocco, Egypt, and Germany. The East Asia Excursion was funded by the Office of the Commandant and the Confucius Institute at Texas A&M University.
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