As amazing as the mountaintop sunsets and sunrises were, or the moped travel around Taipei, the best thing about senior Bryjett Nordmark’s summer in Taiwan was the people. Immersed in this culture so far from the small North Dakota town she grew up in, she realized how much her world was opening up.
That’s thanks to Project Global Officer (Project GO), a Department of Defense (DOD) program through which Nordmark and dozens of other St. Thomas Reserve Officers' Training Corps students have taken advantage of to learn languages and cultures around the world.
“ROTC has done things for me I would never have dreamed of, especially this,” Nordmark said. “This is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
DOD designates critical languages around the world for officers to learn, and then funds opportunities for them to travel to learn. Nordmark spent a summer in Boston learning Mandarin, the most spoken language in the world, and then was selected for Taiwan last summer. Several other ROTC cadets have similar upcoming experiences: Junior Jackson Roche is majoring in Russian and went to Estonia last year; sophomore mechanical engineering major Ellise Brennan studied Arabic at Indiana University last summer and will be going to Morocco this summer; and sophomore electrical engineering major Wyatt Melloy studied Korean last summer and will be going to Seoul this summer.
“As far as value for the students, Project GO not only provides language skills through immersion training, but it also helps build invaluable regional expertise about strategic parts of the world, and also fosters intercultural communication skills of future military officers,” said Lt. Col. Mark Madaus, commander of St. Thomas AFROTC Detachment 410. “Bringing those skills and experiences back to the campus benefits their fellow cadets as well as every other student they interact with at St. Thomas. Those cross-cultural skills and experiences will help them to better understand the world overall, and those skills will carry over when they transition to being leaders in their community after their military careers are complete.”
With plans on becoming an intelligence officer after she graduates, Nordmark is looking forward to all the opportunities her experience with Project GO have helped create.
“If you would have told me four years ago I would speak Mandarin I would have thought no way,” she said. “I can communicate with 3 billion more people than I could before.”