Last September I was notified of an amazing opportunity to travel abroad with the U.S. Army for a month and immerse myself in a foreign culture.

I have always loved to travel and explore new places, so this trip seemed right up my alley. I quickly submitted the application and crossed my fingers that I would get selected for my desired region of Africa. In December I was notified that I had been selected for the program, however, a country had not been assigned to me yet. During winter break I eagerly anticipated the notification of my country choice. The coveted email arrived in January, and I was told I would be spending the summer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 30 other college ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) cadets from all over the country.

I quickly got to work researching all I could about the DRC, and became more and more excited and nervous for this adventure. A requirement for the trip was to learn the basics of the local languages,. I brushed up on my French, and began to learn the basics of Lingala, the local tribal language of Kinshasa, the country’s capital and base-camp for the summer.

The DRC is one of the largest countries in Africa, rich with natural resources, but also exploitation, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. Throughout spring semester I learned that I would be teaching English to the FARDC (Congolese military) as well as participating in some of their military events. Finals could not end soon enough, and 48 hours after my last final I was on a plane headed to Fort Knox, Ky., to begin in-processing for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Me (front row, second from left) with some other cadets on the Congo River in Kinshasa, DRC

Me (front row, second from left) with some other cadets on the Congo River in Kinshasa, DRC

Here’s a photo with some of my fellow cadets: bottom left: Amanda Q., Virginia Tech; top left: Alexis C., University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; second left: Hannah W., Wheaton College; right: Kaitlyn M., College of Saint Benedict and St. John’s University of Minnesota and second right: Katie B., Temple University.