Skip Navigation

Tarantulas and Cheeseburgers: Army Emphasizes Global Awareness

Matt Ryan, a member of the class of 2014 and Criminal Justice major, traveled to Cambodia as an ROTC Cadet.

It was deep fried, the size of a palm, dry, hairy and crunchy. When he bit into it, the tarantula didn’t have much of a taste ... maybe that was a good thing. Matt Ryan experienced a lot of new things while sharing some things from back home during his time in Cambodia this summer.

As a cadet in ROTC at the Mount, Matt was able to apply for, and was accepted into the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program based on several factors such as his GPA, physical fitness and entrance essay. Matt was willing to be sent anywhere in the world because he wanted the summer training that not many cadets get to experience.

CULP is a part of the Army’s mission to offer immersion experiences in which cadets can see different lifestyles, cultures, economic positions and viewpoints than those in the United States. The Army believes that language study and global awareness make the cadets more ready to work in the 21st century.

Part of Matt’s mission was to teach English to the Cambodian (Khmer) military at the National Defense University. As a junior in college, he stood before 26 Khmer lieutenants and warrant officers ranging in ages from 23-30. He explained English idioms, taught vocabulary and shared American culture. He felt like a “rockstar” with all of the attention he received because the students wanted to learn everything about America. “All of the people were so friendly, outgoing and easy to joke around with,” Matt explains.

After teaching, Matt and the other cadets would explore the capital city of Phnom Penh. He saw what he had only read about in history textbooks when the group visited the “killing fields" where more than one million citizens were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. “They were awful to see," Matt observed, “They have not been completely cleaned up so there are still teeth and bones all over the trails you walk to tour the fields.” Matt and the other cadets also traveled to Siem Reap to see the Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple complex in the world.

The tarantula might have been a once in a lifetime kind of meal. By the end of the 12 day deployment, Matt was tired of rice, which he ate at almost “every meal." In fact, he couldn’t wait for a "good, old, plain American cheeseburger."

Army information courtesy of:

16300 Old Emmitsburg Road | Emmitsburg, MD 21727
Map & Directions | | 301-447-6122
Frederick Campus | 5350 Spectrum Drive | Frederick, MD 21703
Map & Directions | | 301-682-8315