Chris Reardon, a Virginia native participating in ROTC through the Marine Corps, and Lauren Lohmiller, an upstate New Yorker in Army ROTC, are both studying abroad in Shanghai, China this semester. They are both seniors at Norwich University, the United States’s oldest private military college, and both are majoring in Chinese. Coincidentally, they are also platoon siblings, a platoon being a smaller subdivision of the army consisting of 30-45 people.
Why ROTC and Study Abroad Go Together
You might be wondering what events led these two to leave their home university of Norwich and study in Shanghai. Chris started studying the Chinese language in seventh grade, while Lauren began during her freshman year of high school. “Although I had been taking Chinese for a while and was interested in the Chinese language and culture, I was reluctant to spend a whole semester away from Norwich in order to fulfill my major’s study abroad requirement, so I decided to study abroad in China during the summer after my freshman year. However, I was so blown away by the hospitality of the Chinese people and enjoyed my summer in China so much that I decided to come back not only once, but twice- during the summer after my sophomore year and the fall semester of my senior year,” Chris said. Lauren also did a summer program and decided to return for a semester.
A Different Life than ROTC at Home
While studying abroad presents many new experiences for all students, the study abroad lifestyle is drastically different from the perspectives of Lauren and Chris. “At Norwich, I have to wear a uniform every day, live with four roommates, and adhere to a very strict timeline,” Chris said. A typical schedule includes waking up at 5:00 AM to work out, going to class, training, and doing homework, sometimes staying up until 1:00 AM, just to have to repeat this schedule over again. “Studying abroad gives me the chance to be regular student, eating meals when I want to, operating within a more flexible schedule, and even having my own room! The only difficult part about studying abroad is maintaining my physical fitness,” Lauren said.
While studying abroad gives Lauren and Chris a chance to escape their disciplined schedule for a few months and immerse themselves in a new culture, their study abroad experiences also benefits the U.S. military in many ways. Chinese is one of the military’s five strategic languages, and the military actually encourages students to study abroad, as it is vital that members of the military are comfortable in foreign settings and develop cultural competence. Because of the importance of language skills and cultural competency, the military has supported Chris and Lauren’s interest in China. Chris has received numerous scholarships to financially assist his study abroad endeavors, while Lauren has a language-based scholarship, which will allow her to work in a branch of the military where her language skills are needed upon graduation. Lauren’s knowledge of the Chinese language and the relationships she has built as a result of this will give her more opportunities when being assigned to a job and base. Studying Chinese seems like an all-around win-win situation for Lauren, Chris, and the U.S. military.
Bridget Duru is a student at Brown University and studied abroad with IFSA on the International Business in China program. She served as an international correspondent through the Work-to-Study Program.