As the midshipmen prepared for independence celebrations, the Chileans pushed them in front of the television to watch the final of the Copa America Cup. With excitement, the Chilean national soccer team beat their largest rival, Argentina, in penalty kicks, starting the adventure on high.
The following week life began as a Chilean naval cadet.
The Escuela Naval Arturo Prat (ENAP) became home for Midshipmen 1/C Jarred Gillie, 2/C Nicole Hadler, 2/C Gabriel Larios, and 2/C Benjamin Olson. There they would spend the next five months in both the naval and cultural center of the country.
Even though there were some shockers, like waking up at 6 a.m. to a mandatory cold shower, each midshipmen valued their time spent in Chile as an experience to be immersed in a foreign culture and create lasting bonds with naval counterparts 5,000 miles away.
From Monday morning through Saturday afternoon, the midshipmen lived with their Chilean classmates at ENAP. They participated in the cadets’ daily activities, including formations and inspections, meals, course lectures and exams, and sports classes and competitions. A typical morning would consist of waking up to a bugle call at 6 a.m., passing through a cold shower, and forming by division to run a quick lap around the parade field before breakfast.
The rest of the morning was spent in classes such as navigation and naval weapons systems, all taught in Spanish. The afternoons were great opportunities for the midshipmen to continue to get to know the cadets through immersion in sports classes, team practices, and extracurricular club meetings.
When they weren’t traveling, each midshipman was also assigned a host family to stay with. These host families were affiliated with ENAP and generously provided the midshipmen with home-cooked Chilean meals, a place to stay, and conversations and relationships which would be remembered and maintained well after their semester exchange came to an end.
One unique advantage for these midshipmen was the close relationship enjoyed with the Chilean navy. Some of these opportunities included a week-long underway period on the Chilean research vessel Aquiles, two eight-hour underways on Chilean frigates, meeting the CNO of the Chilean Navy and countless interactions with officers, cadets and enlisted.
There is no doubt that these experiences broadened the four midshipman’s cultural education and will help them as future Naval and Marine Corps Officers.