One-on-One with Amber Bruer

Amber Bruer stands next to a local wearing an ISU T-shirt for a picture in Tanzania, where she spent three weeks for the ROTC Cultural Understanding and Language Program.

Aimee Burch

Many students who leave the country for the first time are leaving for a place like Italy or Spain, countries with lots of tourists and even more tourist attractions. But many would not consider going to a third world country like Tanzania. This is exactly what ISU junior and Army ROTC Cadet Amber Bruer did this summer. She shared some of her Tanzanian experiences and lessons learned with the Daily.

You just got back from Tanzania. Why there? What was it like and what did you do?

It was an application process through ROTC Cultural Understanding and Language Program. Way back in December, everyone just applied for it and we found out if we got selected to go in January. They just told us what country we were going to; I didn’t have a choice. So I found out I got to go to Tanzania, so obviously that was pretty cool. I had never left the country before, so going to a third world country for the first time was pretty unbelievable. It was a humanitarian trip so our job was to teach English. The way the program we went with [Cross Cultural Solutions] is set up, they set up volunteers. My group was comprised 20 other ROTC kids from across the U.S. so we were each paired up with two people at each of the placements.

So I taught English to 2- to 5-year-old children. And you can imagine, even the U.S. kids don’t even know English very well. We learned the ABCs and numbers. We just got to play with them in the mornings and try to teach them more Swahili language, as well as English and math skills. That’s pretty much what we did everyday in the mornings. The afternoons were a little shorter. We would have lunch and some language lessons. In our free time, we would visit the art market or go to the beach. We also had different cultural classes, like cooking, traditional African dancing and clothes making. On the weekends, we would go out to other places and participate in things like the Zanzibar spice tour and a safari where we got to see wild animals in their natural habitat.

It was a three week program, so it wasn’t a very long trip. But it was long enough to understand how others live and experience their daily lives.

You’re in the ROTC program. What impacted your decision to do that and to go on this trip?

So much of the ROTC is on a ranking system. If you get selected, you get a certain number of points and your ranking goes up, and these rankings determine your branch. I thought this program would be a great experience for me so took the risk and applied. When I was accepted, I got really excited. It gave me a higher ranking than other ROTC members throughout the country. If I had the chance I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Did this trip to Tanzania strengthen your decisions on what you would like to do throughout your education and through ROTC?

It didn’t really change any of my decisions. But it was a humanitarian mission, so it made me think about how I live my life here in the U.S. in terms of recycling and eating and not wasting food. Over there, some kids just get one little thing for a meal. It really opened my eyes.

What are your future plans?

I’m a junior majoring in history and a member of the ROTC. I’ll graduate in 2014 and be a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and looking to work in transportation, logistics and planning. After that, I would like to teach history on U.S. military bases.