Midshipmen Study Abroad in Canada
POSTED ON: Thursday, February 13, 2020 11:08 AM by Isabel Billinge, Luke Lightner, Brett Jones
The Royal Military College of Canda (RMC) sits poised on a small peninsula on Lake Ontario, between the Kingston Candian Forces Base (CFB) and the city of Kingston. The 1,200 person school graduates and commissions officers into the Canadian Navy, Air Force and Army. MIDN 2/C Luke Lightner, MIDN 1/C Isabel Billinge, and MIDN 1/C Brett Jones from the United States Naval Academy arrived in late August, mere days after the incoming freshman class arrived for training, to spend the following semester burrowing into Canadian life.
Although being only 40 minutes from the US-Canada border, Canada showed itself to be a distinct and beautiful culture. With weather like that of Syracuse, NY, Kingston might be considered cold by US standards. For Canadians, however, it pales compared to the -40+ degree weather in the prairies of Saskatchewan or Alberta. The local town, a vibrant college town with Queens University and St Lawrence College, is situated on the coast of Lake Ontario, boasting many outdoor activities and local cultural events.
RMC started off the semester with a series of high-energy spirit events. All three midshipmen jumped in, participating or watching a series of canoe races between the new first years during Regatta Day, running through the Obstacle Course with the fourth years, and again later with the first years. They joined tug-of-war with their respective squadrons and ran a Sports Day 5k. These events were events that built morale and teambuilding among the squadrons during the beautifully warm, late summer weather. MIDN 1/C Billinge was part of 7 Squadron, or Wolfe Squadron. James Wolfe was a British Army major general who led forces to victory over France in Quebec. Identified by the color grey and a wolf mascot, 7 Squadron competed for points towards the Commandant's Cup with the 11 other squadrons through drill, academics, Sports Day events, and more.
Academic classes swung into motion in early September. All three midshipmen participated in French language classes, both introductory and higher level, along with various space science, political science, and psychology courses. RMC prides itself on its French-English bilingualism, with courses taught in both languages. Emails are written in both language, and cadets found speaking both languages around campus. Upon graduation, cadets (French: “elof”) are expected to have achieved their B level qualification in their second language. This is roughly conversational level. The midshipmen were able to create and grow their language skills in the immersive style of classroom learning.
As the semester continued, all three midshipmen joined in intramurals, testing their skills on the rink with B tier ice hockey, as well as water polo. The teams welcomed the Americans, with close to no hockey experience onto the ice. 1/C Billinge, a true novice to skating, found the hockey pads helpful when it came to the ability to fall and stand back up without injury. “Hockey is a fantastic sport. The speed and energy is absolutely electric.” By the end of the season, 1/C Billinge was able to successfully brake without running into the boards, teammates, or opponents. 2/C Lightner managed to score a goal and found an assist by the end of the season. C division, 1/C Billinge’s team, lost every game. Then, in a stunning turn of events, C division won the first round of play-offs against 1/C Jones’ team, moving onto the finals against 2/C Lightner’s team. At this point, C div lost. However, the camaraderie and late-evening games greatly enhanced understanding of the national sport.
All three midshipmen returned to the U.S. with a greater appreciation for Canada, its culture, and its role as an ally with the United States. The friendships, both with Canadians and other foreign exchange students, and discussions fueled thought and growth in understanding about current political perceptions and landscapes.