Back from Singapore: Camden cadets reflect on trip
By Reggie Ponder
Thursday, December 20, 2018
CAMDEN — Two Junior Leadership Program cadets from Camden recently spent two weeks in Singapore as part of the International Cadet Exchange Program.
Juniors Thomas White and Riley Pingree left for Singapore Nov. 9 and returned the evening of the day before Thanksgiving. They joined 17 other cadets from the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, as well as India, Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom.
The trip left them with a major case of jet lag, since Singapore is in a time zone 13 hours ahead of America’s East Coast and the journey lasted 30 hours each way. Both were really sleepy on Thanksgiving Day, and Pingree said she had to take naps for a week or two when she first got back home.
But they said the experience also brought them lessons of a lifetime.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” White said, noting amenities such as air conditioning and hot water were in short supply in Singapore. “Be grateful for everything that you have.”
Pingree nodded her agreement and added another lesson she took away from the experience.
“Life’s too short,” Pingree said. “Take advantage of every opportunity that you can.”
The trip left both resolving to travel much more in the future.
Although the cadet exchange experience was challenging in its own ways, it didn’t involve anything like the 4 a.m. physical training sessions that are part of the Cadet Leadership Course at the Citadel, White said.
“It was much more like a cultural immersion type of thing,” Pingree said.
Participation in the Citadel course, a summer boot camp-style program, is among the requirements for selection to attend the International Cadet Exchange Program.
Al Keith, the senior JLP instructor for Camden, explained that White and Pingree had to compete with other Citadel course participants for the opportunity to attend the cadet exchange — and he noted the Citadel course is itself selective.
Among the additional requirements to be selected for the cadets program were submission of a written essay and a recommendation from their instructor.
White was struck by how fully integrated into the actual military the cadet programs in Singapore are. The cadets there participate in the program on an actual military base and engage in exercises with the military.
They noticed that everyone spoke English but also spoke one or two other languages.
Although riding in vehicles on the left side of the road took some getting used to, White said he eventually learned to like it.
White said he saw a lot of nice buildings in Singapore. Because of limited space most buildings are constructed up and down, with multiple stories above ground and also space underground. There’s also a subway system that goes everywhere in the country, he said.
White and Pingree tried the local cuisine. White said some dishes were better than others.
Although he eats sushi he didn’t particularly care for the sushi in Singapore, White said. “It was OK,” he said.
Pingree said she really liked the chicken curry.
Both cadets spoke glowingly of a beverage called milo. White was delighted when he returned home and discovered milo is available at Food Lion. He said he bought a whole case of the drink.
“It was really good,” White agreed, explaining milo is similar to hot chocolate.
White and Pingree visited a base of the Singapore Navy that also hosts personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy.
They also visited the U.S. Embassy in Singapore and met the interim U.S. ambassador.
But they met everyday people as well, including a restaurant owner who spent a lot of time talking to White about a variety of topics, including what it’s like to operate a business in Singapore.
White plans to become a Marine after college, while Pingree will apply to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. If Pingree does not make it into the academy she plans to study to become a dentist.
Pingree and White got some money from the Citadel to pay for the trip, some from JLP, and raised additional funds themselves.